With company reputation dependent on consistent messaging, it seems strange that some PR and marketing departments appear to have only the most tenuous grasp of what the other is doing.
They may sit down the hall from each other, but the distance might as well have been miles in some recent cases where PR and marketing seemed less than co-operative.
Cadbury's 'Kit 4 Schools' campaign (eat chocolate, gain sports gear) is now regarded as the 'new Hoover' (free flight to the US with any purchase over £100). Elsewhere, Coca-Cola water brand Dasani's marketing chiefs either failed to realise the tag 'pure still water' didn't quite describe treated mains water from Sidcup, or the PROs did not know about the strapline. One way or another, hindsight suggests these problems would not have occurred if the two departments had worked closer together.
PR teams' despair at the actions of their own marketing departments is not new. The late David Packard of Hewlett-Packard once said 'marketing is much too important to leave to the marketing department'. But, as these examples show, neither does communication between PR and marketing appear to have improved.
Operating in discrete units has its attractions, of course. As Tim Ambler, senior fellow at London Business School, says, PROs and marketers 'are all vying for their share of the sunshine, the chequebook and the boss's personal affection'.
Yet affection is unlikely to be gained by something that damages a CEO's standing. 'Some campaigns are developed in isolation - the answer is for marketing and PR advisers to be included at the beginning of the debate about branding,' says Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster chairman Graham Lancaster.
'What you do mustn't be dissonant with other things going on in the world.' Ergo, being seen to deal with child obesity - good; being widely believed at the same time to be contributing to child obesity - bad.
Thorough risk management
So, all marketers and PROs need to do is sit down more often. If only it were that easy. 'It's down to bad planning,' asserts Henry's House deputy MD Ginny Paton. 'We would insist on a thorough risk management assessment on any project we do. Where we can't, I would lay the blame at the door of over-zealous marketers who have not thought through the consequences to the brand.'
Bad karma between marketing and PR has previously been present in the less scientific world of promotions, especially when it comes to over-redemption. Occasionally this can turn into a PR coup - when Walkers' free pedometer offer had met its original quota before the TV ad promoting it had even aired, Walkers said it would still honour all requests. However, this is a rarity. Walkers was able to say this mainly because it had taken out insurance against over-redemption, so the cost would not come back to them.
In other areas though, promotions are tricky. It is still common, for example, for independent travel companies to ask suppliers for net rates on flights or holidays, and then use those flights in conjunction with a newspaper as part of a promotion. It sounds good in theory, but the problem comes when the flights have been committed to newspaper readers at rates which prove unsustainable - or worse still, when the flights have been committed to readers and have not, in fact, been purchased from the supplier at all. It is because of this, says Debbie Hindle, MD of specialist travel PR agency BGB Communications, that 'companies are being much more careful about who they work with'.
The mother of these marketing wheezes-turned-PR-nightmares was Hoover.
'Someone should have said after the first presentation, "How are we going to pay for this?",' laughs Mike Seymour, Edelman international director of crisis and issues management, who was brought in to make some sense of the mess the free flights offer had created.
Yet examples still abound, such as Vodafone's 'free calls' claim on one of its ads. In January the ASA upheld a complaint from a rival operator, which pointed out that the offer was misleading because the price of the calls was included in the monthly price plan. The ASA issued a formal adjudication on the future use of the word 'free'.
'A seasoned PRO should increase the chances of making marketing messages right or at least reduce the chances of getting them wrong,' says Paton.
Yet not everyone believes that marketing should be asking for PR's lead on issues. London Business School's Ambler insists that a mindshift is necessary on the part of all concerned to address the problem: 'I'll stick my neck out on this: in any proper organisation, the PR function ought to answer to the marketing function. I know that in some organisations PR is the pet of the CEO, but marketing is the higher function. PR is a subdivision of marketing, not the other way round.'
PROs are unlikely to accept this wholesale, yet most would probably agree that reputation management requires more than simply marketing and PR working closer together. Functions such as legal and public affairs may need to be involved to establish whether stakeholders could take issue with a comms strategy.
Nowhere has this been better exemplified than in the media's latest bete noire, 'chugging' - stopping consumers in the street and asking them to sign up to monthly direct debit agreements. Direct marketers love it - it secures valuable new donors that can be added to their opt-in database and used for future upgrade mailings.
Indeed, last year chuggers coaxed more than 700,000 donors into pledging £240m to charities over the next five years. However, the welcome absence of tin-rattling has not been enough to spare the practice from intense media scrutiny.
Royal National Institute for Deaf People director of comms Brian Lamb understands people's disquiet: 'We do get some negative feedback,' he tells PRWeek. 'But it's one of the most effective ways of getting more long-term, committed donors.'
Only the bravest of PROs have been able to win the battle with marketing.
Of the 100 or so charities that use chuggers, only Greenpeace and Cancer Research UK stand out among the high-profile groups that have advocated scaling down, or even stopped, chugging altogether for fear of reputation damage.
PR professionals should not be cowed. It clearly makes sense for marketing and PR functions to read from the same book. And though good sense and business are not always easy bedfellows, steps toward happy cohabitation will undoutedbly reduce the risk of misunderstandings in the future.
CORPORATE MARKETING AND PR
In some organisations, the marketing and PR chiefs are one and the same. Extreme Sports Channel director of marketing and PR EMEA Julie Hicks says it is hard to see where the two functions overlap in its events: 'Our budget is quite small so we rely heavily on PR rather than buying marketing spend, whether above the line or below the line. For our "Legends of the Extreme" promotion we made stencil plates and got students to spraypaint at skate parks with messages like "Vote Tony Hawk". We gave away Extreme goodies and created a hoo-hah when we got to the park. Generally, marketing and PR don't work together as closely as they should but for us it's the most logical thing.'
PUBLIC SECTOR MARKETING AND PR
Hampshire County Council head of corporate marketing and PR Caroline Foley 'We believe there is no dividing line between marketing and PR. The link between a well-informed public and a satisfied public is well documented.
We're marketing our services, such as a new library or country park, to get people through the door. But we're also talking about the philosophy behind it: what's the policy, what has the county been spending council tax on? My job is to make the links between all of the comms activities, including media relations. These activities are integral to one another, not in separate silos.'