Editor’s note: This is the 4th in a series of guest posts from industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2014. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2014, the series began Jan. 8, 2014, with a compilation post previewing some of the predictions.
For years I’ve asked an important PR/Marketing question and perhaps you have too. Can the chaotic and frenzied world of communications work with the precise and logical world of IT, without frustration, confusion or loss of productivity within an organization? The answer is yes, and 2014 is the year for you to close the gap between the groups.
However, there is a three-part process that must occur to move forward. The first part of the process requires breaking out of the PR and communications “silo.” Becoming more integrated with other areas and working together is a large part of what our communications require today. The next part is to roll up your sleeves to learn new competencies including social technologies, web analytics, customer relationship management, etc. The final part is to have a concrete understanding. You’re on the same page and speaking the same language with one over-arching common goal: Everyone, in every department, is working to reach higher-level objectives for the business.
Tie the three parts together and you’ll quickly see the results are a win-win for all parties involved. A such, a stronger support system will be in place to deliver communications with the interactive touch points you desire, resulting in a much better experience for your customers.
Here are three simple lessons to help close the great divide with your IT colleagues:
1. Collaboration. Sharing and learning from one another, as well as innovating together, is a must. You can use social media on the inside of the organization, including internal collaborative platforms, as a way to boost creative energy and to increase synergies between professionals with different backgrounds. When you take the time to learn about the IT group, their needs and areas of focus, the better off you will be when you need to work directly with them, or ask them for assistance with your communications initiatives. There is another call to action here; it’s the opportunity to get to know people personally as well.
2. Connection. Experience the feeling of working more closely and being connected with one common goal in mind … to make your customers happy. You’re not on separate teams; you’re all on the same team. When it comes to connections; this is two-fold. Sure it’s the connections you make with people in the IT area, but it’s also the understanding of how technology, in general, is automatically connected to what you do to make a better experience for customers. For example, having information that is solely focused on PR is not the complete picture. But, having the PR together with social media, mobile, web, and CRM data gives you a much better perspective of your customers’ thoughts, needs, actions, and responses. Remember, it’s the connections you make that allows for more targeted communication.
3. Translation. Each group speaks a different language. IT needs a better understanding of PR and marketing and vice versa. If you break down the jargon and technical information, you will have the potential for communication and technology to work in harmony. PR is also well suited to inform employees in the organization on the benefits of using technology and how communication and technology go hand-in-hand. Breaking technology into layman’s terms and creating programs that help your peers to learn a new process, or take advantage of information that is available through the IT group, will help the organization to excel. You can be instrumental in implementing more productive programs to use in your company. What good is having the technology in place, from platforms to applications, when no one understands how to use these resources? This is where PR and the area of communications can offer great assistance.
Here are some additional tips / considerations as you are working diligently to close the great divide:
- Even if the relationships starts through an internal collaborative company platform, you should take the time to get to know the IT professionals by suggesting an out of the office get together.
- Use connections through external social media communities such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram to learn more about people and network outside of the office.
- Getting to know people in different departments should start before the project does. Don’t wait until you are paired together. Make the effort prior to the initiative so there is good rapport from the start.
- Sharing interesting stories, literature, magazine articles and other materials between the departments is a great way to learn what’s new and interesting to your peers.
- Host quick classes or even company meetings on a larger scale to learn about the daily initiatives in the different departments.
- Take advantage of quiet, non-crisis situations, to ask questions and let IT professionals know that you’re interested in what they do.
- When working on a project together, know in advance what each group needs at the onset, and have all of this information readily available for the different teams.
PR and marketing can add great value to IT and IT will ultimately help you to be more knowledgeable, productive and targeted, but only if we work together to close the gap that exists. However, it’s more than just the harmonious working environment, it’s the real value of teamwork, which makes the customer happy. The customer doesn’t look at “who does what” in the organization, but certainly knows when all systems are working in synch. It shows in their experiences and with every communications touch point with the company. Make 2014 the year that you close the gap and work more closely with IT for better communications.
Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO at Pure Performance Communications and co-founder of #PRStudChat, is a veteran in public relations and marketing who has counseled senior-level executives at companies including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Empire Today, Marketwired, JVC, Kraft and the World Bank. Breakenridge is the author of five Financial Times books. Her most recent book, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” was published in May 2012 and is available in print and all digital formats. Her other books include, “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,” “PR 2.0, New Media, New Tools, New Audiences,” “The New PR Toolkit” and “Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy.”
Excellent observations and discussion, Deirdre, and great validation for what I try to tell my students…and my academic colleagues…about the role of public relations in the business future. We MUST have collaboration…if history tells us anything, it’s the undeniable fact that silos don’t work and are detrimental to the success of the organization. The interesting thing, though, is that we’ve been talking about the necessity of collaboration at least since I started in PR…probably way before then!
As a communication student and assistant web developer, I agree that minimizing this departmental divide can bring great strength in an organization. Great read! Thanks!
I’d suggest reading the book by Susan Cramm ‘The Eight Things We Hate about IT’. It’s excellent and also has the things IT hates about Marketing (which, to them, includes PR.) And then it goes into what to do about it in more depth and very practically. I’d also strongly suggest: ‘The Power of Professionalism’ book by William Wiersma. The seven mindsets therein are the common page for all silos to start working together. Post them on the wall and read them at the start of your meetings. We are first, all professionals…
I have found my way into Digital Branding and Communications, after a long career of traditional Marketing and PR…and it is AMAZING! Understanding and leveraging technology to communicate spans my messaging efforts with limitless possibilities. It is most certainly the future and already a demand in the present.