Can PR firms survive without a newsroom?

Writers are hunched over their computers in concentration, even as television screens flash the latest news. Looks like a typical newsroom, except this one is housed at a PR firm and not a media office. The only thing to distinguish it from a newspaper or television station is the hushed silence and the screens spitting out media analysis dashboards.

The GBM Live! Newsroom at work

Increasingly, PR companies in India are beginning to follow the global pattern of a PR newsroom which analyses media trends, creates real time creative content in response to news, tracks crisis and provides advice on content strategy depending on the business needs of clients.

Genesis Burson- Marsteller with their GBM Live! Newsroom, LINOPINION GH with The Bridge and Edelman India with its creative newsroom are some examples of firms, mostly international companies, with their own news centers.

Lavang Asthana Khare, executive vice president, LINOPINION GH says that , “ Looking at the complex media landscape the newsroom is the future of PR.”

The Bridge in Mumbai : LINOPINION GH

Ashutosh Munshi, director of creative, planning and content (Edelman India) and head of consumer practice (Edelman SAMEA), believes that , “The PR firms are best equipped to run these newsrooms. At Edelman, we use real time data from a real time community in real time conversation. “

The Edelman creative newsroom has strategic planners and researchers as well as a team consisting of art directors, designers, illustrators and copywriters. Golin Harris, which has a similar multidisciplinary approach with a virtual newsroom called the Bridge, has added a centre at Mumbai this year. This is part of the 13 locations its already present at globally including Chicago, London and Shanghai.

Tracking sectors at the GBM Live! Newsroom

With such centres feeding analysis it’s possible to create clutter breaking content. Says Ashutosh, “We can see that people are filtering information based on time and relevance. It’s become harder for brands to reach and engage fans. In order to succeed, you need to be the most interesting brand in their newsfeed. But this is not new. It’s the ‘water cooler conversation’ that’s always existed. Brands are catching up to stay included in that conversation. The surprising thing is that it took this long for brands to catch up.”

How do clients benefit from newsrooms?

The GBM Live! Newsroom is made up of both journalists and PR professionals who scan the media across verticals to provide sector wide insights for clients.  Nikhil Dey, president PR at Genesis BM says that , “ The ultimate benefit for clients comes from the power of horizontality. As critical competitive intelligence and trends in reporting become available to client teams, real time, they use these insights to deliver media analytics to manage crisis, effectively plan day to day media outreach, build some strong media relations, and more.”

Tracking sectors at the GBM Live! Newsroom

This enables PR professionals to sell better media stories.

Nikhil explain that, “Our newsroom team recently identified that many of our clients were engaging in social media activities for social good. We used this insight and connected with two media outlets, sharing this as a potential story idea along with access to relevant spokespersons for the feature. “

According to Lavang, “There are tangible benefits like better insights from a client perspective. For example, the bridge is designed to meet the changing needs of clients who are constantly looking to better market their products and services and make them relevant to an evolving customer.  It will handle real time data - and provides as mentioned earlier, better insight, improved delivery outcomes for clients and real-time information to clients. There is a better and structured engagement with stakeholders especially, at a time when it matters the most. What is important to remember is that it spans earned, owned, shared and paid media. “

What kind of services do clients want from newsrooms?

Ashutosh feels that, “The newsroom approach is a fundamental redesigning of how marketers and brands adapt to the real-time media landscape. Like any change in such scenarios, it’s only natural for marketers to contemplate its real benefit. But the payoff is a living brand and an audience that’s relevant, valuable and “tuned in”. “

Adds Ashutosh, “The services depend on what the business objectives are. It is extremely important to have the structure and set up tailored carefully to meet these objectives. Unlike the West, India is still experimenting with the concept of the newsroom. We are yet to see big success stories of the “newsroom” in its present day context. But if you look at brands like Amul, they have been practicing bold, real-time marketing for years. “

 Nikhil says that, “Currently, there is a huge appetite for crisis monitoring and counsel. There have also been many requests for value added media analysis. Storytelling has also transformed rapidly from being content heavy to being more visual. We have been delivering videos for internal showcasing, animated clips, video news releases, and infographics. In one of the recent cases, GBM Live! Newsroom helped create a video clip for an aviation client that brought alive launch campaign of the client's Twitter channel.”

While these newsrooms are now essential to staying ahead in the PR game, it remains to be seen how many of these services clients would be willing to pay for. While there are  takers for visual materials, the real growth can only come once the newsrooms are able to sell their strategic content, analytics and insight based services.

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