“Even though lexicographers assert that the definitions of marketing and public relations remain the same and theorists say their underlying premises and goals haven’t changed, the practical reality is that the working relationship between marketing and public relations has changed dramatically.” – Michael Turney
Despite the fact that the form and function of PR and marketing professionals have increasingly overlapped, many times these disciplines remain (at least partially) silo-ed. The digital landscape continues to blur the lines between the PR and marketing, and also adds an element of immediacy that can put undisciplined brands off-message quickly.
This siloing was the genesis of integrated marketing communications (IMC). The American Marketing Association describes IMC as:
“A planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time.”
In other industries it might be considered good, disciplined management. And that’s the spirit that I want to treat this piece.
Whether you call it IMC or good management, people in the PR and marketing disciplines need to work together. Here are five ways that PR and marketing can get better results through collaboration.
1. Be Concise
“While direct marketing, PR, advertising, personal selling, and online processes are imperatives for any company to deliver its messages, it’s essential to deliver these messages in an integrated way. A unified message has more impact than several disjointed ones.” – PR manager Ancita Satija
I really enjoyed watching the World Cup this summer, despite the fact that I haven’t ever seriously played soccer (or “futbol” if you rather). What I found fascinating was that I knew the superstars (Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, et cetera), but their individual greatness wasn’t enough to win the World Cup. Germany won, despite not having the superstar talent of some of the other teams.
So what made Germany great? It started with Jürgen Klinsmann, a former star player turned coach who took a fledgling national team and instituted new workout and mental preparedness. He instituted an “attack first” offense and instituted the same philosophy in his developmental leagues. He cut some of his most popular players from the team. When he left (he now coaches the U.S. team), his assistant coach Joachim Löw was promoted and kept most of Klinsmann’s changes.
Germany was successful because they had a clear and concise plan for how to accomplish their goal. In a recent PRSA conference, B2B PR expert Johna Burke discussed the planning process for synchronizing PR and marketing functions. On planning she says:
- Specific tactics and functions within the sales funnel need to be attributed to both PR and marketing
- KPIs need to be assigned based upon those functions
By making a concise, specific plan – everyone knows their roles and how they’re evaluated in the bigger picture.
PR expert Robin Thornton concurs with Burke’s assessment:
“If everyone is on the same page, equally informed and up-to-date on plans, activities and tactics, it’s much easier to take advantage of an opportunity when it arises. It makes the whole team more agile, flexible and cooperative. The vision, mission and strategy is clear, everyone knows what they have to do, so they do it. If everyone is following a single plan, then there is much less time required to assess, evaluate, deliberate, assign roles, discuss and execute.”
2. Centralize authority
“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” ― John Steinbeck
The website GlassDoor allows employees to give candid, anonymous assessments of their employers. Here’s a sample of one company’s employee feedback (name redacted for obvious reasons):
- “Leadership changes direction annually, no one knows what is really going on, sales does not work with production.”
- “Extreme lack of organization, didn’t know what to do with an intern, very boring on job site some days.”
- “Management needs to focus more on operations.”
- “Frequent changes within the last three years.”
The very clear picture that these comments paint is one of a rudderless company. In organizations where PR and marketing work separately in certain redundant aspects of their work, it probably wouldn’t be surprising to hear similar comments. IMC (and good management) require centralized authority.
Centralized authority can be considered in two aspects: Management buy-in and an arbitrator for silo-ed beings (a “boss”).
Management buy-in. In a Northwestern University paper on the ROI of integrated marketing, they discuss upper-management buy-in as essential to the coordination between PR and marketing:
“(Integrated marketing) provides senior management with the opportunity to truly lead the organization by creating cross-functional teams that share knowledge and develop a consistent brand and message to the marketplace.”
A central authority. Marketing strategist Kathleen O’Neil writes that it is essential to have a person who unifies the company’s branding and messaging across all of the companies business activities. If PR and marketing are each given autonomy over their respective domains, the likelihood of consistent messaging is low.
3. Be consistent
“PR and marketing activity has to be closely aligned in order to achieve corporate goals. The industry is now seeing increasing levels of integration between these two disciplines, driven in large part by the need to generate and effectively disseminate frequent, premium content.” – PR expert Ben Veal
How come when you go to a McDonald’s franchise in Buffalo, New York you get about the same experience as when you go a McDonald’s in Sante Fe, New Mexico? They call it their “Plan to Win” and define it as “a common framework that aligns our global business and allows for local adaptation.”
Bonnie Harris, Adjunct at the Reed College of Media says that IMC plans (your “plan to win”) have 11 essential elements:
- Audience Definition
- Marketing Objectives & Strategies
- Integrated Creative Strategy
- Statement & Brief
- Digital Objectives, Strategies & Tactics
- Public Relations Objectives and Tactics
- Direct Marketing
- Sales Promotion
- Measurement and Evaluation Plan
- Cross-functional Project Management Plan
By formally going through IMC planning, you integrate and synchronize all parties to a central plan.
Marketer Ed Weiss says that coordinated plans have many benefits, including written and visual messaging benefits:
“repetition (is) the best way to imprint your name in the minds of people who (see) your message. The consistency across all media produced repetition of our message.”
4. Stay Customer-Focused
“If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” – Jan Carlzon
Every business that I am aware of (except possibly for cellular and cable companies) understands the importance of customer focus. Inc.’s Geoffrey James articulates four tactics for businesses to stay customer-focused:
- Constantly Gather Information
- Get Embedded in Their Strategy
- Emphasize Customer Retention
- Debrief After Customer Engagements
James makes good points about how marketers and PR practitioners can keep their finger on the pulse of the consumer. Consider how the process would happen in PR and marketing silos: two different elements doing duplicitous work and probably coming to different conclusions. A silo-ed business has (at least) two different messages, and this is not ideal.
Marketer Khalilah T. Smith says that the customer-focus of IMC serves to perpetuate a consistent relationship with customers rather than projecting our own values and preferences onto them.
5. Measure thoughtfully
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” – Peter Drucker
In their book Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner recount meeting with a group of marketers that claimed their television advertising was four times more effective than their print advertising. This sounded somewhat compelling until they asked the marketers when they ran print ads and video ads. They ran print ads every Sunday in the newspaper. Video ads were more expensive, so they only ran those on Black Friday, Christmas and Father’s Day. Of course this information nullified their conclusion about the value of these ads.
When PR professionals and marketers are working in concert, we’ve seen that they have a central authority, that they have very specific plans and messaging, and that they are able to be agile and remain consistent. But in order to judge their effectiveness and to react appropriately for campaigns or crises, there needs to be accountability in the form of measurable KPIs.
Marketer Justin Honaman points out the importance of tangible measurement to IMC:
“Without measurable objectives, it will be challenging to measure ROI or net benefit of a campaign on product/service sales, sentiment, or engagement…. It is important to define and communicate objectives and to build insights from past campaigns into the planning process for future campaigns thereby shaping and sharpening objectives.”
If you have complementary metrics that accurately represent contributions to the collective objectives, goals or campaigns can be managed and tweaked more effectively than trying to coordinate between autonomous systems.
What I wanted to do in this piece is to point out some of the best practices for synchronizing PR and marketing efforts. Integrated Marketing Communications certainly drives a lot of the thinking in this arena, but I hope you see that many of these points are examples of good management practices. You certainly don’t have to buy into IMC to synchronize your messages and strategy across functional areas.
To that point, I’ll conclude with a quote from Seth Godin:
“A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”