Is Integrated Communications the Holy Grail or Just Cheap Talk?

playing in sandboxGrowing up, most of us were encouraged by our parents and teachers to play well in the sandbox, to share our toys and pay attention in class. Fast forward to now, and imagine your boss telling you to do the same. It would feel patronizing, right? Truth is, we could benefit from those childhood reminders.

As communicators, we know our jobs are changing and we should be embracing the dynamics that come with a profession so multi-faceted. A common refrain among PR professionals I talk to is that "everything is integrated now" - PR and marketing go hand in hand. But is it actually happening?

Surely, it's blurry as to who owns what in the marketing and communications sphere. PR firms are now marketing experts and marketing firms offer PR services, while ad agencies are handling marketing and PR.

The platforms and tools have changed and advanced, but the concept behind integrated communications is decades old. I've been with PR News 21 years and roughly 20 years ago I was leading roundtables across the country with an industry partner on the topic of integrated comms. And it was an old topic then.

The silos may finally start to come down as PR, marketing and advertising professionals are realizing that digital and social media have made it easier for stakeholders to just bypass them. As the tools at our disposal work across multiple disciplines, it's become more critical for brands to promote an omni-channel message that will resonate.

At the annual Platinum PR Awards ceremony last week in NY, hundreds of honorees took the stage and when asked about the future of comms a majority spoke about the lines blurring between PR and marketing, and of the need to be more integrated. To get more serious about it. And they are right.

Most of the winning Platinum PR campaigns had elements of both marketing and advertising. Some of the winning PR firms boast of their paid social marketing offerings.

It's imperative that PR and Marketing start playing better in the sandbox. To do that, practitioners in the business of messaging, storytelling and reputation management must learn more about their colleagues’ job responsibilities and endeavor to collaborate rather than co-opt their roles. Just because you are adept at programmatic advertising, you are not a bona fide marketer. Just as a marketer who is at the table helping the CEO deal with a crisis is not a PR expert. Surely the media buyer figuring out where to place advertising is not a reputation manager.

Getting up to speed on the key aspects of modern marketing and communications, rethinking the org structure, and considering annual budgets that are as fair to PR as they are to marketing will get us closer to a truly integrated communications model, to the Holy Grail.

-- Diane Schwartz