Sometimes it feels as if there is a constant tension between public relations and marketing, specifically surrounding who deserves the coveted place at the top table. I must admit that every time I read an article suggesting that PR must surely “win” given our grasp of storytelling, or our deep understanding of reputation, my heart sinks a little. Not just because this patronises our marketing colleagues, but because while we, as an industry, waste our time bickering, we are collectively missing a much bigger prize.
I am not suggesting that we all become a jack of all trades and start dabbling in DM, website production or buying ad space, but it’s time we embraced the notion that when PR is firmly part of the marketing mix, we all win. I have always believed this, so much so that I jumped at the chance of creating a PR agency within a marketing services group four years ago, but it strikes me that the argument for integration grows ever stronger. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. Speaking with one voice
Over the last five years the communications landscape has changed dramatically. We now live in a highly matrixed and interconnected world where linear communication is rare. More channels, all linking together and all encouraging feedback of course provides an exciting opportunity, but also come with a significant risk of causing mass confusion. Successful organisations recognise the importance of speaking with one voice, and this can only be achieved with all comms disciplines aligned.
2. Social media
Social media is blurring boundaries between earned, bought and owned media. Think of a social media campaign you have respected. Now consider whether it was purely PR? Chances are you have in mind a campaign that took significant amounts of digital development and probably a fair slug of paid-for media along with a well executed PR programme to get traction on an “earned” basis.
3. Multi-media content
The increasing demand for multi-media content is really exciting, but the costs of developing videos, infographics, podcasts, apps and games is high, certainly within relatively smaller PR budgets. For clients, showing uses across multiple disciplines and media (including search) makes obvious financial sense, and for PR agencies it means we get our hands on bigger budgets and are able to flex our creative muscles.
4. Return on investment
As an industry we have struggled with evaluation. The Barcelona Principles provide a list of what not to do but, conveniently, little guidance on how specifically we should be measuring. In my experience, the expertise and the budgets to evaluate properly rest with our marketing colleagues. As a minimum, evaluating PR within brand tracking provides an actual measure of “outcomes” versus “outputs” and at best the use of econometric models allows for a true understanding of bottom-line impact.
In summary, while the traditionalists debate roles and relative importance, I would like to think the modernisers are just getting on with it, and in doing so proving that integration is a win, win, win – for clients, agencies and, of course, end users.