As most who have worked in either a Marketing Department or a Public Relations Department can tell you, the two teams are often asked to perform functions that SHOULD be integrated but rarely are. This issue occurs whether the company in question is large or small. However, the advantage that a small company has in resolving this problem is that there are generally going to be significantly less people involved; therefore, implementing a process where the two can collaborate and develop integrated strategies, in theory, should be significantly easier.
If this issue has never openly affected your company (at least that you are aware of), you might not understand its’ importance and the many ways it can adversely affect your small business. However it’s an extremely critical issue, and failure to get these two teams to “play well together” can result in mixed messages to your customers leading to misunderstanding about the products or services you offer, and often resulting in total failure to attract the customers you are targeting because they don’t “get” your message.
To help you understand the importance of both the marketing and public relations functions, and the importance of these two teams working in sync, we have requested an article by one of Strategic Growth Concepts strategic partner firms, Volare Public Relations. We hope this article will provide some clarity on the issue, and give you ideas on how you can begin a more cohesive strategic planning process for your firm’s messaging.
OK, I don’t live in that groovy silo house. But I’ve seen companies hire separate agencies and drop them in silos, where they churned out completely different communications strategies. The resulting material doesn’t look like it’s from the same place. The look is diluted; the copy is all over the place. Customers aren’t getting a consistent message, so it doesn’t register that they’re looking at that brand/product/company they like.
Especially in a challenging economy, companies try to cut corners on marketing and communications by consolidating departments. Someone from marketing may be asked to lead direct mail and a PR person might be expected to build the marketing component in the business plan.
If we’re not acquainted, we’re going to end up with big holes in the communications strategy. I’ve been locked in the silo before. Now that my partner and I have our own company, we make sure everyone shows up in the barn for the big hoedown.
Anyone who touches PR, marketing, advertising, direct mail, social media, etc. not only needs to know what the other team is doing, they need to have a seat at the table during planning to ensure the marcomm plan components are complementary, and ultimately feed into the company’s overall business goals.
At a recent meeting of the Public Relations Society of America – Detroit Chapter, Mark O. Benner, APR, shot down the silos. Mark, principal of Mark O. Benner LLC, is the former SVP and Director of Corporate Communications at Campbell-Ewald, where he was responsible for making sure the PR folks were talking to the ad folks, and vice versa.
Mark referenced a 2010 Vocus integrated communications survey of nearly 1,000 PR practitioners that found marketing and PR are talking, but data suggests the relationship isn’t necessarily functional. While 77 percent say they have formal working relationships, 67 percent say they get together only “sometimes.”
Social media in particular is a battlefield: Forty-three percent of PR professionals feel they should own social media, while 34 percent of marketers make the same claim.
Further, Mark called out industry stereotypes that we’ve all heard before:
- Only PR talks with journalists
- Direct mail belongs to advertising
- Only creatives have big ideas
How do we get everyone to play nice?
Begin by embracing the objective and respecting the expertise that your team brings to the table. “You win this battle with collaboration from everyone on a ‘one voice’ creative strategy at the very start,” Mark says. “This means everyone agrees on the theme, tagline, logo, colors, tone; every piece. Is making the team bigger going to mean complications? Yes. But the payoffs are significant.”
The new team will …
- Build trust for subsequent projects
- Earn kudos for effectiveness and efficiency
- Recognize the critical linkage of relationships to transactions and brand loyalty
- Keep consumer’s needs in focus with the organization’s objectives
You don’t have the resources to build that collaborative team? Why not, on your next project, find someone with different thinking? “Set up an advisory committee,” Mark suggests. “Hire a consultant. Go pick the brain of a friend or colleague outside your business.
“Respect the expertise of PR, or relationships, and marketing, the transactions, and find a way to bring them in.”
Are you breaking down the silos at your company? Or are you stuck inside? Tell us your stories.