Bellwether Survey: PR pros need stronger marketing skills

PRWeek and BU's first Bellwether Survey came under the microscope at a panel to kick off Communications Week 2018.

Panelists discuss the PRWeek/BU Bellwether Survey at Communications Week.
Panelists discuss the PRWeek/BU Bellwether Survey at Communications Week.

NEW YORK — PR pros must build better relationships with marketing and other business functions, four comms leaders said Monday.

Echoing the results of PRWeek and Boston University’s inaugural Communications Bellwether Survey, the panelists also emphasized that personal relationships are the best way to make this happen.

Titled The State of the PR Profession: Skills You Need for 2030 and moderated by PRWeek editorial director Steve Barrett, the panel was the first session of Communications Week New York 2018.  

Panelists included Cassi Gritzmacher, director of corporate affairs for luggage company Away; Fred Hawrysh, head of integrated communications at Ruder Finn; Kelli Gail, director of ad communications at Roku; and Ray Kotcher, former CEO of Ketchum and now professor of the practice at Boston University’s College of Communication.

"Communicators need to do a better job of understanding the marketing world we live alongside," Kotcher said after reviewing  the results of the PRWeek survey. "Some 40% of those surveyed said integration is not being optimized and working as well as we’d like it to be."

Gritzmacher suggested the best way to make that happen is simply to "get people to talk to each other."

"Our marketing, comms, and digital functions all work closely together and that’s necessary in today’s world." she said. "From a structural standpoint, you can set up a team any number of ways, but to get people to talk to each other just takes relationship building."

Hawrysh heads Ruder Finn’s integration efforts, but said the agency emphasizes integration is more a way of working than a strictly defined function.

"We don’t have an integration department," he added. "It’s a mindset. And my role is to instill that culture in my organization."

At Roku, Gail said communications sits alongside marketing and her function is actually part of the marketing department.

She added Roku shares customer data across all functions that communicate with customers and overall business goals are constantly part of the conversation.

"We work closely with C-suite executives," she said. "And that’s very important. You have to understand the larger business goals, what the business strategy is, and how we make money… to understand your role. It’s crucial to have business skills, not just PR skills."

Hawrysh said it’s as much about being an expert as having an appreciation of marketing and other comms functions.

"Comms people don’t need to be experts in areas like advertising," he said. "We need to understand other channels, how to leverage them, and how to get the most out of it. When we do that and work together as a team we drive very powerful campaigns for clients."

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