ShareLast week Vocus, a provider of on-demand PR management software, announced the results of a survey which found that the turf battle between PR and marketing rages on, especially over ownership of social media initiatives.

Key survey findings include the following:

  • Lines between PR and marketing continue to blur.  78 percent report to the same boss.
  • Turf battles still evident.  34% cite organizational structures, functional silos or turf battles as the single largest barrier to integrated communications.
  • Ownership of social media and blogging up in the air. 43% of PR professionals say they should own it, while 34% make the same claim.
  • The two groups come together on the need for measurement. 56% of both marketing and PR professionals agree that an integrated communications increases overall effectiveness of their programs and 48% cite sales and ROI as the most important metrics.

Honestly I’m weary of this discussion over ownership. It doesn’t matter who “owns” the actual social web communication activities as long as it is clearly and precisely supporting the marketing strategy.  On most big strategy questions, I usually think the answer is “it depends.”  But this is one of the few cases where the answer seems beyond doubt: Marketing should ultimately own the integrated communications strategy. Here’s the logic:

1) A company exists to attract and retain customers, thereby creating shareholder value.  Peter Drucker famously said that the “purpose of a company is marketing and innovation. Everything else is overhead.”

2) While there are many useful PR-related social media applications, directly or indirectly these activities are enabling a civic, political, labor, and business climate to make it easier to manufacture and sell products to customers. If they are not supporting this central goal, the activities should end.

3) Everything a company says or doesn’t say — on the social web or otherwise — affects the brand image, which must be singularly controlled with laser focus by marketing, without question.

I cannot fathom a situation where a communication channel like a corporate blog is not ultimately considered a marketing function … even if the PR department is writing it, which is perfectly fine.

For my PR friends who are feeling testy at this point, I would like to proudly proclaim that I started my career in your worthy field, so I do not have an anti-PR bias. I have an anti-ridiculous-strategy-bias.  And to claim that PR should lead customer-facing activities is ridiculous.   Support, complement, even help devise … yes.  But lead, no.

Further, while this “battle” rages on supposedly, I have not seen one coherent explanation as to why PR should not defer to marketing on overall strategy issues.

Please, can we end this debate?

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