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John Hayes, the Chief Marketing Officer at American Express expressed in an interview that as a result of the change in society and the use of technology, marketers were losing control over what was being said about their products, while still being held accountable for their success or failure. As a result, I feel it is more crucial than ever for marketing, advertising and PR professionals to break down silos and work together. They need to create cross-functional groups that focus on reinforcing brand values and deepen relationships. But in order for this to happen there has to be a distinction and appreciation between the professions and what each brings to the table, in order to maximize the effectiveness.

All three professions are truly partners in the world of business and communications. Marketers find the target audience and align that audience with a specific product or service, advertising expands/reiterates awareness of the product or service to that audience, and PR helps strategically communicate with that audience to increase their awareness and receptiveness to the product or service.  More specifically, however, the key differences are as follows.

  • Design vs. Build: Marketing is all about creative content, sales and deliverables; advertising is about creative content geared toward publicity, and PR is about “the story,” reach, and a reflection of the organization’s image and reputation.
  • Content Control: Marketing and ad campaigns have total control over what their message is and how it will be delivered. PR on the other hand, does not have any for the most part. A story can be pitched, emphasizing talking points and key messages, but when left in the hands of the media, in the end, they choose what to write about and what to share with their audiences. PR practitioners can only hope that their objective somehow gets delivered.
  • Timing: Marketing campaigns and advertisements can practically be run at any point in a product or services life cycle, however in PR, content must be newsworthy and therefore, timing is important. No publication wants “news” about something that has existed for a long time or that another publication already broke the news about. They always want something new to present to their readers.
  • Earned vs. Bought: PR deals with earned media by building relationships with the public primarily through third-party coverage in the media. Marketing and advertising campaigns are purchased and do not require approval or feedback from the media for completion. PR works closely with both marketing and advertising because it supports publicity efforts that encourage participation of the public or stakeholders.
  • Longevity: Marketing and advertisers choose how long they want to run their campaigns. Their biggest obstacle is usually cost. PR practitioners have no control over how long the media will present their information. A newspaper for example will run a PR story for one day, but advertisements can be purchased indefinitely if they so choose.
  • Cost: Marketing and ad space are costly regardless of the medium. PR is free if you are able to get the media coverage you want.

Essentially, John Hayes was right. In today’s fragmented society, where the internet is ever expanding and information access (regardless of accuracy) is at the tip of our fingers, stakeholders/publics will no longer accept dictation. In Fraser Seitel’s The Practice of Public Relations, he says that 70% of people state they do not believe advertisements and that ads are no longer influencers in their decisions to act. As a result, the marketing message has shifted from building awareness to creating relationships (the crux of what PR is about). The big idea is not solely based on marketing and publicity, but on customer engagement. In the end, the goal of every organizational department is to successfully fulfill the bottom line of the company for which they work and I believe to maximize success, they must all do so together.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel one profession plays a greater role than the other in impacting the bottom line?