The merging of 2 traditional functions: PR & marketing
Traditional organizations have a silo infrastructure. As mentioned in a previous post, this has been the result of a historical & patriarchal military mentality. Social media has shattered this foundation. For marketeers, this means an evolution of functions, skills and intra-departmental influence – or failure.
VP of Marketing + VP of PR = 2 Many Generals?
How did we get here? Traditionally, organizations seeking expertise in these areas hired top talent to lead their respected teams. As a matter of fact, industries we’re built around these separate functions – further creating silos.
- Marketing – largely affiliated with advertising. Primary customer was the buyer. Major agencies: BBDO, Ogilvy, Saatchi & Saatchi, etc… In any organization, you’re likely to find a VP of marketing or CMO, which we’ll refer to as a general.
- Public Relations – largely responsible for handling the media, crisis or Wall Street. Primary customer was the media (TV, newspapers, etc.). Major agencies: Ketchum, Ruder Finn, MRB, etc… Mirroring the marketing function, you’re likely to find a VP of PR, which we’ll also refer to as a general.
This type of model worked for years – until recently. The internet and social media demand a coordinated effort and 2 generals on a topic/brand/position is one too many.
Speed and communication platforms: the web & social media
When I began my marketing career, we still wrote memos. We used company stationary and personally signed important client facing documents. We typically relied on 5 mailing days for the communication to hit, depending on the location of the recipient. This was still true through 1998 or so…
Unless your crisis was front-page news or TV worthy, we typically had days to “strategize” on a response. The generals (VP’s) of marketing and PR would unite their teams. Then the two generals would meet, usually with a higher up, to make a final recommendation. That’s how we used to make our moves – and it used to work very well.
Until two major developments
The internet provides a real time mass communication vehicle for any company or person. I won’t bore you with this point, except to say that before that, it was previously very difficult to achieve critical mass.
Social media has changed the speed of business at a dazzling speed. I won’t bore you with this either, except to say that this type of rapid communication is both opportunistic and frightening for marketers.
Yes, our world will never be the same, but the relevant marketeer will learn how to leverage these platforms to grow her/his business. S/he will also realize that we need to merge the functions of PR and marketing, or at least synchronize them. S/he will realize that the world has changed, and even in B2B industrials, the marketing world will never be the same.
Traditional marketing was outbound – new marketing needs to be inbound and conversational. Traditional PR is boring and ineffective. -new PR creates genuine content and adds relevance to the brand. Traditionally both functions have lived in silos – new organizations are merging both.
Why do BOTH of these functions need to be aligned?
* Your positioning and messaging will be clear to your client
* Your budget will be optimized
* The speed of business demands this – NOW
* Your clients and competitors are empowered to mass communication in an instant
* You will have a higher likelihood of breaking through the clutter
* Because is you don’t, ultimately you will fail as a marketeer!
Change the world or at least change YOUR world
The easiest way for organization to disrupt the silo mentality and leverage these new mediums will be to organize marketing and PR into one department. If you’re small and nimble, seriously consider this. However, for the majority of us, the political battles and ingrained silo mentality, this will take years – but rest assured that competition will eventually make us all do it.
So if you cannot change your organization, here are a few recommendations to help you leverage synergies between these traditional silos.
1. Align on strategy – it all starts with the multi-year business plan and your key strategies for the operating year. Make everyone part of the development processes, not simply the executers.
2. Align on tactics – for all your major initiatives, make sure everyone understands their expected contribution and objectives, including metrics. Create synergies between silos.
3. Align on key communication points – all communication should be coordinated under the same positioning, regardless of the audience.
4. Create operating rhythms – communicate, communicate, communicate.
5. Foster trust and responsibility – leverage expertise and coordinate work, don’t do someone else’s job.
6. Empower all to have a “stake in the game” – create true partnerships in good and bad.
7. You don’t have to be the HERO – It’s not about you. Put the client and initiative ahead of your silos and don’t worry about which department is leading! If you’re in marketing, give way to PR and vice versa, depending on the issue.
The provocative title “or DIE” is not an over exaggeration. Clients demand simplicity. The market demands synergies. Your competition is evolving on this path. What are you going to do?
For 2 additional blogs on this topic see: