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Vocus Questions: Gini Dietrich on Integrating Your Communications Team

As a PR pro, some obstructions are more tolerable than others. You welcome tricky journalists and social media mobs as part of the job – but obstruction from your own colleagues? It’s not just frustrating; it also damages your team’s ability to act and adapt.

Whether it’s a one-off missed opportunity, a botched campaign or an interdepartmental turf war, there’s a good chance that behind every obstruction lies the problem of ‘silos’ – functional divisions within your department or company that block communication, hinder cooperation and prevent everyone from achieving their full potential.

PR expert Gini Dietrich is here to help.

As co-author of Marketing in the Round, she and Geoff Livingston spent years investigating silos and what we can do about them. We caught up with her and asked her to share.

 “Companies that aren’t integrated have a really hard time adjusting to new trends.”

Vocus: What’s the problem with silos?

GD: What we found while researching this book for the past four years is that companies that are siloed and aren’t integrated have a really hard time adjusting to new trends. Technology is coming at us faster than ever before, and it keeps changing. There’s a new tool almost every day. If you want to be flexible and nimble enough to adapt, you have to break down the silos and integrate.

Marketing in the Round: click to buy

Vocus: What types of silos have you encountered?

GD: There are two kinds of silos inside organizations: the lonely silo the functional silo. A lonely silo is apparent in startups, usually. People are so focused on getting the product out the door and making customers – because they want to grow into a thriving, sustainable business – that they forget there are other parts of the company that need attention.

Click here to access Gini’s Marketing in the Round gameplan as presented at our 2012 Virtual Conference!

The functional silo is what you see a lot in bigger organizations. I actually had this experience when I worked for a global PR firm. You think you’re working together as a team, maybe on one product, or one industry or one client – but you don’t actually talk to one another so that you can push the overall company goals ahead.

Vocus: How do we break them down?

GD: It’s a cultural change and you really have to get executive buy-in first. If your senior leaders aren’t interested in breaking down silos to have something more circular than a hierarchical organization, it’snot going to work. But if your executives are interested in how you can all work together to bring these things together – talk to one another, sit next to each other – those kinds of things that allow everyone to understand what is going on –you’ll have a cultural change and you can actually start breaking those silos down.

Vocus: How do we get people interested?

GD: People always want to know what is in it for them. To get people interested, show what the value is. One of the things that we’ve had good luck with is putting it in people’s incentive packages so it’s part of their bonus program, or if it’s a smaller company, by finding out what incentives people want.

Vocus: And who gets to lead?

GD: I’m a PR pro, so I’d love to think that we can lead this movement. The lines between PR and marketing are blurring and we are no longer seen as just publicists. Media relations and influencer relations are still the backbone to what we do, but there is also social media and the Web. PR pros now have the opportunity to measure our results; to track whether we’re increasing revenues, shortening sales cycles and improving margins. So I’d love to think that we PR pros can lead this charge.

What it really comes down to is whether or not you know how all the other disciplines work. You don’t have to be an expert in marketing and search and advertising and design, but you do have to understand how they all work together to lead the charge.

So – ready to lead the charge? We’ve got a silo-busting gameplan from Gini for you. Click here to access a video recording of it at our on-demand Virtual Conference – and check out the SlideShare deck below.

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