THE INTEGRATED MARKETING PUZZLE: Should public relations control the full marketing jigsaw? Claire Murphy talks to PR pros about putting it all together

Step forward the new generation of uber-PR pros. The days of public relations being regarded as the press-release-writing poor relations to the marketing department are long gone.

Step forward the new generation of uber-PR pros. The days of public relations being regarded as the press-release-writing poor relations to the marketing department are long gone.

Step forward the new generation of uber-PR pros. The days of public

relations being regarded as the press-release-writing poor relations to

the marketing department are long gone.

The name of the corporate game in the 21st century is harmonizing


America’s top companies have realized that in order to orchestrate their

reputation, which every CEO now knows - or should know - is directly

linked to profit and stock price, they need to be consistent in what is

said to all stakeholders.

As the Chinese walls come down between communication departments, it has

traditionally been executives with classic marketing training who took

charge. These days, it’s increasingly likely that an executive with a PR

background is beating the marketer to the job of directing an integrated

communications show.

But combining the departments also presents challenges - not the least

of which is jealousy and fevered office politics. Not everyone agrees

that integrated communications needs to be housed under one

fiberglass-tiled ceiling.

Though such consolidation can involve the entire marketing effort, it is

generally the advertising function that becomes combined with PR.

John Kiker, United Airlines’ VP of communications, had advertising added

to his brief last year. The idea of bringing the two disciplines closer

together was principally rooted in the airline’s desire to think harder

about the messages being sent to the staff, says Kiker.

’I think there was a realization by senior management that our previous

ad campaign - United Rising - wasn’t sending out positive messages to

our employees,’ he says. ’Our business is so dependent on service from

our staff and we have to have a buy-in from them. So there was a need to

produce advertising that works internally as well as attracting new

customers; I think the new ’Be United’ ads achieve this.’

By handing its PR chief the advertising role, United could make sure it

was projecting the same corporate message to each of its audiences.

Profile rising

The vast expansion in business media, both press and TV, is one of the

major reasons the job of the PR professional has taken center stage over

recent years. With more frequent media exposure and the growing impact

of reputation on share price, senior corporate PR pros are becoming the

CEOs’ confidantes.

In the PRWeek/Burson-Marsteller CEO Survey last November, nearly 80% of

CEOs said they believe PR is more important to their company than it was

five years ago; 85% think the discipline’s usefulness can only


Hence the rise in profile of the PR professional and the subtle power

shift on the VP’s corridor.

Corporate advertising is the most common traditional marketing function

to be integrated within the role of the corporate communications


But some organizations go a step further and hand their top PR executive

the full marketing reins.

Dick Badler, VP of corporate communications at Unisys, oversees the

company’s strategic marketing direction, with a brief that includes

market research, the planning of product launches, and corporate ad

campaigns. But he rejects the notion that his promotion can be

attributed to the recent increase in recognition of the public relations


Says Badler: ’It’s testament to the need to take a more integrated view

overall. When you are put in a role that gives you a view across all

bases, you need to find communications solutions that work, using

whatever media is appropriate.’

But the PR pros who have made the leap to the next level have often had

quite a battle getting there.

Matt Gonring, now managing partner of communications and integrated

marketing at Arthur Andersen, spent nine years at Chicago

building-materials firm USG before taking his current job in 1998. His

original brief at USG was a traditional media relations role, which

Gonring added to over the years, taking on responsibility for investor

relations, internal communications and government affairs.

Assuming control of marketing was a tougher task. ’It took me five years

to convince the CEO that it made sense having all the communications

functions managed collectively,’ he says. ’I brought in the dean of

Northwestern Business School to talk to him, showed him books and

magazine articles on integrated marketing, introduced him to people

already doing these kinds of jobs.’

Gonring explained to his boss that the company ’could be operating more

efficiently and effectively if we changed the structure, and that we

would also be better able to attract good PR and marketing talent,’ he


’People don’t want to be defined in a narrow capability now - they are

new-age thinkers who want a breadth of responsibility.’

Although the CEO eventually got the message and handed Gonring the

combined job, his battle still was not over. ’I was challenging the

traditional organizational barriers, and I had to step on toes to change

things,’ Gonring says. ’I found some folks to be less than team players,

people who questioned what knowledge a PR guy had to bring to

advertising, for example. It wasn’t smooth, but we were able to present

a far more unified and comprehensive communications strategy as a


Part of the sticky politics of bringing together the PR and marketing

functions under the former head of PR was that Gonring’s efficiency

savings equated to lost jobs in some areas. But he insists that simply

cutting down the head count should not be the main goal of bringing

together the departments.

’The driver should be that you can improve the way you work,’ he


’If you are only changing things to reduce labor costs, that is the

wrong approach.’

Gonring was ultimately rewarded with his current role at Arthur Andersen

- a job he is convinced he landed on the strength of his integrated

marketing conviction - where he controls 650 marketing and PR staffers

across 80 countries.

But not all companies believe it’s necessary to have one communications

department for integrated marketing to work well.

For example, game-maker Hasbro has run a highly integrated campaign over

the past two years to encourage families to set aside time to play

traditional board games.

Ads featured an animated family complaining that it had no time to play

games; associated PR campaigns featured well-known parenting expert

Evelyn Petersen, who toured the US talking about the benefits of family

game-playing and wrote articles on the subject. A tie-in with the

National Parenting Center saw the group provide Internet links to

Hasbro’s ’Family Game Night’ Web site. Promotions were organized with

Hasbro’s partners Pizza Hut and Kraft, reflecting the theme.

Each of the three components of this campaign were arranged by a team at

Hasbro’s games division comprised of PR director Mark Morris, marketing

director Jackie Williams and the company’s central promotions group.

Morris says he feels that the different elements of the campaign worked

particularly well with each other because they were planned from

scratch, rather than simply attaching the PR to an advertising campaign.

The fact that the project was coordinated across three departments had

no adverse impact on its quality, Morris maintains. ’The key is keeping

an open mind and talking to each other,’ he says. ’We are, after all, in

the business of communication.’

Likewise, Bell Atlantic has been presenting an integrated campaign over

the past five years with baritone-voiced actor James Earl Jones. Jones

is featured in ads, on the company’s Web site and on the 411


He also speaks at charity events sponsored by the telecom firm and meets

Yellow Pages advertisers at dinners.

The campaign is delivered by Bell Atlantic’s marketing communications

and corporate communications departments, which control the advertising

and PR elements, respectively. ’The two departments work well together

to coordinate plans,’ says spokesman John Bonomo. ’Corporate

communications keeps track of which ads are out there as they plan

Jones’ appearances.’

But the team approach to integrated communications is inevitably limited

in its scope, says Jim O’Rourke, associate professor of management at

Indiana’s University of Notre Dame. ’Teams are good for specific tasks,

but they can’t take long-term responsibility for integrated marketing at

the corporate level. There has to be one person with ownership of the


’You can deliver an integrated campaign if you don’t have control over

the advertising, but it is far more difficult,’ agrees Don Spetner, VP

of corporate communications at Los Angeles-based retirement savings firm


’I think most PR people would agree that they don’t have the ear of the

advertising agency,’ he adds. ’If you’re not in direct control of this

side of things you tend to get left out of crucial planning meetings and

are less likely to be able to control the agenda even if you are


Control over advertising

These problems are no longer a concern for Spetner, who was handed

responsibility for SunAmerica’s advertising last year, which he handles

in conjunction with his PR role.

’It makes all the difference in the world having control of the

advertising,’ he says. ’PR people often overlook the fact that

advertising is in itself a major event which can be leveraged for its PR


Within six months of Spetner’s new role, he launched a major

repositioning campaign for SunAmerica and orchestrated financial press

coverage of the relaunch just as it came out. ’This created a buzz

amongst the brokers who sell our products,’ Spetner says.

The effectiveness of handing the top PR executive control over marketing

often depends on the type of company. At SunAmerica, it makes sense to

align advertising with Spetner’s PR department because much of the

marketing of the brand is directed at independent brokers, with the

function of the advertising principally brand-building.

Spetner doesn’t think that combining advertising and PR would work as

well at his previous employer, Nissan, where advertising is more

strictly linked to sales and therefore harder to ’de-couple from the

marketing department.’

The ascending prominence of the PR function appears most evident in

companies that have been formed by recent mergers.

Chase Manhattan went through two mergers in the second half of the ’90s

and its brand relaunch last summer was conceived to introduce the new

group, complete with its slogan, ’The Right Relationship Is Everything.’

So although the business units retain responsibility for tactical

marketing and advertising, the department of executive vice president

and director of corporate marketing and communications Fred Hill

spearheaded the image campaign and set the tone and look of all future

Chase ads.

’There is, or should be, a natural nexus between what people are saying

about your company in the media, and what you are saying about your

company in advertising and marketing,’ explains Hill. ’The best

performing companies now recognize that the PR and advertising functions

need to operate in concert with each other. If PR is the nail,

advertising is the hammer.’

Although at Chase product publicity is still the responsibility of the

business units, Hill oversees all corporate advertising. This allowed

him, for instance, to coordinate a campaign for last month’s earnings

announcement that included senior management appearances on CNBC and ads

in The New York Times on the same day.

Kevin Ramundo’s corporate communications department has assumed control

of all marketing at industrial group BF Goodrich’s aerospace


The change came about as a result of the company’s purchase of Coltec

Industries, which has vastly expanded its aerospace operation. Ramundo

was VP of public affairs and investor relations at Coltec. So by

purchasing Coltec, Goodrich also managed to buy itself an instant

corporate communications department, which is now coordinating the

balance between central marketing and divisional efforts.

’My role has expanded dramatically over the past few months, both in

functional and divisional scope,’ says Ramundo. ’The company has

historically had quite defined barriers between corporate communications

and the PR activities of the divisions. But as we try to operate more as

one company, it is important that we pull together our communications


’Integrating your marketing and PR effort is a clear winner,’ says Notre

Dame’s O’Rourke. ’The days are long gone when the HR department was in

charge of internal communications, and the chairman ran the corporate

philanthropy from his back pocket. It is essential now to be carrying

the same message to each of your various audiences.’



Current job: managing partner, communications and integrated marketing,

Arthur Andersen (since 1998)

Previous job: vice president, communications, USG

Lessons on integration: ’It’s wrong to assume that functions like PR and

marketing always work together. In some organizations they can become

like silos, driven by their own functional autonomy, proprietary and

protective of their empires.’


Current job: executive vice president and director of corporate

marketing and communications, Chase Manhattan (since 1997)

Previous job: senior vice president, communications and marketing,

McDonnell Douglas

Lessons on integration: ’You can be great at advertising, but if people

are saying terrible things about you in the media, it’s all



Current job: vice president, corporate communications, BF Goodrich

(since 1999)

Previous job: vice president, public affairs and investor relations,

Coltec Industries

Lessons on integration: ’Every company is trying to communicate more

effectively. For the companies in more traditional industries like ours

this is increasingly difficult, with all the media attention on hi-tech

firms. It means you really have to be pulling all your communications

levers, and in the right sequence. Integrating the functions makes more

sense than ever.’


Current job: vice president, corporate communications, SunAmerica (since


Previous job: vice president, corporate communications, Nissan

Lessons on integration: ’It was initially quite a dramatic change to be

handed control of advertising, but it makes all the difference in the

world to the quality of results that you can achieve.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in