The public relations industry is undergoing a transformation – one that puts L.A.-based firms in a unique position to lead and succeed. Profound changes in the way consumers obtain information are forcing PR professionals to think beyond news media coverage (i.e., “earned media”) and become adept at content creation, a natural evolution for PR pros based in the entertainment capital of the world.

Whether it’s called “content marketing,” “brand journalism” or “native advertising,” creating high-quality branded content that people want to consume and share is becoming a core PR function. Gone are the days when PR pros could focus almost entirely on placing news stories in the press. Today, every individual, group, corporation and organization can self-publish its own branded content with the potential to reach a global audience, all without the traditional media as gatekeeper.

Because of their propensity for storytelling, PR pros are especially qualified among digital marketers to help brands join the online discussion. Once viewed simply as a grassroots form of self-publishing, user-generated content (or UCG) is now a tool for everyone – including PR firms working on behalf of their clients. The PR playing field now includes blogs, podcasts, infographics, e-books, mobile apps and all the major social networking platforms.

As the Business Journal reported in its March 3 edition (“PR: Casey & Sayre’s new digs include studio to produce ‘branded journalism’ videos that promote companies, products”), local PR agencies of all sizes are adding in-house production of social media content to their list of services. Such forward-thinking agencies are prepared to join L.A.’s Silicon Beach community as beneficiaries of the social media revolution.

Outmoded definition

Despite this transformation, many public relations firms here and elsewhere continue to cling to a traditional definition of PR that at best ignores and at worst opposes the opportunities afforded by the new “owned” and “shared” media. These firms adhere to the notion that PR simply isn’t PR without the implied third-party endorsement that comes with news media coverage.

At its core, public relations is about telling stories – stories intended to persuade and induce a desired action. What’s different today is that PR professionals are now charged with telling their clients’ stories directly to consumers. Savvy PR professionals understand that branded content is becoming an important part of their story delivery toolkit. Those who continue to view their role narrowly as that of the press agent, whose primary job is to provide story information to journalists, are destined to be left behind.

When it comes to branded content, consumers favor multimedia – especially video – over text. Therefore, PR pros with the best access to the tools and talent required to tell stories visually will have an advantage.

Los Angeles is home to the best scriptwriters, directors, actors, editors, musicians and other skilled professionals who make up the entertainment production industry. As film and TV producers leave Los Angeles in pursuit of tax credits in other states and nations, those here at home charged with creating branded digital content have access to a wealth of artistic and technical know-how.

In addition, the entertainment industry endows Los Angeles with a unique creative spirit. The industry is, in fact, at the forefront of PR’s evolution toward content creation via leading-edge digital campaigns. From an interactive tour of “The Hunger Games’ ” Capitol city to a branded cookbook app for the latest “Tinker Bell” DVD, Hollywood is inspiring brands in just about every industry to push the content-creation envelope.

There’s an old expression that declares “Content is king and marketing is queen,” but for the PR industry, they’re becoming one and the same. This is good news for local PR firms that understand how to leverage L.A.’s hometown advantage.

Erik Deutsch is principal of ExcelPR Group, based in Los Angeles. He also is the current president of the L.A. chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

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