Edelman Hires BBC Vet in Bid to Help Marketers Become Media Outlets

Richard Sambrook Will Be First Chief Content Officer

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Edelman today named BBC veteran Richard Sambrook its first chief content officer.

Richard Sambrook
Richard Sambrook
Mr. Sambrook, who has been the BBC's director of global news and a member of the BBC's management board for the last 10 years, will assist marketers in producing written, video and audio content that will allow them to tell their own stories to consumers. Mr. Sambrook will report to David Brain, president-CEO of Edelman's Europe, Middle East and Africa network and will be based in Edelman's London office. The agency said he will also sit on its global executive committee, chaired by President-CEO Richard Edelman.

It's a sign Edelman's belief in marketer-as-media-company is stronger than ever. In a 2006 blog post, Mr. Edelman wrote that every company is or can be a media company. And with fewer reporters and mainstream outlets now left to pitch to and earned media being such a highly sought after commodity, thanks to its credibility and relative low cost, it's becoming imperative for marketers to think of themselves as potential media outlets.

Dwindling media
Mr. Edelman said that despite the growing number of blogs and digital outlets, he still sees a dwindling mainstream media environment.

"I fundamentally see a shrinking of mainstream media even with their digital aspect," Mr. Edelman said. "Companies are going to have a harder time penetrating that authority media because reporters are getting less space. Therefore companies are going to have to do a more extensive job of putting out their story through their own websites and other channels. And in order to do that I needed someone who understood high-quality content, [but] not to replace the mediated view. This is a further addition to the conversation."

For his part, Mr. Sambrook said he took the position because of his love for social media and all things digital as well the chance to help redefine the parameters of the conversation between marketer and consumer.

"The traditional routes for reaching the public through news or media are absolutely still there but they are no longer the only or even the main routes," Mr. Sambrook said. "And exploring that territory of new digital content and the opportunities that presents is a fantastic chance for me to do some really interesting work with the teams at Edelman. There is a whole new territory opening up for companies and corporations to be able to reach the public directly."

Move to inbound messages
Mr. Edelman said the move illustrates that the PR industry needs to evolve once again and shift from a mentality based solely on outbound messaging to one that includes inbound messaging.

"We're trying to create a third way for ourselves to communicate," Mr. Edelman said. "The first way was always mainstream media, the second was social media and the third will be companies themselves. And it's a big challenge for PR companies to figure out that middle ground. We don't want to upset or pre-empt what reporters do. That's not the point. But on the other hand, reporters have less space and we have to still tell the story of things that require more coverage than they can offer or [that reporters] don't view as big news."

Mr. Sambrook will also become head of Edelman's global crisis and issues practice towards the end of the year when Mike Seymou begins to stand down from his full-time role leading the practice.

This is the second high-profile hire for Edelman in the last three months. In mid-December the agency brought social media guru David Armano onboard as senior VP-digital.

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