Whose job is it Anyway..PR or Marketing? – Recap

by Brittany Tepper

On May 11, 2017 the American Marketing Association’s Sunrise Executive Series first debate hosted five industry experts who tackled the age-old question: whose job is it anyway, marketing or public relations?

During the debate, some of the industry’s most controversial questions were raised. Here’s a summary of what went down:

Question #1: Social media has become a powerful tool for brands, but who should own it?

Marketing perspective:

Erin Williams, Director of Marketing at Bright Pink, shared how her non-profit organization utilizes social media as a touch-point for consumer connections. Williams opened the debate by asking the audience, “who owns your brand experience?” She then went on to emphasize that the consumer’s journey is in her hands, as a marketer.

Williams continued to stress on the important role of social media advertising to Bright Pink, citing examples of various tactics used by her organization over time to optimize on their advertising ROI. For example, through Facebook advertising, Bright Pink was able to get hundreds of women to take part in its breast and ovarian cancer assessment quiz, at 13 cents a quiz – a highly cost-effective tool by most standards.

PR perspective:

Luke Cushman, Vice President at Wilks Communications Group, pivoted to the role of PR in message management on social media. He argued that PR is responsible for taking objectives and molding them into compelling stories to increase engagement and improve media relations.

Cushman illustrated the role of PR in social media through a case study on TGI Fridays’ “endless appetizers” campaign that covered a competitive eater’s effort to “eat TGI Fridays out of business”. Cushman further explained how TGI’s social media presence amplified the promotion’s impact and strengthened engagement to the point that the campaign was picked up by several media outlets including Newsweek, something that the promotion alone may not have done.

Question #2: Content is king, but who should develop it?

Marketing perspective:

“When it comes to developing content, the beast is always hungry,” said Susan Szymanski, Vice President of Marketing at SPINS. According to her, “Marketing should always have a panoramic view of content and be responsible for everything the brand touches.”

Szymanski then proceeded to explain how SPINS’ main KPI, like that of most marketers, is to increase sales. She debated that it’s the marketing team’s responsibility to align objectives with sales and produce content that is ingrained in the company’s bottom line.

PR perspective:

Kelly Shannon, Vice President of University Marketing and Communication at Loyola University said that no matter who owns content, everyone should have a seat at the table. Adopting such arrangement helps uncover newsworthy content no matter the source. Shannon then proceeded to illustrate with an anecdote about a mother and daughter walking in the same commencement, stressing that such stories would not be possible without the collaboration of several teams across an organization working together as storytellers.

She further discussed the importance of channel integration and seamless transition of content; “Brands can’t afford to be 100% channel agnostic. Surely, no one has unlimited resources at their disposal to experiment at the expense of efficiency and effectiveness of their content marketing efforts” Shannon concluded.

Question #3: Who owns crisis management?

As was evident in the discussion, 100% of experts agree that crisis management falls under public relations.

Sam Randall, Director of Communications at Cook County Sheriff’s Department, certainly knows a thing or two about crisis communication. To him, the key to handling a crisis is all about being first and being truthful:

  • Being first allows you to get ahead of the story and prepare for communicating it.
  • Being truthful is simply the right (and essential) thing to do!

So, Who Won?

We’ll let you decide! Before you do though, keep in mind that our experts unanimously agreed that the most successful organizations have an integrated strategy and think of marketing and PR as a partnership that aligns under one goal.

About the author: Brittany Tepper is a Marketing Manager for Chicago Loop Alliance and a volunteer at the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association. You can find her blogs on Loop events and activities at LoopChicago.com/blogs. 

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