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Sambrook Leaves BBC To Join PR Firm Edelman As Chief Content Officer

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Richard Sambrook, director of global news for the BBC, announced in his blog last December that he would be leaving the broadcaster. Today we found out where he is going. He is moving to Edelman, where he will be the PR firm’s global vice chairman and its first chief content officer. He starts in May.

Sambrook will play a role in helping Edelman’s clients to produce written, video and audio content “to tell their own story in direct and engaging ways,” according to the news release from Edelman. Edelman represents tech clients like Orange, Motorola (NYSE: MOT) and Samsung, but also a much wider range of brands including Heineken, Nike and Unilever.

On the surface this looks like another case of a hack selling out to join the flacks — not an uncommon thing to see these days as the journalist trade continues to contract. But Sambrook says there is more to it than this:

“Some people will be surprised that a journalist who has stuck his neck out on many occasions for the independence of news media has joined a PR company. It misses the point. Edelman are redefining corporate communications and growing fast,” Sambrook wrote in his blog today.

Sambrook, a seasoned journalist who has helped launch television channels — these include BBC News 24, BBC World News, BBC Arabic, BBC Persian — and has a “personal commitment” to social media, will play a key role in Edelman’s strategy to make their clients more into “media companies” in their own right. This will put a heavy emphasis on digital media and the other “opportunities provided by social technologies.”

This could be read as a nice way of saying “Sambrook will help Edelman craft nice advertorials,” but it also underscores a bigger trend. News organisations are losing a lot of their most experienced people, and (if they are getting replaced) they are getting replaced by those with less experience and knowledge of how to cover a subject. This presents a ripe opportunity for marketeers to present ready-packaged news to those news organisations, who still need compelling copy to fill their pages, in print or otherwise.

Sambrook will also be helping to run Edelman’s crisis and issues practice. He will report to EMEA president and CEO David Brain, and he will also sit on the Global Executive Committee, chaired by the firm’s founder and global CEO, Richard Edelman.