If you were in advertising – well, you made commercials. If you were in PR, then that’s all you did. If you were in design, you came up with impressive graphics and visuals. Similarly, marketing managers ran PR programmes or advertising campaigns, perhaps supported by brochures or other outputs from designers. Sometimes they went completely crazy and ran integrated campaigns involving PR, advertising and graphics. Wow! Problem was though that these often went sour because the agencies involved all started fighting and trying to steal each others’ budgets. ‘All’s fair in love and advertising,’ as a creative director friend of mine once said.
But the point is that in the old days all these marketing disciplines were different. They had distinct cultures and didn’t always mix very well.
Now, in the internet age, it’s almost laughable to consider any PR campaign, whether technology, financial or energy PR, that doesn’t involve work on the company website and social media, or an advertising campaign that doesn’t involve PR. The days of marketing people working blinkered in their own function have long gone. That’s not to say that they necessarily get on any better now because of this, but let’s leave that aside for a moment.
The marketing mix is now very fluid, with every discipline overlapping and becoming increasingly interdependent and it’s this integrated approach which is needed in order to truly develop an organisation’s voice.
So where does PR fit into today’s marketing mix and what is its role?
In essence, PR shares the same goal with all other elements of the marketing mix – to build awareness of the brand, change people’s attitudes towards it and ultimately, sell the products. The difference is that each element works towards this goal in a slightly different way and PR has always been, and in my eyes will always be, about managing a company’s reputation above anything else. It’s the way in which PR agencies now do this, after the unstoppable rise of digital media, which has changed.
The art of PR has become much more about developing a two-way dialogue which identifies a company’s voice in the market and builds relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, from potential investors to prospective employees, as well as possible customers of course. With the new media framework, which now places as much value on social and online communications as traditional, there are now even bigger opportunities for PRs to produce even bolder ideas which must work across all these channels simultaneously. Add to this the fact that PR is still the function which can provide the timeliest outreach to the outside world and PR is put not only right at the centre of the marketing mix, but also at the centre of the company’s outreach.
With PR’s remit now being wider reaching than ever before it’s almost impossible for it to work to its full effect if it is the only form of marketing a company is making use of. For any function to genuinely reach its maximum potential the whole mix must work together – then a truly effective campaign can be run as each marketing element will be adding value to the others.
About the author
Alastair Turner is Managing Director at Aspectus PR.