HONG KONG--Edelman Asia-Pacific CEO David Brain has called on the Asia-Pacific PR industry to lead the development of new forms of content.

Brain made the comments at the Holmes Report’s ThinkTank Live conference in Hong Kong.

He noted that content can be viewed in two ways - in terms of format and in terms of the storytelling tradition. In both respects, said Brain, the PR industry must get to grips with profound change.

“The key thing is that the advent of the internet and social media means there is an explosion of formats,” said Brain. “As PR people we could have previously mastered one or two formats, now we have to master many more. For many of us, particularly my generation, that’s kind of hard.”

He also explained how storytelling traditions have evolved beyond the ‘first paragraph’ technique favoured by print news stories, now that social media has enabled content to be easily shared and passed on.

“We seem to have spent a huge amount of time particularly on the subject of engagement, of looking purely at social media,” said Brain. “One of the things we as an industry have missed is that people will share and pass on that content.”

“Most content that is shared originates from professional sources,” added Brain. Perhaps the biggest shift, noted Brain, is the influence of search on determining the success of content.

“People are much more likely to find your content if it is socially successful,” said Brain. “Now when I write copy it has to have search values, not just news values.”

With that in mind, Brain noted the importance of content elements that influence search rankings: price, availability, maps, images and video.

The last of these, said Brain, is a critical skill that the PR industry needs to master. He pointed to six types of video content that resonate most with viewers.

1. ‘Real people, real stories’. “Ad agencies are rubbish at this,” said Brain. “They will use an actor at the drop of a hat.”

2. 'News and the new’, such as unboxing videos of new products.

3. ‘How to’ spots, which are often informational or educational.

4. 'Entertainment and humour' - videos that are designed to go viral, and are created for buzz and sharing.

5. 'Commentary and advocacy': on-camera thought leadership. "It's not just brands that are successful at video, but often corporates and B2B," said Brain.

6. 'Participatory': user-generated and crowdsourced content.

The Asia-Pacific PR industry, noted Brain, has an opportunity to lead the development of new forms of content, particularly in terms of video. He pointed to the differences in how Asians consume content, particularly through their preference for emotional stories.

"The other reason we need to get on this bandwagon is because of the our colleagues and competitors in the ad industry," said Brain, noting that while ad agencies still do not understand social media, they are much more skilled in terms of emotional storytelling and the use of video content.

"As an industry, we have to smarten up in this area."