Silo-d PR is Business Suicide

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A thought provoking post on how combining marketing with PR will kill the latter, by public relations pro Jayme Soulati, drew me in as soon as I read the title; my immediate reaction was “oh no.”

Oh no, because I believe deeply that the only way forward for any company dedicated to performance marketing is pervasive integration; it’s what ArCompany is built on and how we not only make companies truly social businesses, but how we measure, analyze and refine strategy.

Oh no, because Jayme is a friend of mine, and sometimes disagreeing within the Social Marketing bubble is tricky.

I admire Jayme. I respect the discipline of Public Relations.  I also know that silos occur within marketing departments,  and they are destructive.

Jayme’s blog touched an emotional/professional nerve and the comment section became highly engaged over the topic.

We Are All in Sales

I’m an old Sales hand at heart, and I learned a long time ago from one of the most brilliant men I’ve worked with that we are all in sales.  In the hard scrabble manufacturing business, Royce Renfroe made lots of companies lots of money, and one of his most often quoted sayings was:

If you’re not making it or selling it, you ain’t shit.

When he elaborated on that he would tell you that every single employee had to see themselves in sales, because selling our product paid all of our salaries.  We need to be united in doing everything we could to sell more product, and every step the company made was aimed in that direction.

We were ALL in Sales.

The Blur of Sale­s with EVERYTHING is Essential

A very long time ago I came to the conclusion that PR is Social is Sales is Marketing.  However,  I believe PR planning and strategy has to permeate all of them.

PR (or Public Relations as I like to call it to remind everyone that PR and Publicity are not the same thing) needs to be at the foundation of all Marketing/Sales efforts.

What I see on an almost daily basis are companies who launch full steam into a ‘marketing’ or ‘social marketing’ campaign with NO consideration for the PR ramifications.  When they’re caught off guard or cause a social media maelstrom, they become fodder for our Sunday posts on the social mob mentality.

PR is a Discipline

When I am ‘corrected’ by PR professionals for saying that your every interaction with your customers is your PR, it often comes out as “PR is a Discipline, and cannot be mixed in with the rest of Marketing.”  What does that mean?

Here are the two most spot on definitions I could find to describe what, exactly, PR is:

Wikipedia: Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public.

Miriam-Websters: the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution; also :the degree of understanding and goodwill achieved.

It is very clear that PR skills are not intuitive or learned overnight; I understand the bemoaning of the loss of an educational foundation that many old school PR pros express.

I realize that education, including on the job training, is essential, and I believe very deeply that experience matters.  I have dealt with many large and small potential PR disasters in my career; I know that Amy at 25 was in no way as prepared as Amy at 40-ish to handle a PR backlash.

A huge part of handling a crisis is knowing to step back and disconnect emotion from your decision, and think like a business person. Experience matters.

I also understand that PR is not simply about handling crises.  I understand that PR is an essential skill/discipline/knowledge base.

I also  believe that what underlies some of these discussions about What is the Definition of PR’  is fear of change; I know – I’m touching a nerve here.

PR pros are not alone in being exhausted by the rapid pace of change social media lightening speed communication has wrought, and all communications fields have had to deal with massive upheaval in the past decade.  Lots of professions are struggling with the the fact that their career foundations have change profoundly.

The Truth is We Must Change or Die

It is not fair for me to level this statement at PR Professionals singularly; the reality is that change is necessary for businesses large and small.  Instead of using my words I’ll quote two of the most forward thinkers I know:

In a private conversation about this via email, Danny Brown, a tremendous thought leader (and yes, he’s an Arcompany Principal) said this:

Digital has changed everything, and adaptation to the new is crucial. I’d also say the issue is less with the younger generation not knowing about the “older stuff”, and more to do with poor teachers that want to grab the new buzzwords and seem relevant, versus actually teaching what’s right.

Gini Dietrich has transformed what it means to be a social PR Agency, understanding that Arment Dietrich can’t help its client be successful in one area without integration.

She wrote a post this week called The PR Firm of the Future that succinctly summed up her thoughts on where a forward thinking PR Firm must head.

Her statement on trying to find employees that ‘get it’ clarifies that a shift is taking place that PR Pros must catch up to:

We need people who are a hybrid PR professional: They need to be experts in media and blogger relations, content development, content marketing, workflow development and email marketing, on-page search engine optimization, issues management, and client service. If they can also do some simple WordPress coding, they’ll move to the front of the line.

The Road Forward for PR Professionals/Marketers/Sales

I started this post focusing on Jayme’s blog, but I didn’t get to the point of it; she had just attended a meeting where she was told point blank that SEM and PR are one in the same. She was frustrated because she knew that to be an utter falsehood. She was right.

The comment section of that blog was chalk full of some of the most interesting discussion on What PR Is Now that I have come across.

Andrienne Jandler summed it up so well I have to post the entire comment:

I do think that PR/Marketing/SEO have converged, and necessarily so. But I don’t think that it means even a single element of the traditional PR discipline is (or should be) out of the equation. I think, despite the huge amount of DIY info out there, that PR has gotten more involved and requires still yet greater understanding of the traditional PR foundations. All the elements of PR work that you listed are still important; it’s just that many who haven’t been formally trained in PR don’t realize it (or even know what they are lacking). IMHO, while the disciplines within the field have become muddled in the public eye, those who have that comprehensive background, long-term experience and understanding of the foundations will continue to lead the field (and results for their clients).

The Cross Pollination of Sales/PR/Marketing is Irrevocable

So here’s the deal: it’s never going back to the way it was. We will not have segmented silos of PR/Marketing/Sales and even HR/Product Development etc. in companies that intend on embracing social communication and thriving with the information they can access.   

Businesses that grasp the fact that this incredible free flow of consumer conversation is a data field waiting to be harvested, analyzed and utilized company wide will move forward.

The Marketing/PR/Whatever-you-want-to-call-yourselves companies that can help businesses reorganize, monitor, measure and compute the vast amount of information out there will be hugely successful.

Those who stand clinging to their silo-d, outdated internal structures will be left behind.

0 thoughts on “Silo-d PR is Business Suicide

  1. hessiej says:

    Amy, it’s funny that you talk about the vulnerability of traditional PR to obsolescence unless inherent changes are made. Marketers, like it or not, feel the same way. The truth is that anyone who works in some form of communications with the customer will need to evolve together. It’s a whole new game out there. There are many that have talked about the death of marketing. I’m half way through Daniel Pink’s book, “To Sell is Human”. I totally agree with you. The reality is we are all salespeople. We influence people to do things everyday: I sway my kids to make their beds; We coax employees to perform better; teachers persuade kids everyday to learn new things. This new world will see a convergence of communication that’s going to bring all communicators closer together with each other and with the customer. The reality is if we’re good at what we’re doing, we can persuade the rest of the organization to follow our lead.

    • AmyMccTobin says:

      hessiej Funny? You think I’m funny – funny how?  (sorry, couldn’t resist).  It’s like I said during our hangout, Generation X has had to deal with change since we started our careers. No more 40 years at the same place, gold watches and pensions.  That time is over.  To me, the pace of change that social media has brought is simply one more step in that direction, and my generation should be very well adapted to it.

      • hessiej says:

        AmyMccTobin You’re sounding more like dannybrown everyday! … Don’t ask.  Our generation “should” have adapted but in many ways they too have resisted. The older we get the more we’ve become complacent and set in our ways. For me, it’s always been about continuing to be relevant to the times. That’s why, as I age, it’s more important than ever to continue to learn and evolve.

  2. I’m here. I need to digest the mouthful and see where I can step in and support and defend all at once! 
    You had me going back and forth with, “wait, no! Oh, yes, you’re right.” the entire time. Which means I’ll just do a few things and probably come back and comment some more after I read a few times!
    1. Thank you!! Honored to lead off in graph one on such a credible company blog. Thank you.
    2. A few years ago, our profession set off to redefine PR with the PRSA “debacle” that really never came to closure. On my blog I ran a What Is PR? series on which the world weighed in, and I asked everyone’s opinion about how they define PR today and we tried (really, really hard) to come up with the broadest definition we could. Essentially we failed 40%.
    Because of how we in PR have had to re-invent to maintain knowledge and core competency in parallel to this highly exciting time to be in business and marketing, the definition people wanted to create was more tandem to traditional PR without the social, digital, SEO, analytics, etc. of the hybrid model.
    So, here we have it — hybrid PR/new PR. Thanks for your support as I have now very publicly this week adjusted my messaging to describe my services in hybrid PR — a collection of digital marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, media relations/publicity, and traditional PR strategy with message mapping, etc. etc.
    Because I’m pretty senior in this PR space, I predate the fax machine (wow, right?), my shackles elevate faster than most when I hear about how millennials are defining PR without the traditional foundation I’ve learned and earned. We have to point fingers at the mentors, instructors and senior professionals who perhaps aren’t teaching the appropriate work (I have no idea). 
    We also need to look at the sister disciplines, taking SEO for example, which realize the power and value of PR (yeah!) and want to offer “PR” along with SEO as a service. So an optimized online press release becomes the  SEO/PR combo for $8.99.
    So we all continue to think and discuss and debate and attempt to reach consensus about where we’re heading — to the marketing smoothie on the menu while we also continue to struggle with our own identities and where we fit in.
    And, so, back to the wonderfully presented and provocative post upstairs, I agree, I disagree, I agree, and it’s so freaking cool. Anyone who wants to jump on the ride and re-invent every day with what’s new and next can join the fun. For those interested in staying pure and not blending with marketing or adopting any of the social, well, there’s a dead end looming. 
    Please do incorporate PR into your marketing mix and blend with the changes; however, please also know there’s a storied tradition of highly strategic values we bring that adds power to the core.

  3. AmyMccTobin says:

    ginidietrich ArCIntel Hey chica… I hope you read it 🙂

  4. AmyMccTobin says:

    LisaPetrilli Thx for the share Lisa!

  5. belllindsay says:

    While I agree with (and support) the concept of silos breaking down – I think it’s interesting how driven we all somehow are to label everything. Being the wishy-washy fool that I am, my immediate thought was “Yes, everyone should work together, communicate across departments and divisions, etc., but there CAN and WILL be times when a very focussed PR response is needed. Is that called a silo? I guess not. But why call it anything? I think we’ll all come to a point where we work seamlessly together *until* one particular skill set is required, and usually it will be required because of a catastrophe. I still don’t think that all people can be all things. Also, as I end this, I’m not sure any of the above makes any sense. It’s been a stressful day. Great piece Amy!

    • AmyMccTobin says:

      belllindsay Yep – it makes sense to me. WHY call it anything?  It’s, as Jayme Soulati  says – hybrid marketing/pr whatever. YES, PR skills are needed, and very precise ones for very precise situations, but integration is needed more than anything.  Thx for stopping by.

      • belllindsay says:

        AmyMccTobin Jayme Soulati I’m pretty sure I just reiterated everything you said above in my comment. LOL I’ll try harder next time. 🙂

        • AmyMccTobin says:

          belllindsay AmyMccTobin Jayme Soulati OK. .. here’s your homework assignment – you can’t utter ONE single self deprecating statement for 24 hours. We all know you’re brilliant.

    • belllindsay Ahh, in a perfect world, Lindsay! I think your background is broadcast, right? Mine is agency PR in Chicago…perhaps you’re getting a sense of that working with the likes of Ms. Dietrich in her firm; however, she’s got something spanking new going on so it’s not the same. She’s building Marketing in the Round and yet there are still naysayers and disbelievers ala her post today about digital.
      Back in the day, I alluded how ancient I am, we sat around the table as PR peeps and watched all the advertising guys bluster about their creative until one of of asked, well, what’s the stategy…or how about them business goals? 
      Honestly, in my entire career, I have rarely if ever integrated with advertising. That’s a lot of career to be able to say that.

      • AmyMccTobin says:

        Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing belllindsay Wow.  By advertising I’m thinking you mean marketing, or are you talking straight up creative advertising folks?       Danny always talks about performance marketing, and I don’t understand how on earth any advertising/communications/marketing firm isn’t held accountable to goals.

        • Danny Brown says:

          AmyMccTobin Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing belllindsay Speak to hessiej about the multi-million dollar budgets that were bandied around with no real care for results.

        • AmyMccTobin Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing belllindsay Nope. I mean advertising. Pure, unadulterated advertising. These were the happenings of the Chicago agencies in the ’90s.

        • Danny Brown AmyMccTobin Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing belllindsay hessiej  You’re talking about the U.S. government, right?

        • AmyMccTobin says:

          Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing AmyMccTobin belllindsay OK – the 90’s. God, are the pure advertising guys STILL not concerned with results??? I haven’t worked directly with those large ad agencies.  My sister Judy McCloskey  could tell you of some current issues with large, traditional agencies doing social with no apparent goals or measurements in mind.  If you’d come to Snarketing last night missy, you would have met her.

  6. acjandler says:

    Thanks so much for including my comments, Amy.  I think you really hit the nail on the head about Sales blending into PR, Marketing, Social, etc. So true! Truer still is your statement that PR planning and strategy has to permeate every bit of it. And that is where the rubber meets the road. 
    I’m not a PR person – I’ll state that right up front – although my firm works in integrated marketing, within which PR plays a role. All that said, there is such a huge proliferation of non-PR professionals claiming to ‘do PR’, and some of those folks do not have the full foundation which includes the strategy and knowledge of the more comprehensive disciplines, experience, tools, etc. So when those folks talk about PR and blend it (correctly) with social communication, but (incorrectly) distill it down to ONLY social communication (or in Jayme’s example, SEO), they have diminished the field. And this is where the professionals feel a need to do some correcting. 🙂 I get it – it’s not terribly unlike what we see in the web development field. There are tons of ‘professionals’ – some of whom truly are professionally trained in SOME aspect of the web development process (perhaps, a graphic designer who has a great command of design, user experience planning, etc.)  but not all of it, distilling the field down to a good look and an open-source template. While that might technically suffice, there are tons of details that are left out in that scenario – from  programming, to SEO, cross-platform functional issues, ecommerce considerations, security, integration with internal systems, or any of the other critical factors which are central to planning and executing a robust website. Yes, the former results in a ‘Web site’, and for companies with simpler needs, might fit the bill, but it would be wildly incorrect to suggest that web development can be summed up so simply. Jayme’s comment about the SEO/PR optimized online press release for $8.99 is precisely the delight our industry began facing when templates hit the market. 🙂 Not trying to steer the conversation to web, but just couldn’t help noticing the parallels.

    • AmyMccTobin says:

      acjandler I think we need more of you in our ‘marketing bubble.’ 🙂 I think you’re spot on – it’s all blended, but the PR skills are still MOST necessary.  I am going to hunt you down on G+ and invite you to Snarketing.

    • acjandler I love this; love this. I want to have a conversation with you about a meshing of the minds. When are you available?

      • AmyMccTobin says:

        Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing acjandler I missed this yesterday – want to catch up Monday or Tuesday?  I think I invited you to Snarketing last night, but if I didn’t I blame Randy Bowden .

        • AmyMccTobin Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing acjandler Randy Bowden I’m a bit mixed up on who’s talking with whom. I’m out next week, don’t tell anyone — Sea World and Universal for Harry Potter. An elementary school graduation for kidlet. We determined last night that none of the rides were appropriate for us with 7-story drops and 180 ft verticals.

  7. acjandler says:

    AmyMccTobin Thanks so much, Amy. Honored to be included. Great post! I had to chime in, too. 🙂

  8. 3HatsComm says:

    It’s an interesting discussion to type the least. I’m an integrationist, always. Been and described myself as a PR professional for as long as I remember. I’m also a designer, a writer, a MarComm, a brand and image consultant. In short, I am a Business Communicator. What we’re realizing is yes, we can’t do it alone and the ‘tools and tricks’ once relegated to Disciple A will now, should now be used by Disciple B – and often to greater success. 
    As to silos.. saw a PR position listed ‘under’ Marketing, which was ‘under’ Business Development. Part of my soul died.  Nothing happens – no good hires, no big sales, no great leads, no viral social meme, no solid, storm-weathering reputation – nothing happens w/out effective communications. Which is (hopefully) what I bring to the table. FWIW.

    • 3HatsComm Good word!! Integrationist! You do offer a variety of  hybrid marketing, Davina, and I’m sure it’s rather challenging to get the clients to understand the value, too.

      • 3HatsComm says:

        Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Sigh.. even then it feels like a ‘label’ – which we discussed at your place. Good and bad, labels help us define and clarify but in doing, also limit and narrow – sometimes wrongly. And this silo debate rages, feeling like the proverbial territorial pissing contest as the players fight for budget scraps. /// delete more rambling, but you get the point. FWIW.

  9. AmyMccTobin says:

    MargieClayman hey there!

  10. AmyMccTobin says:

    Frank_Strong Hey there Frank – thx for the share.

  11. ArCIntel says:

    SpinSucks AllyK4 Thanks for the mention ladies! Happy Friday! AmyMccTobin

  12. ginidietrich says:

    The thing I find interesting with Jayme’s experience is there are many, many search firms that still do SEO the old way…and the trend is going toward it being done by content developers (at least on-page). I never would have considered myself a search expert, but the more time I spend online writing content, the more I realize those of us who do know much more than those who do not, even if they are truly search experts. The biggest issue in why things stay the same is because you have to do the work to understand how it works. Theory works fine to give you a basic understanding, but until you write content, optimize it, promote it, build your networks and your community, you don’t truly understand how it works.
    That’s what’s missing in the hybrid PR pro…they’re not doing the work.

    • AmyMccTobin says:

      ginidietrich Well thank you ms Gini for coming over here.   You know, you’re totally right… it’s why GREAT managers start on the ground floor even if they’re just visiting. When my old mentor was promoted to Exec VP of our entire company, he went down on the mill floor and learned how to tuft carpet with the 30 year veterans. It’s why he made me fly out to SoCal for one week every month so that I was ON that factory floor, even though my job was VP Sales.
      And, this year I finally hired Susan Silver to teach me WordPress Website Development and now we’re moving into SEO from the ground up; I should have done it years ago.  My thought then was that I didn’t have time – now I realize how much more I’ve learned this year when I understand how stuff works from the inside.  I should have known better.  You’re right – you have to know how to do the work.  It’s like the age old conversation/argument between Architects and Contractors – things look different on paper.

  13. AmyMccTobin says:

    AllyK4 SpinSucks ArCIntel Thanks Ally!

  14. AmyMccTobin says:

    dbvickery Are you playing catch up??

    • dbvickery says:

      AmyMccTobin Big time…I tried to share some while on vacation. I’m about 5 days behind…don’t want to let anything good slip thru cracks

  15. AmyMccTobin says:

    JenKaneCo seanmcginnis Thanks Jennifer – that was an interesting one because I’m disagreeing with friends to a degree.

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