How PR can work with other marketing disciplines?

One problem with joining forces with other disciplines is that certain sectors in the marketing mix may consider themselves superior to PR. This can lead to uneasy alliances and heated discussions about strategies.

Gay Collins, executive chairman of PR firm MHP says that although different departments and agencies love the idea of working together on integrated campaigns, the “reality is often poles apart from the vision.“. Given a choice, Collins believes that advertising, sponsorship and branding are easiest sectors for PR firms to work with, because all play a part in the overall positioning and delivery of a company’s message.

Many in PR believe that the digital element of a campaign falls naturally in a PR agency’s remit, so integrating digital work is no problem. MHP‘s Collins says: “Digital strategies are not considered by us to be a separate discipline, but if it isn’t already a component of a PR programme then integrating that should be the easiest step to achieve.”

However, there can still be battles deciding who dictates the social media strategy. Emma Sinden, head of corporate and technology at PR firm Ruder Finn, says the hardest part about integrated campaigns is agreeing ownership: “Marketing and communications have rarely been good bedfellows, and when you add social media into the mix, what often results is a bun fight about who gets to own what. In many cases different social media channels will be owned by different departments so creating a campaign that works across them all means diplomacy and collaboration.”

Sinden adds that just because you have access to another specialist’s expertise, doesn‘t mean you should use it. Deciding that a marketing sector is not going to get a piece of the action is bound to cause friction. Lee Edwards, lecturer in corporate communications and PR at Manchester Business School, says that it is important to select media purely based on the needs of the campaign, its objectives and its audiences. She explains: “There’s no point in producing (for example) a billboard campaign or a cinema ad alongside your PR campaign if your target audience can’t be found in those spaces and places.“

Edwards says it is key to make sure communications channels are complementary: “Duplication is both irritating for your audience and inefficient for your boss or client.”

Another problem is that some agencies or departments may be resistant to following another’s lead, but as Ruder Finn’s Sinden says: “Throwing a campaign out across different channels is not integration if the channels themselves are operating separately. Each tactic needs to pull you back into a central point from where you can go out and explore further.”

Manchester Business School’s Edwards says the secret is consistency without rigidity: “There is no point, for example, in transposing a 500-word opinion piece over to a home page for a campaign-specific website: opinion pieces and web pages clearly require different styles and formats to be effective, even if the message from both is the same.”

As in many of life’s endeavours, the solution is finding a balance. In this case making sure everyone sticks to a central message, but no one is afraid to add their own flash of brilliance to enhance it.

Case study

Joshua Van Raalte, managing director of PR agency, Brazil has worked with advertising and digital agencies on integrated campaigns and discusses how to keep feathers unruffled:

“In our experience, having a basic understanding of each agency’s specialism, culture and what it can deliver, is paramount to a collaborative relationship. However, the key thing for a successful working partnership is to keep the dialogue going, because all agencies work in different ways. As an example, Brazil has just launched a long-term Facebook campaign for car insurers in collaboration with Steak,’s digital agency. Regular meetings and discussions – without the client’s involvement – were vital to the success of this campaign. I’d like to think Steak enjoys working with us as much as we do with everyone there. But success for the client is the fundamental measurement for integrated campaigns.”  

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