by Emma King (@EmmainSA) What is great PR? It’s a question I sometime get asked by clients, and I do believe for each brand and client the answer will be different. But common to all of them, I think, is the ability to create a story or capture people interest with stuff that they want to hear or read.

Perhaps it is the case for all forms of marketing communication but even more so for PR, I think, because we can’t buy the space or forcefully insert our content into people’s headspaces.

Tree Of Knowledge. Bookshelf by renjith krishnan courtesy of
Image by renjith krishnan courtesy of

Interesting and relevant

We need to create something that is interesting and relevant enough for someone else — a journalist, an ‘influencer’, the person on the street — to want to pick up and tell as their own.

So it seems odd when PR people don’t ‘get’ that — when they don’t understand that spamming out dull press releases or pictures of their CEO handing over giant cheques to grateful NGOs doesn’t get any response.

Likewise, it baffles me when PR agencies outsource their writing or employ people who are not passionate about reading and media. How can one know what is an arresting story if one is not an avid consumer of stories oneself?

Radically rethink

I also think that PR agencies need to radically rethink the kind of content that they produce. For too long, they have relied upon sending out dull press releases, hoping that someone somewhere will do something with them.

Actually, let me say right now, that I would love to see the death of the press release. In some cases, yes, there is the need to sit the facts and core information down in stone, but the majority of time so much more is achieved by working on an individual basis with a journalist or blogger and creating bespoke content.

Instead of boring releases, we should be embracing the myriad of amazing content forms and outlets that we have a variable to us. Why are PR agencies not working more with outstanding photographers, stylists, videographers and conceptual art directors to create mind-blowing visual content? Why aren’t we working with good writers to create engaging stories? Instead, we flood poor journalists’ inboxes with dull-as-ditch-water snaps from social events.

Creative talent

In more developed markets, such as the UK and the US, PR agencies attract the kind of creative talent that here in South Africa often go straight to the ad agencies. It’s resulted in PR agencies here being seen — rightfully so — as the “uncreative’ agencies.

I would love this to change; for PR agencies to start hiring and developing creative talent; and for them to start creating and driving content that is visual and exciting. And, in the meantime, at least just collaborating with some of the great local talent we have here to do so.

Emma King


Emma King (@EmmainSA) is the owner and MD of The Friday Street Club (@TheFridayStClub). Previously, she was head of PR at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Cape Town). She contributes the monthly “The Dissident Spin Doctor” column on PR and communication issues to

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