3 min read

Ketchum CEO Says PR’s Journalistic Roots Helps Brands Transition to Digital

In the fourth episode of season two of The Rough Cut, Storyhunter co-founder Alex Ragir continues our special series at the Cannes Lions…
Ketchum CEO Says PR’s Journalistic Roots Helps Brands Transition to Digital

Ketchum CEO Says PR’s Journalistic Roots Help Brands Transition to Digital

In the fourth episode of season two of The Rough Cut, Storyhunter co-founder Alex Ragir continues our special series at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, often considered the biggest event and award show for the advertising industry.

We’ll be releasing a new episode from Cannes Lions weekly for the next two months with some of the biggest names in the industry. In our third episode from Cannes, we talk with Barri Rafferty, CEO of Ketchum.

Rafferty is the first female CEO of a Top 5 PR Company. She told Alex that since taking over, she’s led Ketchum through the process of rebranding themselves as a “communications consultancy”.

Alex and Barri discussed why PR companies are suited to help brands transition to digital, storytelling’s role in digital media and the importance of implementing a hybrid content strategy.

Below are edited highlights of the conversation:

Digital Media & Marketing Insights From Barri Rafferty

PR Companies Can Aid Brands In Their Switch To Digital

“When I started it was the written form and we were all about great writing. Now it’s about great copywriting and great visual storytelling, and you have to combine the two. Our talent is different now too. We used to have just newspaper writers but now we have television producers, animators and other types of people. On top of that, the authenticity of where were come from in public relations really suits us well.”

Use Data in Creating Content

“You see this combination of what I call the ‘left brain, right brain’. You need the creative side but also need to be informed by coming up with better data on the audience. Knowing what they care about helps you to create more authentic and engaging content. What you’re seeing at Cannes is both types of companies and figuring out how to make them merge.”

The Story Matters More Than How You Tell It

“I saw some great content here from Anheuser-Busch with Dwayne [Wade]. It was set up but it was genuine to him. They had people from his life trading his shirts. It was truly genuine and you kind of felt moved. The key here is, ‘What is the story? Is that story going to resonate? Does it have an emotional connection to you or I?’ That’s where it starts. If I understand my audience and I know what type of information they’re seeking, what form I give it to them in… It could be anything.”

Source: Budweiser YouTube Channel

Don’t Bank on “Hero Content” To Carry Your Content Strategy

“A lot of times brands are looking for ‘hero content’. They ask themselves ‘what’s that one thing that’s gonna break through?’. And what we often talk to clients about is that they need a content strategy that’s continuous. Some of those are gonna be big break outs, some will be more local and relevant and those can be the best because when they connect with an audience that really cares about the topic they tend to share and engage them more.”

Deploy a Hybrid Content Strategy

“A lot of the big companies have a lot of their own channels but they’re also tapping more influencers. People don’t necessarily always want to hear from brands. To me when our client’s at a newsroom it’s actually a good thing and I don’t think I would’ve said that two years ago. But once they create demand in their organization they never have enough content people in house.

I also think we’re seeing an increase in people working with both earned and paid influencers to push work through their channels in ways because it resonates differently. If you don’t have that hybrid mix of in-house agencies, influencers, different types of producers and people, I think it’s hard to have a full content spectrum that’s engaging.”


ICYMI: In June, we launched a new product called Storyhunter Studios. This is a global production solution that we’ve built on top of our existing network and technology. It will allow you to produce digital content efficiently, on a mass scale. Go to www.storyhunter.com/studios to learn more about how our new feature can help your brand achieve digital greatness.

Previous episodes of The Rough Cut:

Season Two:

Stacy Minero, Global Head of Content Creation, Twitter

Ari Halper, Chief Creative Officer, FCB New York

Mickey Meyer, President of Network, Group Nine Media

Season One:

Courtney Coupe, VP of Content, Great Big Story

Stone Roberts, VP of Global Video Strategy, Refinery29

Jason Beauregard, Head of Studio, VaynerMedia

Zahra Rasool, Editorial Lead, Contrast VR

Warren Cohen, Head of Video, New York Post

Greg Gilderman, Global Head of Video and Editor-in-Chief, Weather Channel

Jamie Bolding, Founder and CEO, Jungle Creations

Craig Duff, Video Journalism Professor, Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism


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By Jake Watkins, Storyhunter Writer