Imagine all the marketing and communications disciplines around a table, with each function represented by a family member. The ad agency would be the slightly pompous patriarch, media would be the charming older brother, with direct marketing the studious sister.
And PR? Even PR practitioners would admit that the function would most likely be represented by the pretty, but slightly daft, little sister who pours the tea. This might sound like an extreme stereotype, but the PR industry has an inferiority complex born of a variety of factors, most notably the difficulty of proving its outcomes. This lack of ability to show its effect, coupled with the feeling of not deserving a place at the top table, has conspired to push PR out of many campaigns that it should be at the centre of.
Integrated marketing, in theory, means all the marketing disciplines working in harmony to produce a campaign whose parts perfectly reflect the theme of its whole. In reality it is the ad agency inviting in direct marketers, and possibly some in-store promotions people, for a meeting to see how their work could enhance the ad campaign.
PR has struggled to elbow its way into integrated campaigns. In the 1990s it gained a route in via the morass of 'advertising amplification' briefs, when marketers realised they could make their advertising pounds stretch further through media response to shock campaigns (such as Benetton and Wonderbra).
Value from the outset
But it is only relatively recently that a small number of marketers in large companies have cottoned on to the value of including PR people in a marketing campaign from the start, rather than handing them a finished campaign to get some coverage for.
In many cases this is because of the way larger companies are structured, with PR and marketing in separate departments. PR is often regarded as a corporate function, rather than a technique to use in brand communications. And the brand managers controlling marcoms have mostly been brought up on a diet of advertising, conscious that this is the best route to success.
'A brand manager knows that he or she won't be judged on a double-page spread in the Daily Mirror, but on a fantastically high-profile advertising campaign,' says Sci-Fi Channel head of press Dan Winters. 'A lot of those advertising amplification briefs were about making stars of the people who commissioned them, rather than any belief in PR as a commercial driver.'
Practitioners are sometimes their own worst enemies, claim some. 'PROs often don't want to rock the boat and are all too happy to be considered as an addition,' says Eulogy managing director Adrian Brady. He believes this inferiority complex is compounded by the attitude of other marketing disciplines that 'talk down to PR, referring to it as merely an add-on'.
The reality of integrated marketing is that everyone wants to be the lead agency. For ad agencies used to being that lead, having PR teams come in as equal partners can be difficult to get their heads around. 'All service suppliers want the closest relationship with a client,' says Ing Media managing director Leanne Triton. 'So it's not surprising that ad agencies want to stay in control and sometimes see PR people as a threat.'
It takes an enlightened client to realise the value of bringing in PR at the same stage as other disciplines.
Ironically, the strongest intra-agency relationships often happen when an agency recommends another from a different area. PR agency Salt was referred to client Manpower by the latter's ad agency Publicis - which has also worked closely with Porter Novelli (and five agencies from other disciplines) on HP's Smile campaign. The central concept was dreamt up by PN and has been translated into advertising, in-store communications, online material and events (see panel above).
PN associate director Caroline Fisher says it was a 'unique experience' to present ideas to the other agencies. 'We didn't want to come over as too pushy. The job was made easier by our client clearly outlining our different roles,' she adds.
Publicis account director Evelyn Marfo-Sackey admits that 'it's quite unusual to work with six other agencies in such a harmonious way'. She adds: 'I think the key has been that we have all been given defined budgets and this has enabled us to get on with the task of creating a campaign that exploits all the main marketing disciplines.'
Unilever is another client that gives PR agencies a seat at the campaign planning table. Cake has worked on activity for its Lipton Ice Tea brand - the agency's ideas were subsequently incorporated in an ad campaign. 'It all works so much more effectively when we get to sit in the same room with the ad people,' says Cake account director Greg Jones. 'We can look at the storyboards and tell them which piece of creative will be more PR-friendly.'
A similar process happened when PR agency Brazil was involved in the planning of the campaign to launch the directory enquiry number 118 118. The Brazil team could see the fantastic PR potential of the retro-runners idea. The fact that Brazil had been intimately involved in the campaign from start to finish also helped its client when former athlete David Bedford issued owner The Number with a writ accusing it of stealing his identity. 'We could move quickly to turn that into an opportunity for coverage, rather than a threat,' says Brazil partner Richard Leonard.
Ultimately, the only way for more marketers to understand the value of briefing PR people is for them to see evidence, in monetary terms, of PR's effect. But, back in the real world, many PR people are getting themselves into joint agency teams by showing, to clients and other agencies, that they can relate to the client's business not just its PR objectives.
CASE STUDY 1: CANON'S PHOTO EXHIBITION
In 2003, Canon Europe needed to reposition its brand to appear more modern, stylish and emotive. It briefed its three retained agencies - Nelson Bostock Communications (NBC), ad firm cdp-travissully and media company mediaedge:cia - to come up with ideas. NBC's plan for a photo exhibition made up of pictures taken by celebrities with Canon cameras was adopted.
The exhibition appeared in London, Paris, Milan, Berlin and Stockholm in November 2003 and has since travelled to other cities around the world.
The project attracted a huge amount of coverage - 450 pieces, 79 per cent of which was branded. Cdp-travissully arranged the online photo gallery and dealt with the creative aspects of the book publishing, while mediaedge:cia sourced exhibition space and booked ads to support the events.
CASE STUDY 2: THE CHIP AND PIN ROLLOUT
The introduction of chip and PIN for debit cards has required a massive education campaign by payments industry body APACS. An integrated team comprising ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, media buying firm Zenith Optimedia and PR shop Four Communications has worked on the brief since the summer of 2003.
Given the scale and complexity of the job, it was decided early on that extensive media coverage was needed to prepare consumers for the advertising messages.
Four Communications kept the issue in the news via a series of announcements and the carefully timed issuing of research showing how many retailers were prepared for the scheme and how many consumers had used their PINs.
The agencies, APACS and the British Retail Consortium continue to conduct conference calls once a week to keep the integrated campaign on track.
CASE STUDY 3: DIFFERENTIATING MANPOWER
Recruitment agency Manpower brought in PR agency Salt in 2000 to help it differentiate its brand in a crowded market. Salt's strategy was to position Manpower as the authority on all work-related matters, and it subsequently worked with ad agency Publicis and Manpower's marketing, operations and human resources teams.
Much of Salt's work was in the area of traditional media relations. It sought to elevate the brand's standing and public perception of temping via a more proactive approach. Branch managers were identified as spokespeople to give them authority in the eyes of local clients.
The company website was redesigned to reflect the strategic concept with lots of information about employment issues. The company's advertising strapline was changed to 'Think People. Do Business' as a result.