Weber Shandwick’s Mediaco: ‘A Fundamentally New Discipline’

The shift and availability in new publishing models online has proven that businesses of all stripes can be built on the back of content. But what about for a PR agency, which is in the thick of all the new publishing models?

Jason Wellcome

On Mach 27, Weber Shandwick rolled out Mediaco, a content creation and distribution unit within the agency focusing on brand publishing. Jason Wellcome, executive VP and head of Mediaco at Weber Shandwick, is in charge of the unit, which has 100-plus brand planners, editors, SEO experts, media planners and content creators.
We caught up with Wellcome to get his take on the new endeavor and it’s impact on the PR industry:

PR News: What kinds of changes in the market have you seen that influenced the launch of Mediaco? 

Jason Wellcome: It’s not news that people are interacting with media far differently than they have in the past. As more [and more] people spend time in social media, on mobile devices and engage with traditional media through digital platforms, content becomes increasingly important. At Weber Shandwick, we’ve been working through this understanding with clients for the better part of the past decade. The difference today is the pieces that allow real, scalable impact are finally falling into place.

PR News: Why did you introduce a specific offer, via Mediaco's services?

Wellcome: The pace of change in digital continues to accelerate, so an approach and system that allows you to capitalize on change is even more important. Clients understand the "what" and "why" this is important, but not necessarily the “how." Mediaco represents the formalization around all the necessary specialties to bring a holistic approach to bear so we can help clients capitalize on what's happening.

PR News: These services don't fit within a PR agency's traditional wheelhouse. How does this change the way the agency serves its clients? 

Wellcome: This entire space isn't really within any one agency's wheelhouse and it doesn't necessarily conform to any traditional marketing discipline either. It borrows pieces from a number of them, from PR [and] digital to advertising and media planning. It even borrows from non-marketing disciplines like publishing. What you end up with is a fundamentally new discipline.

We’re able to provide the upfront consultative service necessary to rethink how clients organize themselves, select partners, put a new operating model in place and, ultimately, measure success. While we’re bringing new types of specialties to the table that previously weren’t expected of us, like paid media planning, it’s all part of an approach that makes sense when taken as a whole.

PR News: How can content production support brand building and reputation protection? 

Wellcome: Content programming done with quality, velocity and optimization for digital channels has significant implications on driving brand building, not to mention defending brand reputation in times of crisis.

But it's not enough to just consider the production. Mediaco represents something unlike what others are doing. By pursuing a holistic approach, we’re taking into consideration a deep understanding of the audience, where brand objectives intersect with audience interests, and how creative informs and drives client programming. This applies to both brand promotion and protection. 

PR News: What are the potential stumbling blocks? 

Wellcome: Fully committing to a Mediaco mindset is critical. Where we see clients struggle the most happens when they approach this as either a one-off initiative or not committing to the necessary resources for scaled impact. It’s not about the shiny platform or any one social network, it’s about the engine you put in place to drive an entire content ecosystem.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg