A new year is upon us, which can only mean one thing … it’s time to dust off that crystal ball and predict the emerging marketing and communications trends for the year ahead. Yes, it will be a big year for artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality, but we’ve already covered the top communications tech trends, so we’re going beyond the shiny gadgets to talk about how public relations (PR) should be changing (for the better) in 2018. We’re looking at marcom (marketing/communications) alignment and how it’s positively changing the way we work.
I’ll just say it. PR is in a strange sort of limbo. It’s akin to a teenage identity crisis, where PR is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. Or perhaps, more appropriately, a mid-life career change meant to reposition it for the next decade. Has the term “PR” become solely reserved for describing tactical execution in social, blogging or websites? We tend to believe it’s all of these things (and so much more).
Heading into a new year, it’s important to remember that we’re coming out of a tumultuous one, particularly with respect to journalism and the news media. We know the media landscape is changing, but this isn’t a time for nostalgia. It’s time for PR to take its seat at the (boardroom) conference table and get down to strategy.
How to Achieve Marketing and Communications Alignment in 2018
Historically, it was sufficient for organizations to segment marketing, PR/communications, design, technology and sales operations. Each pursued independent goals that contributed to the overall bottom line. Marketing might have managed a paid spend, while PR handled the media, design worked on sales collateral and technology maintained the website.
This strategy is gradually becoming less effective. PR and marketing teams must break out of their silos to create a better experience for their customers.PR and marketing teams must break out of their silos in order to create a better customer experience this year.Click To Tweet
Today, consumers expect an experience. They look beyond a product or service to seek solutions. They are looking for a consistent end-to-end journey that’s personalized, unique, elegant and simple. Anything the end-user sees should be designed to make them feel their challenges are understood and addressed. In short, user experience must take center stage.
Brands can solve for this by adopting a more fluid, cohort-based approach (beginning with a project basis) where members of individual units team together to solve critical customer challenges. There are many advantages to this type of internal cross-pollination, particularly when it comes to creating a consistent end-user (customer) experience.
Three ways greater marketing and communications alignment will impact your organization in 2018.
How can we tie the results of our [insert PR/marketing campaign] to the organization’s business goals? In our experience, this is the question most frequently asked, but least understood. While it might be daunting, it’s also one of the most important tasks you can undertake. More than ever, budgets are being given to the departments (and agencies) who demonstrate measurable impact on the organization. The metrics may not always be financially based, but performance-based marketing is winning the lion’s share of attention because attribution, at least in the digital marketing world, has improved by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. We still have a way to go to fully comprehend the impacts of our marketing/sales activities and how they tie back to the bottom line, but the industry is already well on its way.
Lead generation isn’t a new concept for most marketers (and probably some PR pros), but since PR has primarily focused on awareness-based metrics (i.e., impressions, views, brand lift) for so long, a mental shift may be needed to brave this new, data-driven world. These days we talk less about demographics and more about psychographics and behavior-based profiles (i.e., buyer/user personas); less about views and more about engagement; less about readership and more about the buyer’s journey and funnel optimization. If our campaigns are expected to generate leads and be tied to sales, it’s critical to speak to our marketing and sales teams to ensure our plans are aligned. By creating/optimizing original content for search findability and embedding conversion points throughout our communications, PR can directly impact the organization’s marketing and sales pipeline, which ultimately ties back to the bottom line.
It’s ironic to end on this one since “impressions” is one metric PR people should leave behind this year (if they haven’t already), but our drive to create conversation and relationships hasn’t changed. Everyone wants to create “viral” content, but the best way to spark grassroots conversation is to share something worth talking about. When marketing and communications pursue a shared objective, the result is a better customer experience, leading to discussion. So, focus on your customer and the buzz will follow.
These impacts don’t happen by accident or in a vacuum. They’re generated (and proven) when PR and marketing teams work together to create campaigns with measurable goals and focused/established key performance indicators (KPIs), with an eye toward business strategy. It’s a shift that may prove difficult for some to grasp, but it’s one that’s absolutely critical to increasing/proving return on investment (ROI) and delivering a flawless customer experience.