The worlds of public relations and advertising are colliding.
Traditionally limited to their own silos, the two industries have increasingly decided to integrate in order to keep up with the demands of evolving clients and their customers.
What is integration, and why is it happening?
Vicki Johnson, senior vice president of Sachs Media Group in central Florida, said integration has been all about tying the elements of public relations and advertising together to create a consistent message.
“Does your brand flow to, through, and with every aspect of your organization?
That to me is integration.”
From her perspective, the “digital natives,” the network, and the new world order have driven the need to integrate. Johnson said all consumers have small computers in their pockets, yet some companies have been reluctant to adapt.
Barry Finkelstein, president of communications firm Reveal Communications LLC, adds that skepticism about technology is hardly new.
Part of the demand for integration comes from the need to bring together different points of view on which new tools are here to stay and how best to use them.
“An old boss of mine used to say, ‘If your only tool is a hammer, then your only solution is a nail.’ In this day and age, there’re still a lot of agencies that have wrenches and hammers, but they don’t know how to make them all work together.”
How does social media fit in?
The most obvious digital driver is social media. From Finkelstein:
“I think a lot of it [integration] is being driven by social media and specifically by clients’ demands to do more with less.”
This demand is part of a trend seen across the business world as CMOs face more pressure to consolidate budgets and spending has been cut along with jobs. Clients still have high expectations, and many see social media as the ultimate solution.
As Principal for KC Marketing Group LLC Keith Cutler pointed out, though, simply being active on social is not enough.
“Just because you’re young and you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Pinterest and anything else that’s out there that’s social…doesn’t make you a social media expert.”
Dayana Falcon, a 2011-graduate from the University of Florida and the global marketing and partnerships manager at BPN, said Millennials understand the need for social media and are embracing new tools faster than more senior professionals.
Experts, Falcon said, still have an advantage over millennials when it comes to strategy. But as public relations and advertising come together, that may not be enough.
How do traditional professionals stay relevant, and how do young professionals fit in?
The successful integration of public relations and advertising requires collaboration at all levels. And for collaboration to work properly, Spitfire Strategies Marketing Director Erin Hart said everyone has to be willing to bring their best ideas to the table.
“More clients that I work with now, they want a best-in-show team. They want the smartest messaging person at the able and the smartest online person and the person who designed a really cool ad that they saw, and they want everybody to just sit in the room and figure out how to work together.”
Bill Imada, chairman and chief collaboration officer of public relations and advertising agency IW Group, Inc., said integration has in some ways achieved the collaboration that today’s market demands — but the United States is behind in terms of embracing multicultural markets.
“Storytelling is greatly important – everybody has a story. I just think people don’t know how to connect their stories.”
How should integration progress?
For Iliana Rodriguez, director of communications and CCO for Experiencias Xcaret, connecting stories is an important part of integrating public relations and advertising.
“More and more, we need to work together as a team. In terms of messaging, storytelling, building credibility, it’s really important that we work together…”
Creating a consistent story allows companies to stay relevant and forces professionals to get creative by adapting to integration and accepting new tools. If they refuse, Rodriguez said, “They will die.”
Integration, though, is ultimately just another tool in the hands of public relations and advertising. As innovation grows more important than ever, the multi-billion dollar question is this: Where is it all going next?
Katie Campbell is a senior studying journalism at the University of Florida. She currently works as a chief web producer at UF’s NPR affiliate, WUFT News, and will be joining a team of investigative journalists for News21 in the summer of 2015. You can read more from Katie and follow her around the world on her blog.