Why the PR industry needs to quit labeling itself

Would you ever take up the role of CMO?

That was the question posed to Amy Glancey, head of Communications APAC at GroupOn during Marketing’s two-day conference, PR Asia 2015.

Yes, was her definitive answer.

Glancey (pictured) explained that she does not label herself as a lead for the PR or communications function at GroupOn, but rather a storyteller for the brand. And that is also what marketing is - storytelling.

“There are definitely different skills for an online business such as GroupOn’s because we requires data engineers for the computational marketing side of things. But I do see myself one day being a CMO and I also think more CMOs will become CEOs,” Glancey said.

She added that most often PR practitioners get bogged down with labels and what PR as a profession stands for and what marketing is.

Most of us do not label ourselves as feminist or addicts despite our daily life choices so why have we been so obsessed with defining ourselves with labels of PR or marketing?

PR needs to be moving towards a modas operandi of communications led thinking.

Quoting Richard Edelman, president & Chief Executive Officer of the public relations company Edelman, Glancey explains that the communication function needs to shift from terms such as marketing communication to a new paradigm of communications marketing.

Communications needs to be a full partner to marketing beyond just being a credible change agent.The two need to come together to create “a melody” for communications led marketing.

Glancey added that the solution to every problem is not a new advertising campaign but rather, real actions, inspired by communications thinking are needed to solve today’s problems. She added:

We need to make a very simple change in the way we talk about ourselves and others talk about us.

Talking in the same language as marketers

PR needs to have visibility in the business and earn its seat in the boardroom and not sit behind the CMO, Glancey added. To do so, it needs to speak the language of marketing.

PR functions need clear business objective and how the entity will impact the overall business. It needs to be involved in the strategy process from the very start and not just be brought in for amplification or address imperfections along the way.

We need to push for PR-led communication by design and not consequence.

"Our objectives should be to drive customer activation, customer acquisition, increase website traffic and subscription. It should not be things like creating a viral campaign,” she said.

Glancey explained at GroupOn, communications sits squarely at the boardroom table along with marketing. However she has worked in places where this was not the case and she had to convince stakeholders of the need for PR. This is where PR professionals' trained ability to sell a story and be story tellers comes in handy.

"I am grateful at GroupOn I don’t have to fight to be there. Rather I can focus to fight for the brand instead. Our CMO also respects that PR has different skill sets from marketing,” said Glancey.

Evolution of PR: The move to story telling

Referring to the recent Cannes festival where PR entries hit historic high of 2,000 and of 79 winners, more than half were led by PR agencies or featured PR agencies in integrated teams, Glancey said there has never been a more exciting time for PR as now. She said:

The dialogue around the profession has never been richer and PR as an industry is at a pivot point. This gives us a huge opportunity to progress PR even further both internally and externally.

No doubt, PR has come a long way from where it first started. It has evolved from an environment of storytelling with the traditional image led, flash in the pan campaigns to now story sharing.

This was hugely due to social media and the rise of online media where everyone can now become a publisher. Story sharing gave birth to a more “democratic relationship” between consumers, brands and communications professionals. And brands have had to become far more transparent and accountable.

Today, the entire PR industry is moving towards the notion of story living. This is where a richer, more symbiotic relationship is created between consumers and brands where the two are intrinsically linked and must co-exits.

“PR will play integral part in creating living brands. In the future, brands will become advocates for change and consumers are activists for brands. There will be a meaningful way people lead their lives and brands will be part of that. That is exciting.”

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