"Integration" has long been a PR buzz word. Nowadays, for many consumer practice areas, working with other marketing disciplines - and other divisions within the firm - is making integration more of a necessity than an aberration.
Due to the growing number of participants during the planning stages of an integrated campaign, and the diverse viewpoints among PR, marketing, and advertising companies, it's essential for consumer practices to voice their opinions early in the process, according to agency executives. Communicating with all participating agencies from the beginning ensures that the consumer practice has a positive impact on a campaign.
"When projects are initiated, the brief is shared at one time... and everyone is brought into the loop at the same time," says McGhee Williams-Osse, Burrell Communications co-CEO. "The ownership is actually shared in terms of a concept... so that there's no specific place where the ownership lies. It really is a collaborative effort."
Consumer practices also must ensure that they have senior leadership participating in meetings and regularly scheduled calls to the client and other participating agencies, says Stephanie Smirnov, DeVries PR president.
"We make sure that we have a very active agency representative taking part, and we're sure that person has a very broad under-standing of PR," she explains. "It's extremely time-intensive. You need to go into it with eyes wide open. Our staffing philosophy is that we are an agency that always has very senior involvement in all of our clients' work from the [SVP level on] up."
Consumer practices also find themselves taking a lead role in campaigns due to their understanding of blogs and other social media. Whether helping to craft the campaign or monitoring the media hits that occur because of it, consumer practices must engage in constant communication with all other parties involved, says Jennifer Cohan, MD at GolinHarris.
"There is the whole idea of citizen journalists, and one thing that PR pros have always been able to do is to engage," she says. "Another big part of it is the consumer demand for authenticity, and that's something that PR pros and PR as a channel are well equipped [to provide]. There's a lot of coordination, and certainly, you make it easier for your client to have consistent communications [on] everything from the presentation straight through the elements of the execution."
It's also of paramount importance for different agencies to put their competitive differences aside while working on an integrated project, adds Cliff Berman, DeVries MD.
"People are fighting for their agency and fighting for their ideas to be more impactful," he says. "Whenever you get a lot of bright ideas, the only time there is tension is with the healthy tension [of] people [who] are invested in creating the best outcome possible."
Having "a seat at the table" boosts the influence a consumer practice has on a campaign
Consumer practices often have an intricate grasp of blogs and other social media, positioning them for lead roles in campaigns
Firms must put aside competitive differences while working together on an integrated campaign