Data Proves PR is on the Rise

02 November 2010

I took a swipe at the PR industry last week for not stepping up to meet the marketing challenge and be the sort of serious partners CMOs want or need.  I do not refute that PR is  gaining broader acceptance and respect amongst CMOs, and indeed the C-suite in general.  There are studies that prove the point – from the USC School of Annenberg’s GAP studies to the survey we did earlier this year with the CMO Club, and from Forrester white papers on the “power of three” (earned media combined with paid and owned media) to my anecdotal conversations with fellow Marketing 50 members.  But the fact remains that those of us who are truly connecting with CMOs, able to speak the marketing language, understand the marketing KPIs and “get” the notion of truly big ideas that transcend pure media play are  not supported by the necessary critical mass.

I’ve been back in the US for nearly nine years now, and I continue to be surprised at how siloed we are.  When I worked in Europe, most of our consumer marketing clients were CMOs, marketing directors and brand managers.  Corp comms clients led corp comms and public affairs assignments.  We spoke the language of marketing, marketing disciplines were more blurred, and integration was more prevalent.

 The topic of silos arose at the recent ANA conference in a panel with Brian Perkins of J&J, Lisa Cochrane of Allstate, Eduardo Modrado of Motorola and three senior agency folks – Chuck Porter of Crispin Porter, Andrew Robertson of BBDO and Bill Tucker of Mediavest.  One of the explanations for more silos in than outside the US was size of corporation.  US companies tend to be larger so silos proliferate.  I would add that I think risk adverseness, tradition and historical “baggage” help perpetuate silos.  But I digress.

 Back to the business of PR.  While PR is elevated in organizations and CMOs are inheriting and in fact seeking ownership of PR, I would question how much of the relationship is built on true partnership, trust and collaboration.  The data suggests a state of symbiotic relations, but dig deeper and you find that everything is not as integrated as it should or could be.  We PR types approach a problem or challenge from a different perspective than traditional marketers, but we need be able to translate what we do into language (and KPIs) that our marketing brethren will understand and appreciate.  And we need to more firmly establish PR as offering a unique point of view and a valuable skills set that is not readily available in any other type of agency.  One of the real points I was making in last week’s blog was that agencies specializing in other disciplines are trying to eat our lunch, claiming that they can do big PR ideas, and in some cases delivering success (though not in all!).

I still maintain that we need to step up – as a profession.

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