Friday, February 12, 2010


Q&A: Aligning marketing, PR and social media

I'm moderating a panel on the alignment of marketing & PR in a couple weeks at Dan Greenfield's PR + Mktg Camp in Seattle. Should be a great day of discussion. Earlier this week Dan and I talked how marketing and PR teams have traditionally worked together (or not), and how those relationships are evolving now - especially with the maturation of social media as a cross-functional tool set.

Excerpts from our conversation are below. Check out more great conversations by PR + Mktg Camp panelists & moderators at the event blog.

Question: Are PR and marketing more aligned or less aligned because of social media?

Matt: The idea of separating marketing teams and functions is a remnant of the “old way” of doing marketing. When most marketing was one-way (i.e. customers couldn’t react, respond and create messages of their own), it was more acceptable to separate PR from product marketing, and even lead generation activities. Now, especially because the customer has so much control and such a strong voice, it’s critical that brands act as one. That means PR, advertising, social media, lead generation – they all need to work from the same playbook in a coordinated fashion. Easier said than done, but that’s exactly what today’s most successful brands are doing.

Social media has enabled the consumer to talk back in a powerful way, which is accelerating the need for this consolidation and integration of marketing strategy by products, services and brands today.

Question: PR is generally about placement, reputation, messaging, impressions and storytelling. Marketing is generally about transactions, click throughs, key words and web applications. How is social media changing that, if at all?

Matt: Everything is about getting the sale. It always has been, but now it’s easier to see and map the progression of a customer from awareness, consideration, intent, trial, purchase – then repeat, renewal, referral, etc.

Social media is blurring the distinction between customer engagement stages. Ten years ago, it was easier to segment the functions – PR talks to the customer at the beginning, then product marketing takes over and offers demos, free trials, etc. Then once they’re a customer, your loyalty/retention team takes over. That approach doesn’t work anymore.

The way we measure different marketing elements, by function, probably still works. But it has to be put into the context of a more immersive, cohesive customer engagement strategy that blends messages and tactics across stages of a customer relationship.

Question: What disadvantages (inefficiencies, lost opportunities, customer confusion) and advantages (integration, cost savings) are these shared tools like Facebook and Twitter creating for PR and marketing?

Matt: The sales cycle has always been far shorter than the customer’s buying cycle. Five years ago, the customer buying cycle was a black box for marketers. We had no visibility to what was happening, what prospective customers were thinking or asking, who they were even considering. Now, thanks to social media, we have insight into how customers are thinking well before they engage directly with brands.

But this isn’t an opportunity for selling. It’s an opportunity to engage and become part of the community – add value, answer questions, provide valuable content. Earn trust, respect and credibility. Community engagement and social media are at the very top of the buying cycle, before the sales cycle, and it doesn’t really matter which part of the organization manages and executes there, as long as the approach is right.

Question: Should social media ultimately be the responsibility of PR who manages reputation and conversations or marketing who is in charge of transactions and sales?

Matt: It doesn’t really matter. Everyone in the organization needs to understand the customer, what they want, what they need, and how to address them – with or without a paid relationship current or pending. Every member of your organization should know how to address customers in a respectful, value-added way.

Social media has accelerated the tearing down of walls between customer and provider. There’s more transparency, less formality. Brands need to be accessible, approachable and authentic to be accepted.

The social media strategy doesn’t end when a customer enters a selling cycle. They aren’t going to stop talking to their friends, and using Facebook, or commenting on Twitter, just because they’re talking to a sales rep. Their interaction with and reflection of your brand continues across functional sales & marketing groups. That’s why ownership of the social media “voice” within one marketing function or another is problematic. Today, that strategy (and especially the execution) is a job everybody has.


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