Integrating Public Relations into the Marketing Continuum

It’s always tempting to wrap your arms around a host of interrelated marketing tasks and programs by assigning them to specialized workgroups where they can be closely managed and monitored. One of the best examples of this is creating an in-house PR team that works autonomously from the larger marketing organization. That might create some focus on PR and perceived efficiencies, but it is not always the best way to outwardly project a company and a product line with one cohesive voice.

When evaluating the quality of the customer experience, the messages and articles that travel through the media and PR channels are an important part of the marketing mix, and must be coordinated with other non-PR campaigns to promote clarity and avoid confusion.

If PR, marketing, and customer experience (CX) teams work in isolated silos, the same motivators that originally led a prospect to become a customer can get lost. This is especially true when there is pressure to cut costs, reduce headcount, and do more with less.

Bringing PR and Marketing Closer Together

PR teams execute programs and media campaigns that try to demonstrate a company’s unique value to readers and consumers of media. Some of this might come across as more company-serving than customer serving.

Organizationally, perceptual disassociations arise between people in the PR and marketing organizations and customers – and between those organizations and their own companies. The resulting actions and campaigns, rather than being customer centric, are more likely to be perceived as attempts to rope in the customer.

How can PR teams and marketing organizations better concentrate their activities on customers? ClearAction™ Continuum, www.ClearAction.com, a Silicon Valley company created through the recent merger of Marketing Operations Partners and ClearActionCX, is tackling this challenge within a new category called the Customer Value Continuum™.

Addressing Customer Centricity Gaps

This vision of PR people, marketing teams, and CX professionals coming together is overdue. Research from Gartner and the CMO Council note that traditional voice of the customer and customer experience management programs fall short of expectations. Other findings from The Economist and Gartner identify trends where CMOs and marketing teams expect to own end-to-end customer experience in the near future.

What needs to change is the tendency for companies to try and get things from customers – their attention towards new product introductions, their response to PR campaigns and loyalty programs, and their feedback from customer research. The focus needs to be flipped to what customers need.

PR professionals and marketing people are skilled at creating compelling messaging, digital interactions, and live events – but these do not necessarily translate to customer centricity. Brand promise is hollow if the messages communicated through these campaigns are incongruent with the actual experience that customers receive or perceive.

In the quest to create effective PR and marketing machines, organizations tend to overvalue workflow, activity cadence, and output, above what is best for customers. Exceptions to this are scenarios where something is at risk – winning a deal, responding to a squeaky wheel, and last-ditch efforts to prevent defection.

In each of these cases, the company is forced to overcompensate for its initial self-centered behavior. Escalation is a way of life, and a symptom of not being in synch with customers in designing and executing products, processes, policies, business models, and daily decisions.

Improving Cross-Functional Interactions

Emphasis on siloed functional activities and hard skill development is the norm – and current PR and marketing spend reflect that. Soft skill development is not the only gap. In today’s lean enterprise, virtually every marketing team member is valued for producing deliverables. “Glue” roles that used to manage the interfaces and handle the responsibilities that no one else owned have vanished in many companies.

This lack of glue often translates to performance gaps, lack of critical anticipatory thinking, and leaky operations – all which degrade customer experience. The vulnerabilities in the system surface at unexpected times, creating unintended consequences, including unnecessary customer hassles.

The ClearAction Continuum is designed to help people on PR and marketing teams to be more customer centric and do the whole job, rather than just the job they know. This is even more important as companies embrace agile PR and marketing where the standard operating unit is a team. Agile team members will not be successful if they are concerned only with their own responsibilities, points of view, or MBOs. The ClearAction Value Exchange enables PR people, customer experience teams, and marketing organizations to realize the promise of customer centricity by addressing how these groups interact with critical, cross-functional stakeholders.

Modern PR and Marketing Realities

With PR and marketing spend increasingly eclipsing that of most other enterprise functions, CMOs are under greater scrutiny to act as sound fiscal stewards. PR and marketing operations are only as good as the strategy, guidance, processes, data, metrics, and people behind them. Today’s CMOs rely on marketing operations to ensure these foundational elements are in place before investing in technology solutions. In reality, the cart comes before the horse, with PR and marketing professionals forced to instill these capabilities during or even after deployment.

The ClearAction Value Exchange is purpose-built to get PR people and marketing teams out of that transactional work-flow mindset, break out of the silo trap, and be thoughtful in their due diligence as they scale operations. It helps teams advance from a narrow, lead- and pipeline-based view of success metrics and MBOs to a focus on delivery of customer lifetime value.




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