Why is it so hard to integrate marketing and communications?

Five years into the future, the integration of PR into the marketing function will no longer be a problem because all marketers, and C-level executives, will see the importance of it.

But today, that is still not the case.

“Integration is still relatively rare in corporate and non-profit sector. That is the journey we are on as PR persons or marketing persons of the future,” Simon Sproule, director of global marketing and communications of Aston Martin Lagonda who was speaking at Marketing’s PR Asia 2015 conference.

Specifically in the luxury business, integration needs to happen even more quickly because of the thin line between marketing and PR. At Aston Martin, the 102 year old brand takes its inspiration from the Japanese word ‘Omotenashi’; which is a Japanese art of hospitality, personal touch and providing unique products.

All of these aspects tie in both the worlds of PR and marketing.

“People who order Aston Martins do so without a standard list of car parts of offerings. They want product personalisation - which is very important. The luxury segment is much more about experiences then product. Yet, it still has to be very much about the brand,” Sproule said.

This is where business of integration becomes a necessity.

“You look at categorisation of activities we conduct at Aston Martin and you have to ask: Does this conveniently sit with either marketing or PR?” Sproule said.

Take for example the movie Goldfinger with Sean Connery in an Aston Martin – is that marketing or PR? How about motor shows where journalists are invited - is it earned, shared or paid media if someone from the organisation (be it PR or marketing) sits with a journalist and inspires some story ideas which get written about?

Moreover, the ownership of social media breaks down the silos of marketing and PR even further, Sproule added.

Who owns social media? Marketing or communications? Or neither or both?

Ultimately, consumers today are getting information from multiple channels across advertising, editorial, events, social media, word of mouth, franchise network, units in operation, movies, TV or even direct mail. And the purchase pattern by no means is linear.

What is holding this integration back?

According to Sproule traditional organisation structures lead to turf battles and many companies today are still too focused on the process and channel rather than the brand story or narrative. Sproule added:

Marketing and PR leaders also still do not want to report to the ‘other side’ and don’t see the value of integration beyond personal loss or gain.

They are still each trying to ‘own’ social media where really it should be a coming of the two together.

“Social media is not pure marketing or PR play. In fact, it is a wonderful way to get marketing and PR together to carve out shared objectives, business planning with various social media engagement,” he said.

Those coming out of business schools too are not well equip as these schools often separate PR and marketing courses. And lastly, the obsessions over budgets still persist with each trying to grab a bigger share of the pie.

Overcoming the challenges

Sproule suggests that to overcome these hurdles, CEO support is vital.

Without CEO support integration almost impossible to implement. You also need a designated lead for the marcoms function with clear marcom KPIs that are validated by CEO.

However, specialisation should not be forgotten as the two functions come together. When integrating, it is important to remember that you can have different people handling different areas but ultimately, the brand consistency, especially in the luxury segment, needs to remain. Nuances in the emerging markets can happen, but should not overpower the grand brand story.

Sproule also added that of course, in this process of integration, companies will lose some of the team members on the journey. But at the end of the day, it is important to keep your eye on the prize as it is a great brand story that will lead to any successful organisation.

“The best story will win be it coming from marketing or PR. And a comms strategy should be based on the narrative and how you tell that story - that is main part of comms strategy. So given the world we are in now, why won't you integrate?”