A move towards the holy grail of integration

Following last week's revelation that fewer than half of FTSE 100 firms employ comms directors on their executive committees, Pearlfinders has expounded the theory that comms experts are increasingly taking on chief marketing roles.

Danny Rogers: marketing and comms functions are beginning to merge in large organisations?
Danny Rogers: marketing and comms functions are beginning to merge in large organisations?

Pearlfinders’ research shows eight per cent of senior PR appointments made by major firms in Q3 this year were in chief marketing officer (CMO) roles, an increase from six per cent last year. (View more coverage of Pearlfinders findings)

The cynic would say that this is still a small number. But there have been some notable examples of PR experts taking on bigger marketing level roles recently. In July AOL poached Thomson Reuters PR chief Jolie Hunt to be its chief marketing and comms officer. And in the same week Nintendo chose European PR chief Shelly Pearce to lead marketing at director level in the UK.

One could therefore draw the tenuous conclusion that the marketing and comms functions are beginning to merge in large organisations.

There would be some logic in this. Integration is without doubt one of the big trends in marcoms. With the continuing growth and influence of social media the lines between traditional marketing and conversational relationships with stakeholders – classic public relations – have blurred.

At the Cannes Lions festival, advertising agencies regularly win PR gongs and PR agencies win media awards. Brands care little about which disciplines they employ as long as their campaigns are engaging with consumers and displaying effective creativity.

The reality, however – as my research for last week’s piece uncovered – is that a CMO is still much more likely to have a seat on the executive board than a CCO (chief comms officer, or comms director). And these CMOs still largely come from a sales, product or technical background rather than comms.

But I do believe this will change. The globe’s really big spenders on marketing, such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Diageo, have integrated comms more closely into their marketing strategies, their CMOs lauding the power of conversational marketing.

Moreover the CEOs of these businesses now see comms as a means by which they, and their firms, can lead the wider business agenda.

Here we hit upon the holy grail: where corporate affairs, investor relations and public affairs can be integrated with marketing and promotional comms.

Executives who can combine all of these skills and disciplines create a holistic – and hugely potent – conversation between an organisation and its stakeholders.

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