Marketing and PR: Partners or Frenemies?

Do your marketing and PR teams play well together? “Not always,” say many CMOs. And, unfortunately, sometimes I hear “not ever.”

So why can’t we all just get along?  It’s a complex issue with root causes ranging from the genesis and evolution of public relations and marketing functions in healthcare organizations, to conflicting and sometimes competing priorities and accountabilities, to misperceptions about the value and return on investment of both disciplines – all dished up with a pinch of territorialism.   And while separate leadership structures can also create roadblocks to productive working relationships, conflicts are just as likely to exist where marketing and PR report up to the same executive.

More recently, the explosive use of Web, social media and mobile technologies by everyone from patients to physicians to business partners and the media, has heightened tensions between the disciplines as to ownership of communications channels, messaging, audience engagement and other aspects of marketing and corporate communications management.

If you’re hearing the team make these kind of comments (pulled from real life – you can’t make this stuff up), then it may be time for an intervention:

  • “Marketers only care about the numbers.”
  • “PR is soft, and the metrics are softer.”
  • “When will marketing understand we do more than write press releases?”
  • “Show me a PR person that read a spread sheet.”
  • “The marketers get all the money.”
  • “The PR people have all the fun.”
  • “Marketing thinks Facebook is a free advertising channel.”
  • “PR wants relationships – I need volume.”

Sound familiar? To change the conversation, we need to follow the examples of organizations where public relations and marketing are united and work together seamlessly to further their health systems’ mission, vision and business agendas. What these high performing teams have in common are shared goals, synergistic capabilities, collaborative work processes, mutual respect and accountability for success.  Sometimes, they work in the same division; sometimes not. But they do work together.

Across all industries, the disciplines of marketing and public relations are increasing viewed as core business competencies critical to driving growth, innovation, customer loyalty and better business performance.  In healthcare, the opportunity for marketing and PR professionals is unprecedented.  Together, they can create collaborative, mutually-accountable disciplines that proactively address the changing basis for competition.  First and foremost, there must be clear alignment to the organization’s strategic vision and goals.

The bottom line is that the traditional roles of marketing and PR are blurring somewhat, in large part due to the game-changing capabilities of web, social networking and mobile technologies.  And when borders get fuzzy, skirmishes sometimes erupt.  But opportunities also open up – new, blended competencies will better leverage those platforms for communications and marketing success.

It’s a challenge that will require a purposeful, comprehensive and collaborative approach.  And the timing couldn’t be better.

Download PDF.  “Can’t We All Just Get Along”  by Karen Corrigan, Terri Goren and Phyllis Marino. SHSMD Spectrum.  Jan/Feb 2012.

2 Comments

Filed under Marketing Management, Trends in Marketing

2 responses to “Marketing and PR: Partners or Frenemies?

  1. Can’t We All Get Along?” is a battle cry that many disciplines – as fractured as are PR/marketing – must be shouting! I face this challenge, not in my position with business management software company xTuple, but with the various professional organizations to which I belong: Public Relations Society of America, American Marketing Association, Sales & Marketing Executives International and the American Advertising Federation. You see, my specialty is – I’m a generalist. I prefer to see the glass half full and combine sales, marketing, advertising and public relations under one discipline: Communication. If more corporations chose this path and saw these segments as collaborative and not competitive – which they most certainly are – then we would ALL get along much better and enjoy better results. My two cents, and – today only! – I’m giving them away for free.

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