OP-ED: The union of PR and ads makes any message stronger

Your world has changed. To be the architect of an effective marketing strategy you must understand the fundamental shifts that have radically reshaped the marketing environment. You have to evolve immediately to remain relevant.

Your world has changed. To be the architect of an effective marketing strategy you must understand the fundamental shifts that have radically reshaped the marketing environment. You have to evolve immediately to remain relevant.

Integrated marketing used to refer to the consolidation between investor relations and public relations; today the convergence of marketing functions also includes advertising. Rather than a loss of autonomy, this melding of responsibilities is an opportunity for the savvy executive who takes charge. And it's good news for the PR executive. One of the primary reasons for this integration of marketing disciplines is the potential legal liability posed by the inadvertent release of material information. Conventional wisdom says that a product launch, the hiring of a senior executive, and any similar "routine" announcement that could impact the trading of a company's stock qualifies as material information. That's the "legal" basis for integrated marketing; there is also the practical bottom-line motivation. Besides the obvious requirement for public relations, investor relations, and advertising to deliver a singular message, there is also the opportunity to gain market share and sell more products and services by delivering a more focused message, thus owning a category in the consumers' mind. Dot-com companies were the first to recognize that it made good business sense to use PR as a primary marketing tool. Despite the implosion of dot-coms, their use of press releases altered the marketing landscape for the better. They awakened a sleeping giant. They demonstrated what Al and Laura Ries wrote about in The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR - that PR is best suited to introduce a brand name into the consumer psyche, while advertising plays a part when the brand is established. Advertising and PR should work hand-in-hand. Advertising campaigns are like military efforts built around a launch date with a big bang. PR programs are inevitably linear where the elements unfold over time. The advantage, of course, is that with this slow buildup, a PR effort can be designed to work in concert with an ad campaign. The internet ushered in a new reality. Because of their availability on the web, full-text press releases were no longer just for the media; they became vehicles to reach millions of consumers and investors directly. The web marginalized the traditional gatekeeper and gave marketing execs the opportunity and power to reach the masses and control the message like never before. New multimedia opportunities make it even easier to blend marketing disciplines. The NewsML news format facilitates the meta-tagging of a press release with multimedia elements that are delivered to journalists in a news envelope. This enables them to retrieve whatever suits their purpose and needs. This smart news release - a mini-marketing package - has become a crucial marketing tool offering myriad ways to retrieve information. Embedded within the press release are photos, video clips, annual reports, product fact sheets, brochures, even order forms. Many online sites, with smaller staffs and budgetary constraints, pick up these marketing packages in full and they are, in turn, embraced by consumers as legitimate sources of information. News has a credibility that ads don't have. People trust the news they read in print, see on TV, and hear on radio. For the most part, they look at print ads, radio, and TV spots with a calloused eye. With opportunity comes responsibility. It is incumbent upon the marketing pro to deliver a singular message in a press release and in a TV commercial. Uniformity is valuable. Uniformity does not preclude creativity; quite the contrary. The real skill is building imaginative ad spots and novel press releases that work in parallel to deliver a uniform message. It has been said that an ad is like a butterfly - it lives for a brief moment and then dies. Combine it, however, with a creative PR drive and it lives an extended life. Nobody did this as well as Anheuser-Busch ("Bud" and "Bud Light" commercials) and Reebok ("office linebacker") during the 2003 Super Bowl. Both created attention-grabbing commercials, but also issued press releases prior to the big game generating a groundswell of media and consumer anticipation for the upcoming spots. They even attached video clips to their releases, enabling editors to preview the spots before they were aired. After the game, there was almost as much copy about the commercials as there was about Tampa Bay's victory.
  • Michael Lissauer is SVP, marketing and business strategy, at BusinessWire.

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