Jan 18, 2024 - Business

Communication firms invest in narrative building

Illustration of a reel of film shaped like a paint palette.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The ability to develop content is a huge advantage in 2024 — and top firms are doubling down on these narrative-driven efforts.

Why it matters: This could lead to an even murkier relationship between communications and marketing, which historically oversaw this domain.

Zoom in: It's about sourcing creative ways — beyond earned media placements and the traditional scope of PR — to communicate a thesis to investors, employees and brand partners, says Adam Mendelsohn, founder of Upland Workshop, a communications firm working with high-profile leaders like LeBron James.

  • "The new reality is about connecting a narrative to audiences that have real influence on your business by providing them with compelling content that actually breaks through. ... It's not just about the publicity, but the broader storytelling effort."

Zoom out: Owned content has evolved from thought leadership posts to memoirs, television shows and podcasts, while media outreach has extended beyond legacy outlets to includes ocial media, newsletters and influencers.

  • For a brand to show up across all of these channels effectively, there must be a culturally relevant narrative that serves as the thread.

What they're saying: "The way you break through is by treating brands just like you would treat the Rock or Serena Williams," said Ed Horne, president of 160/90.

  • "We must create a narrative [explaining] why people should pay attention to the brand. This means thinking less like advertising and thinking more like a producer. ... It's not so much about product placement — it's more about connecting audiences to a story."

State of play: The most successful firms of the past year — those that outperformed the market and increased profits by more than 10% — plan to invest in their creative storytelling capabilities, per an industry report.

Yes, but: 70% of PR professionals struggle to create effective content, according to a recent study from the Institute for PR.

  • Plus, the latest Creativity in PR report found that only 47% believe PR agencies are best for developing these earned-first creative campaigns.

This could explain why PR firms and content marketing agencies continue to merge.

  • Highwire PR announced the acquisition of content marketing firm Candor Content, FINN Partners acquired international creative agency Outré Creative, and digital marketing agency Mod Op acquired Crenshaw Communications late last year.
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