Robert Almqvist's Collective Conversation Blog » PR Communication in the 3rd millennium Mon, 21 Feb 2011 11:20:53 +0000 en hourly 1 Volvo crosses over to integrated communication Sat, 22 May 2010 21:59:23 +0000 Robert Almqvist A little more than a week ago, something very exciting and promising came out of Ford-owned carmaker Volvo Cars. No, it isn’t a new hydrogen hybrid car running on water, even though that would be cool. No, what got me so excited was the news that Volvo Cars has merged their marketing and PR departments.  

I have been whining and complaining for years about how many of the larger organizations I come in contact with seem to believe that it is important that communication is done by as many different departments, business areas and positions as possible, preferably without any coordination between them at all. I have seen so many arrangements boarding onto criminal waste of resources, often where everyone involved just sighs, shrugs their shoulders and say, “well, that’s just the way it is”.

In Volvo’s case, the marketing and PR departments had to come together around a communication effort which has had a major impact on brand, and possibly the future of the company – the image of the Volvo cars as heavy, thirsty and not very environmentally friendly. But Volvo has developed a series of cars with amazingly low fuel consumption considering they are just using technology off the shelf, nothing fancy like hybrid drives. They call this the DRIVe series.

Now, Volvo realized that it didn’t matter what they actually sold because the general perception was that something like the DRIVe cars could not come out of Volvo. Having been forced to join forces to change that perception, Volvo Cars’ marketing and PR departments came to realize that they must work as one. And so they have now integrated the two departments into one working strategically with integrated communication.

Most books on communication and marketing will contain a chapter stating very clearly that everything you do sends a message and that the communication therefore must be coordinated and integrated to deliver maximum effect and value.

If your ad says that the product is superior to everything else, while at the same time the internal communication says “hold off on selling it because it is a piece of rubbish” then you will of course run into problems eventually. If the ad claims that the product is best suited for something, but the message to the journalists is different (since they will question any marketing BS) the result is going to be confusion and a fuzzy perception.

But most companies seem unable to get this message. As an agency, you see this time and time again when clients basically say no thanks to better results and less cost. And on the agency side, the handful integrated communication agencies I’ve ever known here in Sweden all folded. Nobody wants to buy reasonably good advertising, web services, PR etc just because they all come from the same office.

Still many ad agencies claim to do “PR” today and many marcom specialized PR agencies do concept development in the ad domains. But I don’t believe the agency has to be able to deliver all the services. The important part is that the client integrates their communication. Then it doesn’t matter who delivers the services.

And of course, social media and communication has totally changed how companies can control messaging. Partners, employees, journalists, customers and experts chat about the short-comings of your products in open and searchable forums. You simply can’t hide anymore.

In my experience, this problem with lack of integration is most accentuated in international matrix organizations where each silo makes its own decision on what to spend and how to spend it, and this without any coordination with the next silo. The result is truly horrendous out of a brand perspective and also very costly.

Let’s hope that more companies follow Volvo Cars example and integrate marketing and PR. All ways of communicating with the customers; bought and deserved space, SEO, viral/WoM, customer service, web etc - they are all different channels connected to the same core – your brand.

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What the 1930s can teach us about social media Fri, 07 May 2010 11:05:06 +0000 Robert Almqvist The shift towards social media is going to have a fundamental impact on the way most agencies work today. My good friend Johan Rönn at my former agency MS&L in Stockholm once gave me Dale B. Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people claiming that it is the only book a PR consultant would ever need to read. The book is from the late 1930s, which was when my current employer Hill&Knowlton really started picking up speed. 


Dale Carnegie thought the main key to sell more was by building relationships and that this was best done simply by showing genuine interest in people and how you work to get ideas across so that people think it was originally theirs to begin with. Among his ideas were the six rules for becoming liked by people (to make them buy your stuff - he was after all a sales trainer);


  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile.
  • Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
  • Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.


With his ideas in mind, and the very rapid shift in communication to social media and communications, it is easy to see that these ideas are timeless. And that if you believe in the power of these ideas, then it is easy to see where companies should invest - in relationships with their customers and potential customers, with their partners and other people in their ecosystem that have one thing in common – they influence more people than news paper clippings which is the most commonly known PR metric.


So how do you, as a company or person, influence them? You probably advertise in all the right magazines and media where they hang out. But how do you express genuine interest in them there? Maybe you sponsor causes of interest to them, or you get involved in activities where you show that you care for their cause.


You plant the idea with a journalist who writes about things of interest to these potential customers. Maybe not about you, but about the issues that will eventually lead the customers to you. You provide micro blogging streams that are helpful and of interest. You might set up a forum that makes your potential customers’ lives a bit easier. And you get involved. You chat, suggest, question and comment. You start talking to them; you make them feel you care.


I see more and more organisations trying out social media on a smaller or larger scale, but political parties, commercial and non-commercial organizations mostly use them, for example Twitter, to pump out one-way communication in the same way as always. They are still not showing any interest in the people they are trying to influence and win over.


Sending a tweet saying that the plane will be late is not what it is about. That’s just a plain old one-to-many message to everyone (rather than to the ones that need to know). But responding to a question on why a plane is late is a good old PR thing to do and here we see failure upon failure because at the back-end, nothing has changed. This is where your PR investment could make a real difference.


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