The Trend Toward Convergence of PR and Marketing

Shel Holtz

The trend toward the convergence of public relations and marketing is as worrisome as it is inevitable.

Two important surveys reveal how unstoppable the trend is. Nasdaq Corporate Solutions, in its CCO Measurement Survey, concluded that the metrics Chief Communications Officers are likely to use illustrates the convergence of public relations, corporate communications, and marketing. The 2nd annual Global Communications Report from the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations is more blunt. Half of the respondents predicted that PR will be more aligned with marketing in five years while only 8% believe it will continue as a distinct and separate function. Eighty-two percent said that the "public relations" won't accurately describe the work they will be doing by 2022; the term, they said, needs to be more broadly defined.

The two studies are worth some side-by-side analysis. The Nasdaq study focuses on key performance indicators (KPIs) for which chief communication officers are held accountable. Revenue responsibility has already become more common among chief marketing officers (CMOs). Some companies are taking even bigger steps to ensure marketing contributes more measurably to the bottom line. Organizations are eliminating the CMO position altogether, opting instead for a “chief growth officer” accountable for marketing, customer, and sales strategies. Other companies have unified global consumer marketing, U.S. advertising, media, and entertainment under a single CMO. One analysis called these “hybrid CMOs, ” whose breadth of responsibility enables the company to speak with one voice across all communication functions.

Most CCOs report directly to the CEO, but the Nasdaq and Annenberg studies make it clear they are expected to fall in line. The fact that most of the metrics CCOs employ to demonstrate their effectiveness are marketing-focused cements that impression.

Speaking with one voice is an admirable goal. Ensuring PR, marketing, advertising, and corporate communications aren't tripping over each other's messages is important for the sake of credibility and consistency. Further, the nature of public relations has been changing with the unprecedented evolution of the media landscape. Not long ago, PR confined its efforts to earning media coverage. Today, the PESO model (paid, earned, shared, owned) is at the heart of most PR efforts. Among in-house PR practitioners, according to the Annenberg study, earned media work is declining while owned media is on the rise, along with branded content and influencer marketing.

Measurement and accountability should be at the heart of any PR work. That, however, is where the problem arises. The Annenberg survey points to one problem: Only 34% of respondents rank measurement of results as their top choice for demonstrating PR's value. Most are focused on how PR achieves business objectives, a form of measurement that "focuses on less-tangible variables like brand reputation and purchase intent." Many respondents also found leadership and creativity as more important than fundamental measurement.

As for the Nasdaq study, the KPIs most CCOs are using are clearly focused on marketing results, not PR outcomes. Website traffic, search ranking, and sales/lead conversion topped the list. No common PR metric, such as reputation, awareness, comprehension, and share of voice, make the list of the dozen KPIs CCOs monitor. There is no mention of measuring outcomes of PR efforts that may not have a customer focus, such as campaigns aimed at curtailing new government regulation or drawing attention to a corporate social responsibility initiative.

Even more troubling, the number one KPI for 10% of respondents -- making it the third-place winner of the most-important KPI category -- is Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVEs). In mid-May, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) launched a drive to eradicate AVEs and its derivatives as metrics for use in PR. In the UK, the Chartered Institute for Public Relations voiced its support of the initiative, saying it "will identify the use of AVEs in public relations as unprofessional." Members have one year to switch to "valid metrics," with anyone still using AVEs after that "liable to disciplinary action."

While some communicators have taken issue with the CIPRs punitive approach, the rationale for consigning AVEs to the list of PR no-no’s is simple: Advertising and PR seek different outcomes. Measuring the effectiveness of PR by calculating what it would have cost to buy the same amount of space is tantamount to assessing how well PR worked at achieving objectives it wasn't trying to achieve.

Focusing PR on advertising and marketing goals could have serious consequences because PR is sometimes at odds with revenue generation. Consider the Tylenol product tampering case, which has achieved legendary crisis communication status. The response by McNeil Consumer Products, Tylenol's parent company, resonates across the decades specifically because revenue goals took a back seat to salvaging the company's reputation. Tylenol demonstrated that patient safety was its highest priority by pulling product not just from store shelves in the Chicago area, where all of the tampering incidents had occurred, but nationwide. Once the immediate crisis was over, the company then decided to delay returning the product to store shelves until it had innovated a way to ensure patient safety, leading to the invention of the safety seal.

Ultimately, Tylenol reaped the financial rewards of its decisions, capturing market share from competitors that had no safety seal. Although if marketing lead the crisis effort rather than PR, it’s easy to imagine the company leaving bottles in stores beyond Chicago and restocking local shelves as quickly as possible. That's not because marketers are heartless. They're not. It's because they are driven by revenue goals.

Closer relationships and unity among PR and its communication brethren is a good thing. Maintaining a distinct identity with clearly understood PR-focused KPIs is vital. Convergence is fine. Being subsumed by marketing is not. PR practitioners need to be aware of the trend and take steps to ensure the focus on the outcomes it delivers doesn't get lost in the process.


Shel Holtz
ABOUT NASDAQ CORPORATE SOLUTIONS

INVESTOR RELATIONS I PUBLIC RELATIONS I COMMUNICATIONS I BOARD MANAGEMENT

Nasdaq Corporate Solutions helps organizations manage and master the two-way flow of information with their audiences. Around the globe, market leaders rely upon our unmatched suite of advanced technology, analytics and consultative services to maximize the value of their work—from investor relations and corporate governance to public relations and communications.

Nasdaq Corporate Solutions – Public Relations Services

Get everything you need to power your PR programs and spotlight success to your stakeholders from one strategic partner. Global press release distribution and media contacts. Interactive webcasting and multimedia to bring your story to life. Monitoring services to track your coverage, and intelligence to help you see the big picture.

Follow us on Twitter: @MyCorpSolutions

Follow us on LinkedIn: Nasdaq Corporate Solutions


This communication and the content found by following any link herein are being provided to you by Nasdaq Corporate Solutions, a business of Nasdaq, Inc. and certain of its subsidiaries (collectively, “Nasdaq”), for informational purposes only. Nasdaq makes no representation or warranty with respect to this communication or such content and expressly disclaims any implied warranty under law. Nasdaq, the Nasdaq logo, and Nasdaq Corporate Solutions are registered and unregistered trademarks, or service marks, of Nasdaq, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and other countries. ©Nasdaq, Inc. 2017. All rights reserved.

Comments or opinions expressed on the blog are those of their respective contributors only. The views expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Nasdaq, Inc. or any of its affiliates, or its or their management or employees (collectively, “Nasdaq”). Nasdaq is not responsible for, and disclaims any and all liability for the content contributed by contributors to the blog.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.