Why PR Should Not Report to Marketing

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One is the body, the other is the clothes. One is the substance, the other is the hook. One is the house, the other is the décor.

These would be some of the simplest explanations that can be ascribed to both PR and Marketing in such a way that even my grandmother (had she been alive) could understand.

But, in a world where PR still can’t ascribe a clear number to its financial value to the business, one where the journey of a PR activity is nowhere near as well mapped out as that of a marketing push, and one where we still have practitioners finding it hard (or not necessary) to understand business language and priorities, Marketing wins.

To be a good marketer, you need to have a significant knowledge about the business/product/service you’re selling, about the markets the business operates on, the percentage of sales that can be directly and immediately traced back to the marketing effort and spend, and  about the Unique Selling Proposition of that business – you need to position it in such a way that it sells; no matter what, you need to “sell”.

To be a really good PR practitioner, not only do you need to know everything that a marketer does but, also, you need to understand the implications and repercussions on the sales and market positioning of every single action the organisation takes overall, of the bearing of its reputation and its good standing among all its stakeholder groups.

Without a solid and credible business reputation, one based on facts and evidence not on fluff and smoke, Marketing can do very little. You can have the best brand activation and campaign in the world – if your product doesn’t work or your service is rubbish, that will get you nowhere.

Similarly, if you operate in a highly competitive market and are known as crooked, unethical or unfair to your staff / suppliers / customers etc., how likely is it that you are going to beat your competition?

One of my LinkedIn contacts asked me to share with her, if I could, academic references which argue the case against PR reporting into Marketing. I asked my Twitter community for their thoughts, and below is what some of them had to say on this issue:

There were some other excellent views in the Twitter thread above which certainly deserve consideration.

I am not biased towards PR, nor do I have anything against Marketing – I believe that both should be integrated or work as separate functions. For one to “absorb” the other is simply wrong – apples and pears may both grow on trees but they taste very differently.

The “fear” about marketing absorbing PR in large or medium-sized organisation has a lot to do with the PR practitioners’ inability or unwillingness to articulate their exact value to and impact on the business.

The most powerful insight in the PR practitioner’s arsenal is psychology, respectively human behaviour. To try to make the case of the value of PR before a Chief Financial Officer and not articulate that value in a language they understand and relate to, is plainly daft.

The same goes for a CEO or Managing Director – if we start speaking about “PESO”, “stakeholder mix”, “audience sentiment” etc., we lose them after the first sentence. However, if we translate all that terminology into concrete business impacts, strategic development, market positioning and competitor analysis and so on, let alone using “profit and loss”, “initial investment”, “yield”, “return on investment”, “credibility”, “new contracts” etc., we’ll certainly get their attention.

I trained 11 people last weekend in Crisis Communication. They all had one thing in common: they complained about not being trusted, believed nor understood by the senior management of their organisations.

We role-played several scenarios in the Workshop pack – I was the CEO and they each were supposed to make the case, before me, of their supposed approach to an issue that had the potential to turn into a crisis for the business. To begin with, their arguments were all rooted in “let me tell you a story…”. At the end of our two days together, they used no “stakeholder”, “communication”, “engagement”, “social media”, “coverage” and “messaging” in their pitch to me, the CEO. They spoke only “business”.

So, the rationale for PR not reporting into Marketing is not, and should not be, related to the existence or not of “academic references”. It should be related to what PR brings that Marketing doesn’t, and why they should work together or apart.

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