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#PRin2012: Convergence Continues

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of 12 guest posts from industry executives predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2012. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2012, the series began Dec. 19, 2011, with a compilation post previewing all 12 predictions.

The recent news about Johnson & Johnson appointing Michael Sneed as vice president of global corporate affairs, overseeing global marketing and public relations, stands as yet another indication that brand and reputation continue to converge and create the need for joining forces.

There is usually a fairly vitriolic response from PR professionals to the notion that PR should be part of the marketing department or report to the CMO. But get ready: this will happen more and more as organizations’ brands and reputations merge. Some organizations already are making the most of a blended approach to marketing and PR, including GE, IBM, P&G, Nissan and Xerox.

Of course, one of the more fluid aspects in the shuffle to restructure is social media and who owns it. But can any one function truly “own” social media? Organizations need the balance in perspective, engagement approach and story-telling aspects that the PR discipline brings, but they also require the sort of visual content curation and analytics that the marketing team offers. The latter is key: marketing departments typically have the deep pockets that can buy-in the sort of robust metrics required to go to market in the most informed way.

While social media may be driving much of the convergence, so, too, is the need to integrate across the proliferation of channels — paid, owned, earned, sponsored, shared — ensuring that the really big ideas are brought to life in the most relevant and meaningful way, and equally measured as the whole rather than just the sum of the individual parts.

In the two CMO panels I moderated in October during Advertising Week in New York and the CMO Club Summit in Los Angeles, CMOs discussed how PR is increasingly important to marketing, but that analytics are key. As Beth Comstock, CMO and senior vice president of GE, said in our panel, titled, Winning the Marketing War,” “If you’re a marketer who doesn’t like data and insights, you’re not going to have a very long tenure. You gotta love this stuff.”

The CMOs across the two panels differentiated ROI measures between paid and owned media investments, where they can truly measure ROI, versus social, which they see as more about achieving reputational measures rather than financial returns. But as technology advances, better metrics are being developed which will begin to touch the harder-edged ROI piece so PR professionals, too, need to get more comfortable with analytics, especially if we’re going to work more closely with our marketing brethren.

MaryLee Sachs is the former U.S. chairman and worldwide head of consumer marketing at Hill & Knowlton. She launched her book, “The Changing MO of the CMO — How the Convergence of Brand and Reputation Has Affected Marketers,” at the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

About the author

MaryLee Sachs


  • Rather than presenting any trend as encroachment or takeover of PR by marketing, why not see it as evidence of a real convergence of communication/relationship/brand/reputation building functions within organizations?  This is a real opportunity for senior PR folk – let’s not forget that Simon Sproule Global head of marketing comms at Nissan has a background in PR and that’s his perspective on communications.  Personally, I’m not so keen on the convergence seen only as marketing communications as that loses the wider remit of PR in terms of engagement with other publics beyond the consumer market.  Likewise, marketing involves much more than communications.  So have we really got convergence of the two functions or simply integration of communications?

  • Thank you!  Yes, it is absolutely convergence but I’m afraid that many PR professionals see it as more of a threat than a positive thing.  I interviewed Simon Sproule for my book – “The Changing MO of the CMO” – and his views are spot on!…as are others’ represented in my book including Beth Comstock of GE, Jon Iwata of IBM and Ann Lewnes of Adobe.

  • Yes, it absolutely is convergence, but I’ve found many PR professionals view this as a threat rather than as an opportunity.  I totally agree with Simon Sproule – and in fact he was one of the CMOs I interviewed for my book, “The Changing MO of the CMO”, along with others such as Beth Comstock of GE, Jon Iwata of IBM, Ann Lewnes of Adobe and others.  

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