At a recent industry event, I had the opportunity to discuss the state of integrated marketing with an advertising agency executive. Integration is one of the Holy Grails of marketing; it is consistently viewed as the ideal way to execute a campaign or brand effort, and it's something that every company and agency strives toward. Yet despite ongoing talk, few companies are actually “walking the walk.” This particular executive spoke about the need to make sure that every discipline – PR, direct marketing, advertising, and digital – is on the same message so that true integration can occur. It's perhaps ironic then that in practically the same breath he told me of a recent situation where a client asked that its advertising and direct marketing agencies work together on strategy. It was only after another strategic planning session, where the media agency was also involved, that someone finally asked, “Why isn't the PR agency here?”
It's a good question, and one that sparks an ongoing debate about PR's role in the integrated marketing mix. The PR discipline has certainly made progress in being viewed as a strategic partner, but sometimes it is still only being called in at the tactical level. Clearly there is still plenty of work to be done. The question is, where does the responsibility fall to ensure that PR is included as a strategic partner in integrated campaigns? Is it the client? Or should PR agencies be the ones to advocate for the larger role? I would argue that it's a combination of both: In-house PR practitioners should be championing the importance of the PR discipline within the marketing mix all the way up the ladder, while also meeting regularly with their marketing brethren so they are involved in internal strategy sessions.
By the same token, PR agencies need to toot their own horns, actively bringing clients examples of other situations where they were successful in integration strategy planning. It is only when these two things occur that PR can ensure it is not left out.