CMO Q&A: Gail Galuppo, Western Union

Western Union's Gail Galuppo speaks with Aarti Shah about the evolving collaboration between PR and marketing at the company.

Western Union's Gail Galuppo speaks with Aarti Shah about the collaboration between PR and marketing at the company.

PRWeek: PR does not report into marketing at Western Union, but you work closely with that division. What do you consider to be the main difference between the two divisions?

Gail Galuppo: We see marketing and PR as very integrated. I really don't see a big separation. We do have both disciplines reporting into two areas, so I'm responsible for branding and marketing and we have a head of corporate communications. But we work pretty much hand-in-hand on all of our marketing efforts. Because of the type of business we're in and our target consumers, many of our marketing efforts are around PR and buzz-related. So it's a very integrated approach although it reports separately into the CEO.

PRWeek: What are the advantages and disadvantages of having these two functions reporting up different chains of command?

Galuppo: I don't see a disadvantage because we work so closely. Within the CMO organization, we have dedicated team members in corporate communications. [We have a corporate communications person] who is basically a part of my team and is involved in all of our strategic marketing from the start. She has a seat at the table from concept development all the way through execution. The advantage of having it separate rather than combined is that corporate communications and marketing have a seat at the table with the CEO, as direct reports. So both departments get the visibility and attention that's needed.

PRWeek: Has digital accelerated the rate at which marketing and PR work collaboratively?

Galuppo: I think digital has had some impact on the way go to market. But I do think it's more on the leadership side. I've been with the company for just over a year and Anne McCarthy, our EVP of corporate affairs, has been here for two years. [The collaboration] is really a mindset on how we approach PR. In the past it's really been more about b-to-b and media relations, but now we're focusing more on the customer and that's made [marketing] a more integrated effort. We used to be a transaction based company but since the spinoff [from First Data Corporation] our mission is to drive a customer-centric business and become more focused on customer metrics. With that comes the need for a more integrated approach.

PRWeek: Western Union hired an agency to handle US marketing and advertising to Hispanics earlier this year. How has PR helped with this effort?

Galuppo: We reach out to several customer segments. We serve the 200 million international migrants, as well as what we would call the mainstream market in developed markets like the US and UK. When reaching out to Hispanics in the United States, we use an agency that works with the US marketing team, but they all work very closely with their counterparts in corporate communications. So any campaign that we've done around the Hispanic segment has been integrated. We did a Spanish-language TV commercial around Mother's Day, but we integrated PR activities as well. We make sure we have a very seamless approach for the campaigns.

PRWeek: This collaboration between marketing and PR begins at the conceptual phase and carries through execution?

Galuppo: Yes, and it happens at a very strategic level as well. Marketing is responsible for launching one of our innovation efforts around mobile transfer options. [But a member of corporate communications team] is also part of that team. She is advising us on not only the communications strategy but also on the marketing we're doing in specific countries. She's even involved in the more tactical campaign approach.

PRWeek: Do your PR and marketing agencies also collaborate?

Galuppo: We really drive the whole process to be an integrated effort. For example, for our Mother's Day outreach to the Hispanic market we had all agencies sit in a room together with communications and marketing. This ensures that we are always all aligned and that we are consistent.

PRWeek: Is there any confusion about who should take the lead on effort or campaign?

Galuppo: I have not seen that here. I can imagine it might happen at other organizations. I would say the biggest challenge is for us – as a $5 billion company with approximately 6,000 employees -- we are very lean in our staff. The CMO group is lean, as is corporate communications. The biggest challenge is how do we get more resources to take on more? That's when we decide, “OK we need to bring on an agency because we don't have the resources to take on more.”

PRWeek: Are you continuing the “Yes” campaign that launched earlier this year that focused on positive human interest stories from around the world?

Galuppo: It definitely is. We don't call it a brand campaign – it's a strategy. It's about our customers. They face a lot hardships and struggles but they always have a can-do spirit. For them [our brand] is about pursuing their dreams. For Western Union it is about saying yes to our customers and agents. It's an ongoing exercise. It's not like we launch a campaign and move on. We work very closely with PR agency and corporate communications to keep this an ongoing engagement.

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