Marketing and PR are often lumped together, but the way each discipline is viewed in direct relation to the bottom line is usually quite distinct. Unfortunately, PR is often treated as a mere extension of marketing. But it shouldn’t be that way.
PR should absolutely be represented on the board or, if PR is outsourced, the agency consultants should be in every board meeting. As we well know, this isn’t about PROs wanting to appear like VIPs, it’s about PR being inherently invested in everything that an organisation communicates with the outside world – be it financial, marketing, HR or anything else. In fact, HR departments should always run their activity past PR because the way HR deals with prospective employees can either be positive for a company’s reputation or do it a gross disservice, depending on the manner in which messages and actions are delivered during the recruitment process.
Over the years we have worked with a number of companies who have come across complicated business situations that turn into potential crisis situations, not least HR-focused. When one CEO found himself with a difficult HR issue on his hands, who did he call first? My team – not his marketing director. Crisis management as a PR discipline is invaluable to a CEO with a prickly situation on their hands.
If you will be so kind as to allow me to refer to the US TV drama West Wing to illustrate, out of the main cast of 15 people, no less than five of them represent the PR function for the White House. They include: deputy press secretary, press secretary, media consultant, deputy communications director and communications director. Furthermore, Claudia Jean “CJ“ Cregg, who was press secretary in seasons 1 to 6, then became chief of staff in seasons 6 to 7. This wasn’t a coincidence.
While marketing’s core objective is to develop and sell products or services to make profit, PR is dedicated to creating and maintaining the holistic relationship and reputation between an organisation and its stakeholders and is sensitive to all the factors that impact on the nature of that relationship. In this way, marketing and PR certainly have separate roles to play – but the question here is how they should interact with each other for the benefit of the organisation. It is precisely the reputational bigger picture that should be top of mind for marketers, because without the influence and reach of PR, sales can almost cease to exist as PR activity helps “pre-sell” your leads and bring them to your doorstep.
Yes, marketing is in charge of generating revenue, but good public relations is just as driven by business objectives (including sales) as marketing. The way PR achieves results, however, is through a mutual exchange of information to build relationships, rather than pushing out a message. This is in no way damning marketing activity but, ultimately, if selling tactics don’t align with the overall reputation and positioning of the company, this will create confusion, dilute the message and potentially compromise relationships with any number of stakeholders.
The key here is to ensure that marketing and PR are well co-ordinated. If politics can be put aside, marketing departments that seek guidance from PR will find they achieve superior commercial results.