What in-house marketers really think of PR
Earlier this month, Bateman Group, along with fellow boutique PR agencies Mindshare PR, LewisPulse, Borders + Gratehouse, Kulesa Faul and Eastwick Communications co-hosted a panel discussion on the evolving forces impacting the marketing leader and how PR can improve the way it works with the broader marketing organization. Moderated by Bateman Group’s Bill Bourdon, the panel included Anurag Wadehra, CMO at Baynote; Darby Williams, VP of Marketing at Sociable Labs; and Michelle Cox, VP of Marketing at Metacafe. All of the panelists offered a unique point of view that made for a very lively discussion. Here are the highlights:
Biggest disruptors to marketers in the past decade: All of the panelists agreed that social media has been the biggest disruptor to the marketer over the last decade. Anurag explained that social media has forced marketers to take on a new role of establishing credibility, and Michelle added that the direct brand-consumer conversation has led marketers to shift their goals from pure customer acquisition to creating brand ambassadors in their customers. This new socially-driven climate has empowered consumers to speak directly with each other continuously, so rather than just push messaging to their customers, marketers need to inform their audience so they can make the right decision.
The relationship between sales and marketing: There was a resounding agreement that marketing is all about driving sales. Anurag provided a great analogy for this relationship: marketing lays down the tracks and sales runs on them. In the end, sales is the most important customer of marketing, he said. On the consumer side, Michelle said sales depends on marketing to recruit new customers, but more challenging is the expectation that marketers will maintain customers through engaging digital experiences so they will return again and again, ultimately acting as brand ambassadors.
Web content: It used to be that the website was one channel for marketers to deliver their marketing message to customers. Now it’s not just a channel, but a necessary component of an organization that serves as the digital hub for all forms of communication, from sales, to internal communications to outbound marketing. From an outbound marketing perspective, marketers today are acutely focused on influencing the influencers, which means they are talking directly to a highly sophisticated audience that demands direct access, brand transparency and content that speaks directly to them. Content needs to speak to pain points of the customer, and provide tools that the customer can put to use immediately.
Where PR fits into the marketing mix: This portion of the panel was particularly insightful for the agency representatives in the audience, and each panelist offered unique points of view that served as an excellent reminder of what in-house marketers expect of their agencies, and how we can improve our client service.
The key takeaway was that all companies need to tell a story, and PR agencies serve as the amplifier. The best PR agencies fight for a good story and prevent a company from fading into the background. A PR agency does its best work when it has deep knowledge of its client, but can also step back and offer a valuable outside perspective.
It’s was also interesting to hear the panelists say that it’s common for companies to use their agencies inappropriately – while it’s up to the agency to be proactive and driven to deliver results, in-house marketers need to be savvy consumers and recognize the strengths of their PR agencies and give them what they need to be successful – that could be a clear product roadmap, corporate vision, or data like customer references or industry surveys.
I’d like to thank Anurg, Darby and Michelle for being straightforward and honest in their responses – it’s not often that you get an opportunity to hear in-house marketing executives explain their pain points and issues that keep them up at night, and I learned a lot!