Senior leaders representing PR agencies, in-house departments, ad agencies, and mobile shops joined PRWeek managing editor Gideon Fidelzeid in New York City for this Emanate-hosted roundtable to discuss how the various marketing disciplines are answering clients' calls to work together.
Fiona Carter, MD, BBDO
April Dinwoodie, external media relations director, JetBlue
Dan Healy, director of business development, Prolific Interactive
Liz Kaplow, CEO, Kaplow
Rich Lukis, president, Coyne Public Relations
Stephanie Marchesi, CMO, Fleishman-Hillard
Kim Sample, CEO, Emanate
|(clockwise from top left) Kim Sample, Emanate; Rich Lukis, Coyne Public Relations; Liz Kaplow, Kaplow; Stephanie Marchesi, Fleishman-Hillard; Dan Healy, Prolific Interactive; April Dinwoodie, JetBlue; Fiona Carter, BBDO
Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Before looking at the discipline's place in the integrated marketing mix, how would you define PR today?
Kim Sample (Emanate): It's hard to do because it's changing so frequently and fast. PR is really all about relationships – internal as much as external – and really improving those.
Rich Lukis (Coyne Public Relations): While the tactical execution of what we do on a day-to-day basis has changed, the net result of what we're going after hasn't.
When you look at PR, you have this universe of stakeholders you must communicate with, influence, or prompt to a desired outcome. What has changed are the communication channels, due to the technology. Ultimately, it's about the message we're trying to deliver, the business objective, and then how we communicate with those stakeholders most effectively.
Liz Kaplow (Kaplow): We have always been the facilitators of the conversation and now we're in this very direct partnership with the consumer. PR needs to help the brand come up with its authentic story and then tell that story. PR is 360-degree storytelling.
Fiona Carter (BBDO): In a very functional way, I look to my PR partners to help me in the earned space. It's definitively not about media relations anymore and the people I've worked with have owned brand strategy from the very beginning. They happen to do it in the earned space and they communicate with, build relationships with, and create conversations with all kinds of stakeholders.
April Dinwoodie (JetBlue): It's the practical pursuit of an active participation in conversations related to your brand inside and outside of the company. There has to be strategy behind it. You have to know what you want as an organization and then you have to take into account all the different audience stakeholders and the channels as well.
Dan Healy (Prolific Interactive): In terms of building digital products, we look at PR agencies as the owner of the brand's message. Where PR agencies can make a huge impact in the actual production of the digital product is how we pass that message along.
Stephanie Marchesi (Fleishman-Hillard): We're in the conversation business, where advertising is more in the broadcast business. Being in the conversation business, it's about reaching all audiences with all the messages, but doing it over time and in an engaging, long-term way.
Lukis (Coyne): Whereas we might have only been brought in to deliver PR directives and messaging, we're now helping guide overall business directives for these brands. We're playing a much broader role.
Kaplow (Kaplow): The message and brand cannot be separated from one another. PR used to be handed what the brand stood for and its job was to simply communicate that story. Today, we're all at that table together, really identifying that strategy, and sometimes helping to truly inform what the brand stands for.
Sample (Emanate): We see ourselves very much as partners with the other disciplines in owning the brand, but that's not how our PR clients see themselves in many cases. We find ourselves teaching clients and helping them build a relationship so they can have a seat at the table in talking about the brand strategy.
Carter (BBDO): I've worked with a number of brands where the head of PR has been a key strategic adviser to the CMO because they have an incredibly pure view of the brand and its story. Today, however, consumers really own the brands, so our job as marketers is really hard.
You want the smartest people in the room when you're the CMO. It doesn't matter which discipline you come from, but whether or not you understand the brand. I've always seen PR people as strategic partners because they are so smart about the brand.
Marchesi (Fleishman): It's really about reputation and brand. Those are the two tension points and everybody owns it. They have to because without the alignment of both nothing is going to work. Reputation and brand must come together. It's less important who leads it.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Most everyone can agree that PR has that seat at the table, but the budgets PR is getting are still nowhere near other disciplines. Is any headway being made?
Sample (Emanate): We're not commanding the budgets of advertising because there's a different cost structure. We're also still challenged on the measurement front, though I'm not sure other disciplines have really solved it either.
However, sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by not being transparent about pricing or clear about what you're going to get for that money. We must develop a new language and confidence around that to help us get those bigger budgets. We also must speak with more consistency and confidence about what we're doing.
Marchesi (Fleishman): When you discuss measurement, marketing puts a whole lot of money behind it, but it is demanded of them to show the results of that expenditure on sales.
In PR and communications, it's more of a desire than a demand. We don't have to prove our value against sales. Until that demand is there, we're never going to be held as accountable as marketing and therefore we're never going to get the budgets.
Lukis (Coyne): It's a vicious cycle. We all know the proof points for PR effectiveness. The problem is that without the bigger budgets, clients don't want to spend the money it would take to do the analytics.
Carter (BBDO): There are many ways to reach customers and drive sales these days. If you're in an ad agency, you're probably talking about how digital advertising may be taking away from the more traditional ads and media buys. The truth is, even beyond paid digital banners and so forth, we're seeing a lot of budgets move into search, paid search. There's not one enemy here. If you're fighting for money for your own particular channel, there are many places to put budgets these days. Everyone is finding a squeeze on their budgets, not just PR.
Dinwoodie (JetBlue): It's not as easy as it once was to toss out a press release and get a story. You have all these different layers of audiences that make it necessary to have more money to talk directly to the consumer. And it's not just one-sided. There's a push, a pull, and then everything in the middle that requires time, energy, and budget. It's not necessarily as concrete as people would like it to be.
Sample (Emanate): One of the things we're increasingly doing with our clients is really pushing back on the brief, because it is often not very specific and sometimes not very well thought through.
Sometimes we want to be in those situations where we can convince the client they need PR, traditional and social, or they can afford to do a point of sale program. That's where you really get to use your muscles and be strategic, but you also have a clear sense of your impact. When you have those kinds of opportunities, you can really show what PR can do.
Healy (Prolific): Our agency likes to come to the table at the beginning of the conversations with clients because there are tools that can be put in play, whether it be a feature inside an app or whatever it might be, where hard analytics are actually trackable. If those goals are presented up front and then the entire product push is heavily focused on trying to get the user to follow through on that, there is definitely opportunity there.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): PR has shown tremendous acuity in social media, though other marketing disciplines can certainly make such claims. Who is the true leader in this space?
Dinwoodie (JetBlue): Communications should be the lead in social, but with a very strong sense of integration throughout the company, even for internal purposes.
Carter (BBDO): I'm not sure anyone yet knows who is the leader. What's exciting is that everyone has the right to play in the social media space. Ad agencies will tell you they come up with the big ideas, so they should lead. Digital and mobile agencies are at the cutting edge of the technology, while PR understands consumers and consumer conversations. In the work BBDO has done, ideas bubble to the surface and then you have that complicated moment when everyone laughs and asks who's going to lead it?
PR can very definitely do so, but big digital agencies could say the same, and ad agencies want to be in there, too. You need to create a framework that works for you, your brand, and your company.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Has the prevalence of social media put PR in a more powerful strategizing position?
Kaplow (Kaplow): It's a great opportunity for PR with today's consumers pulling up a chair right underneath the roof of the brand. It's one conversation, still with the media as we've always done, but also directly to the consumer. You have this holistic storytelling. And PR firms are evolving to where the brands that have been with us for a long time are now asking us to run communities where we have this one idea. We're still working with the media, but we're opening up the conversation to the consumer and getting their feedback in real time.
Marchesi (Fleishman): Social is at the center of communications, as is PR, so there's an enormous and obvious leadership opportunity. However, it's a mistake to assume social is all one thing. PR can really lead in engagement, in that conversation, and in the ongoing relationship that can be cultivated on such channels.
However, social media is also about putting out amazing content. PR can absolutely do that, but digital firms and big-thinking creative shops also have that capability. Social is a shared territory and each discipline needs to know what it can do exceedingly well.
Sample (Emanate): The opportunity for PR firms in social is to be smart enough on the integration and to understand what the other disciplines bring so you could take the lead role pulling in the others. It is undeniable that social media has the opportunity to be the glue that's bringing a lot of different disciplines together.
Dinwoodie (JetBlue): The one big challenge is that, regardless of where the intellectual property comes from, it's a matrix of operations. That can be frustrating because everyone might believe that the spirit of the conversation should be there, but you still have all the disciplines competing against one another.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Is a collaborative spirit among disciplines prevalent or is there still a lot of pushback?
Sample (Emanate): You can't make a blanket statement. It's truly on a person-by-person basis. Some organizations do a very good job of pushing that down from the top. Shame on the people who have absolutely no interest in it because they're not going to win, but it remains a person-by-person issue, even within the same company.
Marchesi (Fleishman): It's very much the philosophy of the company and the personality of the individual who is leading the integrated effort. If that person has a philosophy of really including PR, we're all at the same table. If, however, they have a preconceived notion about PR and see it in a more limiting way, we're sometimes relegated to the children's table. As Kim said, it varies by every single situation.
Lukis (Coyne): Integration works best when there is really strong leadership on the client's side. Too many times I've seen a client dump a budget in the middle of the table and tell everybody to fight for it. You need good direction and strong leadership on the client side to make collaboration work.
Carter (BBDO): We want the very best thinking and creativity from our partners, but it's client-led and, at the end of the day, the client will also ask for leadership and decisions. Someone has to lead so that out of all the collaborative strategic thinking and creativity, decisions will get made.
What is challenging is that marketing and communications tend to be separate in organizations. I see more of the divide on the client side than I do in a healthy integrated agency framework. That divide on the client side can be incredibly difficult. Communications is here, marketing is there, and I don't see much collaboration. Then you end up in the land of interpretation, translation, and parallel strategies.
Kaplow (Kaplow): The good news is that CMOs are taking PR's role very seriously. Sure, the blurring of roles and lack of clarity on which discipline is holding what service can produce some anxiety when you pull digital, advertising, and PR together, but the message clients have been sending out is to consider PR much more strongly.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): We've touched on measurement already, but it's a potentially key issue that can strengthen PR's place in the integrated mix. What is the best way to gauge its effectiveness?
Lukis (Coyne): It's a combination of things that get you to the end business goals. Maybe it's measuring consumer activation. Maybe it's reputation. A lot of these things are not as quantifiable and need to be benchmarked before a program starts.
Dinwoodie (JetBlue): You need to have concrete measures and goals set in place and then leave a little bit on the side for what might happen. There are always contingencies that must be considered that require a different course that could change your outcome. You must be able to communicate in the moment those changes occur.
Kaplow (Kaplow): Through social media we are able to measure in real time. This is great because we can know so much more about the consumers we're trying to reach than ever before and we can start with that baseline of what they're saying about our brand vis-à-vis the competition. We can also keep measuring that at different touchpoints throughout the program.
Sample (Emanate): You need to have very seasoned professionals close to the client business so you can spot those opportunities and challenges and do the course correct. When I started out in PR we'd run a campaign and then, at the end of it, you would see whether it worked or not. Today, you know how you're doing within minutes and you can pull different levers and make changes.
That's really fun about our business, but in terms of measurement, we must constantly avoid the impulse to count outputs. It must be about outcomes. Even without those huge measurement budgets, we can do a lot of things if we know the objective and really think about the outcome.
Marchesi (Fleishman): The only measure that matters is business outcomes and the tools to measure those are just as robust for PR as they are for advertising. They do cost, however, and until there is as much demand to measure PR as there is for other marketing disciplines, we'll always be at a disadvantage.
|The collaborative spirit needed in the integrated marketing mix ruled the conversation at the Emanate-hosted roundtable.
Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Who owns strategy in the integrated mix?
Lukis (Coyne): I don't know if anybody necessarily owns it. The best idea wins the day. The lead agency, the one that should direct the others, is the one that formulates the best strategy and ideas.
Sample (Emanate): We have to educate our teams more on the other disciplines. Our people don't understand enough about what the different disciplines do best and how they should be measured to quantify success.
We need to diversify our employee populations by having people from other disciplines join our agencies. We don't just need PR majors, but people who really learned marketing. Perhaps we can do some exchange programs with other agencies. Somehow, though, we've got to get our people a lot smarter about the other disciplines, what the potential is, and where they work best.
Dinwoodie (JetBlue): Sometimes there is a part of the strategy that is above the head and below the knees of the people who are actually doing the work. It's important we put ourselves into the right mindset and understand a bigger piece of this, but it's hard because many times that information is held so close, though it really is part of what we need to understand so we can do our jobs better.
It's a fine balance, but people need to understand not only the discipline of the work, but also the discipline of the company and everything that goes into making it so.
Carter (BBDO): We have to get away from owning. No one has a right to anything and never more so than today. Even if the ad agency is the lead, the strategy has to think about culture, the business situation, all the influences, all the targets, not just consumers. You need very sophisticated brand thinkers.
Moreover, to be the lead agency, the role you really want is that of the architect. The architect is the visionary. Our clients want strategic visionaries and it doesn't need to be from a particular agency. It's about big talent.
Ad agencies always tended to do it because they are highly creative, highly strategic, and our brand stories are very visible, creative, and engaging, but it doesn't mean it's us alone. Everyone should have that as the goal.
Kaplow (Kaplow): It's really about understanding the brand's story. Sometimes it's living with the CEO or the CMO and really hearing the vision for what is directing that company. Whichever discipline has that relationship and is able to get closest to that vision will be leading that storytelling.
After that, we need to collaborate. It can't be about owning, but rather about building on ideas. When a group of agencies leave a room with that great idea, nobody remembers where it started. We must not feel a sense of ego around that and I don't think we do as an industry. We're very good at working together.
Marchesi (Fleishman): It also very much depends on the personality and philosophy of the client, because the CMO is often the one who owns the brand strategy and there are different types of CMOs. Some are very traditional and will never work with a PR firm being the architect, the general contractor, or anything.
However, there is a whole new breed of CMO that is more open-minded. They have a broader experience base. They didn't just come up on one track. They have had more experience, perhaps even in PR. They are much more receptive to ideas that come from a lot of different places. They have a willingness to take that chance, even build that trusting relationship, so that PR person can potentially sit at the head of that table.