It seems nearly everyone admits that it is less than ideal when PR and marketing work in silos. Fortunately, we hear more and more examples of silos being a thing of the past. As one PR leader says, when silos exist “companies are unable to deliver the best results to shareholders and can’t possibly deliver the best experience to the consumer.” The question is how do you move from an environment where silos divide an organization into departments, each jealously guarding its own budget, to one where units, namely PR and marketing, are collaborating? The answers we received from the PR, communications and marketing professionals we asked ranged widely, from forced changes in corporate culture and conscientious hiring to arrangements that are less formal.
Inclusive Meetings: For KIND Snacks’ senior director, brand marketing & digital/social/content Josh Nafman, avoiding silos between marketing and PR has become a non-issue. “We’re a relatively young and still small, although growing, company and not bogged down by bureaucracy yet,” he says. “Our communications, e-commerce, brand/field marketing and digital team all fall under the marketing department.” Each week “all representatives of all those teams” assemble to assess the previous week’s work. “No campaign is just a communications campaign or a marketing campaign or a brand campaign or a digital campaign. They’re always an integrated campaign.”
Everybody’s an Owner: Another tip is to have a culture where every employee feels he/she is an owner. At KIND, there’s also a culture of personal transparency, which lets people “chime in across departments.” Indeed, each month communications sends an email to “the entire company” relating “how we did and what we’ve learned.” This also prompts employees to comment. OK, but how does KIND create and maintain this culture? “I credit HR and the hiring managers.”
Courage and Vision From Leadership: Keds’ new CMO Emily Culp embodies the blurring of marketing and PR. A brand specialist, Culp oversees corporate and consumer communications, giving her an “omni-channel role.” When silos between marketing and PR are destroyed, consumers can have “a multi-sensory experience” with a brand. She points to “a pop-up brand experience” Keds staged last month in Washington Square in NYC to celebrate Women’s Equality Day. The collaboration between PR and marketing handed 1,916 complimentary pairs of Keds to women; Keds was founded in 1916 ( see photo). Accordingly, for Culp, the first step to breaking down silos is having courageous leadership with vision. “It’s much easier to stay the course than to change.” She credits Keds president Chris Lindner for making the difficult decision to combine marketing and PR.
Clear KPIs: When departments such as PR and marketing collaborate, “very clear KPIs” (key performance indicators) are critical, Culp says. “Everybody needs to be aligned around the KPIs up front, [to] understand what you’re driving toward and what success looks like at the end of an initiative, campaign or consumer engagement.”
Clarity Around Roles and Responsibilities: This is another must for PR-marketing collaboration and it must be made “obscenely clear.” This ties to her next point.
Over-Communicate: The mechanism of busting silos “absolutely is meetings,” she says. “I have large, joint meetings…yesterday I had 12 people in my office...from design, production, PR, ecommerce, creative services and social media.” “Even if what one group is doing doesn’t seem relevant, there are always ways where two groups can create a bigger, better, deeper consumer-engagement experience if more people are aware of it.”
Reducing Physical Barriers: For Jérôme Levadoux, SVP, product management/CMO at Recommind, an analytics software company, breaking down barriers sometimes is best done literally. “The office environment is critical,” he says. He advocates putting departments in open physical environments so they can be near each other. “Nothing fancy here,” he says. To counter silo thinking, he brings PR and marketing teams together as often as possible. It reduces the amount of email “bouncing back and forth between the departments.”
This article originally appeared in the September 14, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.