Integrated Marketing Roundtable: Collaborative spirit

Senior leaders representing PR firms, in-house arms, ad agencies, and mobile shops joined PRWeek for this Emanate-hosted roundtable in New York to discuss how the various marketing disciplines work together.

Senior leaders representing PR agencies, in-house departments, ad agencies, and mobile shops joined PRWeek managing editor Gideon Fidelzeid in New York City for this Emanate-hosted roundtable to discuss how the various marketing disciplines are answering clients' calls to work together.

Fiona Carter,
April Dinwoodie, external media relations director, JetBlue
Dan Healy, director of business development, Prolific Interactive
Liz Kaplow, CEO, Kaplow
Rich Lukis, president, Coyne Public Relations
Stephanie Marchesi, CMO, Fleishman-Hillard
Kim Sample, CEO, Emanate

(clockwise from top left) Kim Sample, Emanate; Rich Lukis, Coyne Public Relations; Liz Kaplow, Kaplow; Stephanie Marchesi, Fleishman-Hillard; Dan Healy, Prolific Interactive; April Dinwoodie, JetBlue; Fiona Carter, BBDO

Defining PR

Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Before looking at the discipline's place in the integrated marketing mix, how would you define PR today?

Kim Sample (Emanate): It's hard to do because it's changing so frequently and fast. PR is really all about relationships – internal as much as external – and really improving those.

Rich Lukis (Coyne Public Relations): While the tactical execution of what we do on a day-to-day basis has changed, the net result of what we're going after hasn't.

When you look at PR, you have this universe of stakeholders you must communicate with, influence, or prompt to a desired outcome. What has changed are the communication channels, due to the technology. Ultimately, it's about the message we're trying to deliver, the business objective, and then how we communicate with those stakeholders most effectively.

Liz Kaplow (Kaplow): We have always been the facilitators of the conversation and now we're in this very direct partnership with the consumer. PR needs to help the brand come up with its authentic story and then tell that story. PR is 360-degree storytelling.

Fiona Carter (BBDO): In a very functional way, I look to my PR partners to help me in the earned space. It's definitively not about media relations anymore and the people I've worked with have owned brand strategy from the very beginning. They happen to do it in the earned space and they communicate with, build relationships with, and create conversations with all kinds of stakeholders.

April Dinwoodie (JetBlue): It's the practical pursuit of an active participation in conversations related to your brand inside and outside of the company. There has to be strategy behind it. You have to know what you want as an organization and then you have to take into account all the different audience stakeholders and the channels as well.

Dan Healy (Prolific Interactive): In terms of building digital products, we look at PR agencies as the owner of the brand's message. Where PR agencies can make a huge impact in the actual production of the digital product is how we pass that message along.

Stephanie Marchesi (Fleishman-Hillard): We're in the conversation business, where advertising is more in the broadcast business. Being in the conversation business, it's about reaching all audiences with all the messages, but doing it over time and in an engaging, long-term way.

Lukis (Coyne): Whereas we might have only been brought in to deliver PR directives and messaging, we're now helping guide overall business directives for these brands. We're playing a much broader role.

Kaplow (Kaplow): The message and brand cannot be separated from one another. PR used to be handed what the brand stood for and its job was to simply communicate that story. Today, we're all at that table together, really identifying that strategy, and sometimes helping to truly inform what the brand stands for.

Sample (Emanate): We see ourselves very much as partners with the other disciplines in owning the brand, but that's not how our PR clients see themselves in many cases. We find ourselves teaching clients and helping them build a relationship so they can have a seat at the table in talking about the brand strategy.

Carter (BBDO): I've worked with a number of brands where the head of PR has been a key strategic adviser to the CMO because they have an incredibly pure view of the brand and its story. Today, however, consumers really own the brands, so our job as marketers is really hard.

You want the smartest people in the room when you're the CMO. It doesn't matter which discipline you come from, but whether or not you understand the brand. I've always seen PR people as strategic partners because they are so smart about the brand.

Marchesi (Fleishman): It's really about reputation and brand. Those are the two tension points and everybody owns it. They have to because without the alignment of both nothing is going to work. Reputation and brand must come together. It's less important who leads it.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Most everyone can agree that PR has that seat at the table, but the budgets PR is getting are still nowhere near other disciplines. Is any headway being made?

Sample (Emanate): We're not commanding the budgets of advertising because there's a different cost structure. We're also still challenged on the measurement front, though I'm not sure other disciplines have really solved it either.

However, sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by not being transparent about pricing or clear about what you're going to get for that money. We must develop a new language and confidence around that to help us get those bigger budgets. We also must speak with more consistency and confidence about what we're doing.

Marchesi (Fleishman): When you discuss measurement, marketing puts a whole lot of money behind it, but it is demanded of them to show the results of that expenditure on sales.

In PR and communications, it's more of a desire than a demand. We don't have to prove our value against sales. Until that demand is there, we're never going to be held as accountable as marketing and therefore we're never going to get the budgets.

Lukis (Coyne): It's a vicious cycle. We all know the proof points for PR effectiveness. The problem is that without the bigger budgets, clients don't want to spend the money it would take to do the analytics.

Carter (BBDO): There are many ways to reach customers and drive sales these days. If you're in an ad agency, you're probably talking about how digital advertising may be taking away from the more traditional ads and media buys. The truth is, even beyond paid digital banners and so forth, we're seeing a lot of budgets move into search, paid search. There's not one enemy here. If you're fighting for money for your own particular channel, there are many places to put budgets these days. Everyone is finding a squeeze on their budgets, not just PR.

Dinwoodie (JetBlue): It's not as easy as it once was to toss out a press release and get a story. You have all these different layers of audiences that make it necessary to have more money to talk directly to the consumer. And it's not just one-sided. There's a push, a pull, and then everything in the middle that requires time, energy, and budget. It's not necessarily as concrete as people would like it to be.

Sample (Emanate): One of the things we're increasingly doing with our clients is really pushing back on the brief, because it is often not very specific and sometimes not very well thought through.

Sometimes we want to be in those situations where we can convince the client they need PR, traditional and social, or they can afford to do a point of sale program. That's where you really get to use your muscles and be strategic, but you also have a clear sense of your impact. When you have those kinds of opportunities, you can really show what PR can do.

Healy (Prolific): Our agency likes to come to the table at the beginning of the conversations with clients because there are tools that can be put in play, whether it be a feature inside an app or whatever it might be, where hard analytics are actually trackable. If those goals are presented up front and then the entire product push is heavily focused on trying to get the user to follow through on that, there is definitely opportunity there.

Digital dominance

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): PR has shown tremendous acuity in social media, though other marketing disciplines can certainly make such claims. Who is the true leader in this space?

Dinwoodie (JetBlue): Communications should be the lead in social, but with a very strong sense of integration throughout the company, even for internal purposes.

Carter (BBDO): I'm not sure anyone yet knows who is the leader. What's exciting is that everyone has the right to play in the social media space. Ad agencies will tell you they come up with the big ideas, so they should lead. Digital and mobile agencies are at the cutting edge of the technology, while PR understands consumers and consumer conversations. In the work BBDO has done, ideas bubble to the surface and then you have that complicated moment when everyone laughs and asks who's going to lead it?

PR can very definitely do so, but big digital agencies could say the same, and ad agencies want to be in there, too. You need to create a framework that works for you, your brand, and your company.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Has the prevalence of social media put PR in a more powerful strategizing position?

Kaplow (Kaplow): It's a great opportunity for PR with today's consumers pulling up a chair right underneath the roof of the brand. It's one conversation, still with the media as we've always done, but also directly to the consumer. You have this holistic storytelling. And PR firms are evolving to where the brands that have been with us for a long time are now asking us to run communities where we have this one idea. We're still working with the media, but we're opening up the conversation to the consumer and getting their feedback in real time.

Marchesi (Fleishman): Social is at the center of communications, as is PR, so there's an enormous and obvious leadership opportunity. However, it's a mistake to assume social is all one thing. PR can really lead in engagement, in that conversation, and in the ongoing relationship that can be cultivated on such channels.

However, social media is also about putting out amazing content. PR can absolutely do that, but digital firms and big-thinking creative shops also have that capability. Social is a shared territory and each discipline needs to know what it can do exceedingly well.

Sample (Emanate): The opportunity for PR firms in social is to be smart enough on the integration and to understand what the other disciplines bring so you could take the lead role pulling in the others. It is undeniable that social media has the opportunity to be the glue that's bringing a lot of different disciplines together.

Dinwoodie (JetBlue): The one big challenge is that, regardless of where the intellectual property comes from, it's a matrix of operations. That can be frustrating because everyone might believe that the spirit of the conversation should be there, but you still have all the disciplines competing against one another.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Is a collaborative spirit among disciplines prevalent or is there still a lot of pushback?

Sample (Emanate): You can't make a blanket statement. It's truly on a person-by-person basis. Some organizations do a very good job of pushing that down from the top. Shame on the people who have absolutely no interest in it because they're not going to win, but it remains a person-by-person issue, even within the same company.

Marchesi (Fleishman): It's very much the philosophy of the company and the personality of the individual who is leading the integrated effort. If that person has a philosophy of really including PR, we're all at the same table. If, however, they have a preconceived notion about PR and see it in a more limiting way, we're sometimes relegated to the children's table. As Kim said, it varies by every single situation.

Lukis (Coyne): Integration works best when there is really strong leadership on the client's side. Too many times I've seen a client dump a budget in the middle of the table and tell everybody to fight for it. You need good direction and strong leadership on the client side to make collaboration work.

Carter (BBDO): We want the very best thinking and creativity from our partners, but it's client-led and, at the end of the day, the client will also ask for leadership and decisions. Someone has to lead so that out of all the collaborative strategic thinking and creativity, decisions will get made.

What is challenging is that marketing and communications tend to be separate in organizations. I see more of the divide on the client side than I do in a healthy integrated agency framework. That divide on the client side can be incredibly difficult. Communications is here, marketing is there, and I don't see much collaboration. Then you end up in the land of interpretation, translation, and parallel strategies.

Kaplow (Kaplow): The good news is that CMOs are taking PR's role very seriously. Sure, the blurring of roles and lack of clarity on which discipline is holding what service can produce some anxiety when you pull digital, advertising, and PR together, but the message clients have been sending out is to consider PR much more strongly.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): We've touched on measurement already, but it's a potentially key issue that can strengthen PR's place in the integrated mix. What is the best way to gauge its effectiveness?

Lukis (Coyne): It's a combination of things that get you to the end business goals. Maybe it's measuring consumer activation. Maybe it's reputation. A lot of these things are not as quantifiable and need to be benchmarked before a program starts.

Dinwoodie (JetBlue): You need to have concrete measures and goals set in place and then leave a little bit on the side for what might happen. There are always contingencies that must be considered that require a different course that could change your outcome. You must be able to communicate in the moment those changes occur.

Kaplow (Kaplow): Through social media we are able to measure in real time. This is great because we can know so much more about the consumers we're trying to reach than ever before and we can start with that baseline of what they're saying about our brand vis-à-vis the competition. We can also keep measuring that at different touchpoints throughout the program.

Sample (Emanate): You need to have very seasoned professionals close to the client business so you can spot those opportunities and challenges and do the course correct. When I started out in PR we'd run a campaign and then, at the end of it, you would see whether it worked or not. Today, you know how you're doing within minutes and you can pull different levers and make changes.

That's really fun about our business, but in terms of measurement, we must constantly avoid the impulse to count outputs. It must be about outcomes. Even without those huge measurement budgets, we can do a lot of things if we know the objective and really think about the outcome.

Marchesi (Fleishman): The only measure that matters is business outcomes and the tools to measure those are just as robust for PR as they are for advertising. They do cost, however, and until there is as much demand to measure PR as there is for other marketing disciplines, we'll always be at a disadvantage.

The collaborative spirit needed in the integrated marketing mix ruled the conversation at the Emanate-hosted roundtable.

Strategic leaders

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Who owns strategy in the integrated mix?

Lukis (Coyne): I don't know if anybody necessarily owns it. The best idea wins the day. The lead agency, the one that should direct the others, is the one that formulates the best strategy and ideas.

Sample (Emanate): We have to educate our teams more on the other disciplines. Our people don't understand enough about what the different disciplines do best and how they should be measured to quantify success.

We need to diversify our employee populations by having people from other disciplines join our agencies. We don't just need PR majors, but people who really learned marketing. Perhaps we can do some exchange programs with other agencies. Somehow, though, we've got to get our people a lot smarter about the other disciplines, what the potential is, and where they work best.

Dinwoodie (JetBlue): Sometimes there is a part of the strategy that is above the head and below the knees of the people who are actually doing the work. It's important we put ourselves into the right mindset and understand a bigger piece of this, but it's hard because many times that information is held so close, though it really is part of what we need to understand so we can do our jobs better.

It's a fine balance, but people need to understand not only the discipline of the work, but also the discipline of the company and everything that goes into making it so.

Carter (BBDO): We have to get away from owning. No one has a right to anything and never more so than today. Even if the ad agency is the lead, the strategy has to think about culture, the business situation, all the influences, all the targets, not just consumers. You need very sophisticated brand thinkers.

Moreover, to be the lead agency, the role you really want is that of the architect. The architect is the visionary. Our clients want strategic visionaries and it doesn't need to be from a particular agency. It's about big talent.

Ad agencies always tended to do it because they are highly creative, highly strategic, and our brand stories are very visible, creative, and engaging, but it doesn't mean it's us alone. Everyone should have that as the goal.

Kaplow (Kaplow): It's really about understanding the brand's story. Sometimes it's living with the CEO or the CMO and really hearing the vision for what is directing that company. Whichever discipline has that relationship and is able to get closest to that vision will be leading that storytelling.

After that, we need to collaborate. It can't be about owning, but rather about building on ideas. When a group of agencies leave a room with that great idea, nobody remembers where it started. We must not feel a sense of ego around that and I don't think we do as an industry. We're very good at working together.

Marchesi (Fleishman): It also very much depends on the personality and philosophy of the client, because the CMO is often the one who owns the brand strategy and there are different types of CMOs. Some are very traditional and will never work with a PR firm being the architect, the general contractor, or anything.

However, there is a whole new breed of CMO that is more open-minded. They have a broader experience base. They didn't just come up on one track. They have had more experience, perhaps even in PR. They are much more receptive to ideas that come from a lot of different places. They have a willingness to take that chance, even build that trusting relationship, so that PR person can potentially sit at the head of that table.

Team spirit

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): How do you foster true collaboration among all the disciplines?

Carter (BBDO): I've spent a lot of time constructing the best process. When BBDO has been made lead agency, we very carefully wanted to offer the client collaboration, influence, and decisiveness, but collaboration can lead to chaos. So we thought very hard about how we could avoid that and create a process that isn't about any one discipline.

BBDO has created a great tool called the workout, which we do both strategically and creatively. You get all of the disciplines in the room to work on a strategy together. You ask everybody to bring the idea. You don't wait for one discipline to lead with the idea. So what's the strategy? We as the ad agency, PR, our client, the direct marketing agency, and the digital agency would all come and work through it together for one day, two days, maybe three.

Everyone has an equal chance and we've had big ideas come from all of the agencies. Once that's in place, the ad agency will execute its piece of the pie, the PR firm will do likewise, and so on. That's collaboration in action. The worst thing is, for example, for me to get a press release from PR and then be told to create a TV commercial. That's not the way it should work.

Sample (Emanate): You can't underestimate the importance of having a leader – and not just someone who is named the leader, but someone with the ability to lead in that instance. I can recall situations where we had a person leading who could not make the right decisions. It was completely chaotic.

You need to appoint a leader who really has the tools to do so. We need to get our people prepared to lead and be decision-makers so that PR can get appointed the head on these projects.

Carter (BBDO): No matter where you work, you need people who have an appetite for ideas and creativity, not just their discipline. Simply coming in with the right attitude can get you a long way.

Not everyone has the experience in integrating communications, but people who are genuinely curious about other disciplines are often the ones who come up with great ideas. Teaching people about all the other disciplines just makes their own ideas better.

Healy (Prolific): Any time we get the opportunity to sit down in those meetings initially, we bring a unique mobile perspective to the table. When we are asked to bring that big idea, it definitely helps the conversation move forward.

Once the idea gets picked up, the most important part is for the leader to do their job correctly. There always needs to be that clear line to ensure people are building the product and they understand from the beginning what the goals are and what the big idea is. That's a huge benefit for us because it helps timelines, it helps budgets, it helps everything.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Could you elaborate on your experience of being in those rooms with PR people? What do you think they bring to the table?

Healy (Prolific): Understanding the brand and message across the board is the most important part. On the mobile side we think features, products, and ROI, but it's so valuable to simply be able to ask questions and know that the PR agencies always understand the brand from as many different aspects as you can want.

PR firms do a great job of presenting the brand in the direction that it feels comfortable going. That's really important because if we have some great idea that doesn't align with the brand strategy, it's a waste of everybody's time.

Dinwoodie (JetBlue): With some of what's been said, we're assuming there is a brand story, a narrative that exists that people have agreed upon at a place of importance within a company. However, it doesn't always exist. In addition, you need to think about what can be done that is not related to a specific project that helps people get their head around integration.

If there's a project going on, you're either of the integrated mindset or you're not. That will be very clearly evident in the process and the outcome. But how do you influence collaboration when there isn't a project upon which to collaborate? That all goes back to budgets and time. It's great if you never have this problem, but it's a real dilemma some people come across.

Lukis (Coyne): A lot of it is bringing other diverse talent into the agency so there's a vast pool of experiences to help shape the strategy and creative. It shouldn't just be people from a traditional PR mindset. It's that resource you have among your own agency that allows for different thinking.

Kaplow (Kaplow): Integration is a mindset that has become the way we work today. It starts with the client. For a very long time, they've asked us to work together. Someone said before that an idea could come from anywhere. Our way of life is to think in an integrated way. That could manifest itself through working with people we never dreamed we'd collaborate with. Sometimes we bring them in and think we're actually creating content, but if the content we come up with isn't quite right, we'll find the perfect folks outside of our circle to do that. Everyone's mindset must be like that. You have to put the client first and do whatever it's going to take to get that job done.

Sample (Emanate): We have this responsibility to be so deliberate about that brand strategy and constantly talk about it and reinforce it, but we also need to make sure everybody working on the team knows what the business objectives and brand strategy are every single day.

We have to take our obligation for teaching very seriously, but it's difficult when we're working long hours and are super busy, but it makes the biggest difference. I can think of so many situations where we're having a discussion about the brand strategy and you can almost see the light bulb go off above somebody's head, and it could be an associate or a VP, and they're thinking, “Oh, so this doesn't really do that?” Every time we can catch that, the more efficiency we create.

Marchesi (Fleishman): Bringing everyone together can pose a challenge, especially in a decentralized organization. I've found that the direction for integration has to come from a champion inside the company and that individual must be in a position to make every single person behave and come to that table to collaborate. Someone has to lay down the law. You will always be set up for failure if there isn't a central person internally who will demand it.

Sample, Lukis, and Kaplow (l-r) listen intently as leaders discuss PR's role in the integrated marketing mix.

What the future holds

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Integration is a reality that will only grow going forward. If we were to convene again in a couple of years, where do you hope to see PR's role in the integrated marketing mix?

Lukis (Coyne): There's a tremendous opportunity out there if you're sitting on the PR side. All the communications channels and new technology available have created this huge need for additional content. One of the tenets of PR is the content – that relevant, authentic content PR pros have been creating forever. This will only gain more traction as we move forward. If you're in PR, quite frankly, you've got to love where you're sitting.

Marchesi (Fleishman): This is the time for PR to evolve and redefine itself so that what is expected of us goes far beyond earned. By investing in new talent and new capabilities we will be able to work across the whole paid, earned, shared, and owned spectrum and become an even more valuable partner and resource for clients.

Healy (Prolific): I was in PR for a year about three years ago. That was right at the time when people were starting to accept the social space across the board. If I noticed anything it was that the PR agencies that are on top and the ones continuing to grow are taking hold of the messaging and brands.

PR pros need to be open to new communications channels, obviously, but more than that, they need to identify the communications channels that have the most value from a consumer standpoint and then use those to stay ahead of the curve. I'm somewhat biased in saying that a lot of those channels will in the mobile space, though I legitimately believe that. If that is the case, there's a huge opportunity on the PR side.

Kaplow (Kaplow): PR will continue to tell great brand stories. We've always done that, but the exciting opportunity is having all these new vehicles, all these new ways to tell those stories. We're creating content. We're listening to people in communities and responding to them in real time. We are dealing with people on so many levels, too, sometimes even helping with customer service issues.

We thrive in this two-way conversation because we have always been about the conversation. The challenge will be in training and educating people with all these disparate backgrounds so we can be integrated.

We talk about integrating with other agencies, but as our practice changes we must be sure we're still governed by that one communications idea and that we work in a very holistic way with each other.

Dinwoodie (JetBlue): I see the PR pro not just being the communicator of the narrative, but also helping direct the narrative. They will understand the business side of things and that there's a story to that business. Let us be the architect of that story, in addition to being the ones telling it.

Sample (Emanate): PR agencies will have more and more brand strategists. In turn, senior talent will be closer to the business because that's where the really smart strategists reside. It's not that less-experienced people aren't brilliant strategists, but because the business is complex and you have the demand for integration, you need people with a lot of experience.

We also have to become much more data driven. That's already happening, but in a couple of years we'll see enormous progress on this front. There will be data about the target, the brand, the results, as well as that holistic understanding of the company and data about that.

PR has to expand its role and value without giving up the things it does amazingly well already. The days of PR people being jacks-of-all-trades are over. The business is so complex. I want to have specialists in more and more areas.

Carter (BBDO): I'm actually struck by the language that has been used by everybody here, so I have a slightly different take. PR people need to get more confident about their ability.

There's been a lot of conversation about getting more budget or owning this or that. In two years, I hope you guys aren't talking about this. You need to be confident in the really thoughtful strategic thinking you bring, the huge creativity your agencies possess, and the big opportunities you have in many parts of the mix. PR pros are awesome, cool, and add value every day. Be confident in that and it will enable PR to lead the brand story in those cases that are gray.

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