COMMENT: Editorial; Pushing PR to the next level

The relaunch of Marsteller Advertising under the Burson-Marsteller umbrella is unlikely to ruffle many feathers in the Groucho Club, although it may cause a few nostalgic ad agency eyebrows to raise.

The relaunch of Marsteller Advertising under the Burson-Marsteller

umbrella is unlikely to ruffle many feathers in the Groucho Club,

although it may cause a few nostalgic ad agency eyebrows to raise.



It may not even seem particularly revolutionary for the PR industry. B-M

will not be the first PR agency to offer advertising under the same

roof, after all. In the financial sector Dewe Rogerson, to name but one,

has successfully exploited the synergy between its two co-habiting

operations for many years. And there are a handful of smaller companies

in other sectors now offering fully integrated communications.



But the fact that the world’s largest PR agency has taken this route to

capture the corporate PR high ground indicates two possible trends at

work.



The first is the recognition by client companies that the corporate

brand has a power above and beyond the sum of the constituent parts, and

that in a world of product convergence, the values and reputation of the

corporate parent may be all that differentiates rivals in the same

market. And in this domain, public relations - not advertising - is

king.



Managing the corporate brand requires more than the limited tools of

advertising can offer. It requires investor relations, government

relations, issues management, crisis management, and advice on corporate

strategy. Advertising alone cannot achieve any of that, although it can

be an effective tactic.



The second is that PR consultancies, which have traditionally shunned

advertising as an overpaid and overestimated rival to ‘pure’ public

relations, are seeing it in a new light. Not as a threat, but as a way

of strengthening their offering to clients.



Of course, putting ad agency and PR consultancy under a marketing

services group banner is an old wheeze, based on the hope that business

will flow naturally across the divide. But it never worked that well,

mainly because the two disciplines tended to tussle for control of the

client agenda.



This way, the relationship between PR and ad agency is focused not on

agency expectation, but on client need in a specific area.



This is next generation, son of PR stuff. This is corporate

communications, driven not by the rivalry between different marketing

disciplines competing for a slice of the same cake, but by a genuine

communications strategy. A communications strategy put in place by PR

people.



B-M aren’t the first to think of it. But if they pull it off on this

grand scale, it may benefit all those who want to push public relations

on to the next level.



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