As companies become more customer-centric in their approach to digital marketing, there is an increase in collaboration between departments to create more continuity in the customer experience. From brand advertising to brand content, to features in industry publications, the opportunities for co-operation between marketing and PR abound.
The result? With increased focus on customer experience and the blurred lines of owned, earned, and paid media, expectations of marketing outcomes from public relations activities are higher than ever. It’s no longer enough to earn media placements, distribute releases, and manage brand social media profiles. Companies increasingly expect PR to perform with marketing impact.
According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), more companies are seeking to integrate marketing with PR. This is a reasonable perspective as brands take a more customer-centric approach to content.
Overall, both the marketing and PR industries are growing. In 2016, the U.K.’s PR industry was valued at £12.9 billion, according to the PRCA’s PR Census. Meanwhile, U.K. advertising increased to £20.1 billion, a five-year high, according to Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report.
Expansion in budgets as well as common interests and expectations bring many aspects of marketing and PR towards a more unified view. This may be new for some, but some digital executives have observed such an alignment for some time.
“Convergence of PR and marketing has been a reality for the last 10 years—be it SEO, influencer marketing, content, or social media engagement,” said Georgina Goode, group head of engagement and social media at government digital service The Cabinet Office.
“And the truth is, that even now, many marketers and PR pros are still content with viewing their roles in silo, typically paid versus earned. This model simply doesn’t work anymore. More time is wasted on defining who owns what and not on building capability from within great multi-disciplinary teams.”
It would be dangerous for CMOs to continue a siloed approach to marketing and PR, given there are many synergies and advantages to be gained.
As companies realise the integrated nature of communications and the blending of brand content with industry editorial, the cross-functional needs of aligning (or not) marketing and PR are becoming a fundamental part of business strategy.
“The convergence of PR and marketing is a matter of your organisation’s strategy and nothing else,” said Philip Sheldrake, a managing partner at Euler Partners. “If your strategy diminishes the PR discipline to the simple practice of customer-focused media relations, then there’s a lot to be said for amalgamation. If, however, your organisation sees strategic advantage in the planned and sustained effort to influence opinion and behaviour, and to be influenced similarly, to build mutual understanding and goodwill with all stakeholders, then you will want to maintain distinct disciplinary excellence.”
He added: “PR and marketing can be aligned by structuring the entire organisation around influence flows. After all, every business is in the business of influence, and structure serves strategy, not the all-too-typical other way around.”
Influence Across Disciplines
Influence has been a key element of public relations for many years, and, more recently, influence has taken the marketing world by storm. However, disciplines such as working with influencers, that transcend both marketing and PR, can cause some competition.
“There’s a turf war taking place between marketing and public relations as digital technologies and social forms of media rampage through organisations,” said Stephen Waddington, a partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum. “Content, paid promotion, influencers, search, and social media are the battleground. It is most obvious in supply-side agencies. Interdisciplinary pitches are commonplace. Advertising, creative, digital, internal communications specialists, and public relations agencies compete and partner. The debate over who owns which area is irrelevant. The discipline with the best idea able to demonstrate return on investment will always win.”
We’d like to think that the best strategy wins, but the reality is that, unless an approach can be implemented and success measured, budgets are elusive. In the case of PR, measurement is a long-standing issue, and many efforts have been made to establish a standard that best reflects the creation of value to the business.
“The need for PR and communications to improve its measurement has accelerated. PR is discovering that output metrics are not enough,” said Richard Bagnall, CEO of PRIME Research U.K. “It needs to stop counting stuff that’s easy to count and start measuring stuff that matters—how it has supported the organisational goals. Good PR works across each area of the PESO model. Its measurement must too. Industry trade association AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework shows how.”
However you look at it, the core synergy between PR and marketing is content—from creation to promotion to measurement. As CMOs look towards an integrated marketing communications model that taps the best of a converged marketing and PR discipline, there are several opportunities to consider.
Common public relations-focused goals often include increased brand awareness, audience education, thought leadership, reputation, community building and influencing an increase in sales.
These goals are most often achieved through some form of content. Integrated PR tactics can include earning editorial coverage in publications, events, thought leadership content, blogs, social and newsrooms as well as working with influencers.
The metrics that digital marketers are held accountable to include increasing website traffic, leads, and sales. Content marketing goals also include revenue-related objectives such as increasing order volume, frequency, and profitability as well as shortened sales cycles and referrals.
Since both marketing and PR look to increase sales, it makes sense that PR should be involved with content marketing in every stage from content planning to promotion. Building publicity and media relations activities into the content marketing planning process will help marketing extend the reach of its message and improve outcomes.
At the same time, early PR involvement with content provides promotable brand content to leverage for media relations and community engagement. For both marketing and PR, there can be a measurable effect on sales, and we all know revenue is the language everyone understands.
Find Common Ground
An extension of aligning goals between marketing and PR is to find benefit for those that you would partner with to implement co-ordinated programmes in your organisation. Practitioners should find out how marketing assets can be used to improve the ability for PR to gain media coverage and how PR can play a role in content marketing amplification to improve reach and performance.
Some of the practical opportunities for digital marketing and public relations to find common ground include:
- Messaging and story development
- Content planning
- Co-ordinated social and media relations with amplification
- Social listening for buying signals
- Content placement
- Optimising messaging based on marketing performance data
Alignment of mutual PR and marketing objectives can lead to the development of new ways of working together that can create a win for everyone involved.