We are a communications industry that can’t communicate, says Robin England from Brand Advocate

Greetings, fellow members of the communications business. Like you, I spend my day composing pithy little pieces of copy for my clients, with the end goal of providing them with the best solutions. The difference is that I work for an integrated creative communications agency, not a PR firm.

Isn’t it weird how these separate arms of the same business don’t talk to each other? In fact, I would venture to say that we probably don’t even like each other because, well, you lot are in PR and I’m in advertising communications and never the twain shall meet.

Unfortunately in this day and age of ever increasing media channels, the twain is meeting more and more. And finding that in this brave new world of integrated platforms, we do our thing and you do yours. Never mind that a combined communication strategy might actually prove beneficial for our clients – especially if it might actually involve different companies from different disciplines actually talking to each other, God forbid.

And that can’t be good. A recent example of this brick-wall mentality involved one of our clients who actively uses Facebook and employs us to manage the content. It hired a separate PR company to handle its Twitter feed, which was supposed to work alongside us to provide an integrated stream of communication. What could possibly go wrong?

A lack of attention to detail, for one. The proposed Tweets from our PR friends frequently contained spelling mistakes or failed to include the correct links. We pointed out to them that a misspelled tweet from a client looks unprofessional. They would thank us for our input and duly ignore us. So up went the Tweets, spelling mistakes and all, only for the punters in the Twitterverse to immediately start pulling them up on their errors.

The word “sloppy” springs to mind. It also sprung to the client’s who quickly offloaded the PR company in question and got us to handle the Twitter side of their communications as well. Sadly, the PR agency's carelessness and intransigence got it fired.

Now all of this could have been simply averted by listening. OK, the advice was coming from the perceived enemy who in reality was only trying to help. And unfortunately, that’s nothing new. In a previous life I worked in the integrated department at Saatchi & Saatchi (when it had one). Did the above-the-line section of the agency communicate freely with our department, even though we were in the same building, hell, the same corridor? Not a chance.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. What’s wrong with wanting the best for your client, regardless of who or where that comes from? I know toes are precious things, and no one likes having people unnecessarily stepping on yours. And I certainly don’t believe that every PR company out there is deliberately blind to outside input. But, folks, every now and then, someone somewhere from a different discipline will ask a question of you, or make an observation, or query something you’ve done or are proposing. And every now and then, it might be relevant. So, maybe for those rare occasions when it is beneficial for all concerned, keep an open mind, listen, consider. And communicate with each other. Give it a go. It’s not that difficult. 

Robin England, is senior writer at integrated communications agency Brand Advocate.

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