Conscious re-coupling: Bringing PR and advertising together again

In a fragmented industry divided by silos, PR can be the glue that pulls it all together, writes the CEO of FinchFactor

Somewhere, back when adland smelt of scotch and leather, when marketing wielded the checkbooks and PR swung between propaganda and puff, the facets of the industry decided we were better off alone.

So, we went our separate ways. After the years that spawned Patsy and Edina, we honed our specialties to become erudite practitioners in our sectors.

Which was lovely, for a while. Then the world changed. OK, melodrama aside, the world as far as marketing communications was concerned changed — and is still changing. The way media is delivered and indeed consumed dramatically evolved, bringing a myriad of new channels and platforms from which we could reach the consumer, our king and queen.

Today, we spend more time devouring news online than on any other media platform — print, radio, television — combined. Media outlets are converging, consumers are taking control of how they are communicated with, and the landscape is noisier and more congested than ever before. Which, quite frankly, is incredibly exciting.

Media platforms are integrating, communication tools are integrating — but marcomms missed the memo. We became so focused on developing our own disciplines we forgot about each other. We still hung out — often just to bicker over bills — but for the most part, we disappeared into our silos, plugging away at our own individual agendas and neglecting to do what we are all experts at: communication.

Ironically, the marketing mix is increasingly blended, with the prevalence of social and digital making things cheaper, smarter and faster. Our specialisms are expanding; ad agencies are taking on digital briefs, marketing pros are pushing PR strategies. Maybe, just maybe, the industry should embrace a more efficient, collaborative approach?

Much has been made of the creative passageway that is missing from the marketing communications framework, that absent link that would bring the specialisms together. PR can be the binding factor here, as a multi-disciplined process that can facilitate that elusive cross-fertilization between marketing, adland, digital and beyond.

The first and ultimate goal of PR is brand building through earned media that is gained through credibility and trust. It’s influence, recommendation, reputation. Now, that’s a pretty good starting point for any marcomms strategy, right? PR has the ability to draw often conflicting elements together and architect change. We’re almost looking along the lines of brand building marketing communications — wouldn’t it be good to be part of that team and embrace integration? United we stand …

Old habits die hard, so I can see why the corporate echelons might fear change from the norm, with each role clearly defined and organogrammed to the nth degree. CEOs shouldn't dread this breaking down of silos — it results in a slicker process, with less departmental competition and less haggling over budget.

No one wants to feel like a cog in the wheel or part of a never-ending conveyer belt, but ultimately the marketing communications world really should be working like a shiny, new machine: all the elements running in seamless synchronicity to create a perfect product, exactly as it was intended. There is a really stellar opportunity here to create marcomms 2.0. Working collaboratively, we can create an efficient, best of breed industry, with PR providing the the gravitational pull throughout.

Kerrie Finch is CEO of FinchFactor.

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