Why and How to Break Down the Silos Dividing PR and Marketing

Turf battles stifle success and yield no rewards. It’s time to reassess your ‘integrated’ teams.

Jenni Holladay
Senior Vice President, Marketing Services

First published in PR Daily, a news site that delivers news, advice, and opinions on the public relations, marketing, social media, and media worlds.

Communications professionals are not immune to working in silos, which are just as pervasive in our profession as they are in other industries.

Silos can be found throughout organizations of all sizes. They are fueled by the lack of a clear vision, proper training and/or cross-functional expectations. This isn’t a new concept: Silos have been a topic of much debate and frustration across businesses and industries for decades. Yet in 2020, when collaboration tools, campaign dashboards, and technology are helping to connect us, why is it that so many “communication” experts continue to operate within them?

Having spent nearly 20 years in an agency setting or consultancy, I’ve met with hundreds of pros in businesses of all sizes, and from around the globe, to solve their sales, marketing and perception problems. In that time, marketing and PR evolved, digital platforms grew, newsrooms shrank, social channels expanded their influence, self-publishing became the norm—and everything became measurable.

The lines separating paid, earned, social and owned (PESO) have blurred as consumers have taken a more active role in deciding how, when and where they engage with brands. So why is it that content teams, social media teams and PR teams aren’t regularly working together? Why do many communications leaders fail to run a truly integrated play?

To them, I plead: it’s time to re-evaluate your approach.

It’s difficult to imagine many companies that don’t desire a collaborative work environment in which cross-functional teams support a shared vision and purpose to produce meaningful results. What, then, is creating the mentality that there is a “PR side of the business” and a “marketing side of the business,” when we are all part of the same team?

Instead of focusing on the “why” behind this issue, let’s focus on the “why not.”

So much content is being created and shared online, but it needs more eyeballs: PR can fuel content marketing, and vice versa. Content amplification is crucial in the world of PR and marketing. Adopting an owned, social, earned and sometimes even paid strategy will maximize your investment in content, create cohesion and build messaging frequency, thus garnering stronger results.

A client recently spent nearly three months working with us on developing research to shape a story to fuel PR efforts. We worked with their team to develop beautifully designed digital content and packaged the research findings in an interesting narrative. After rounds of revisions and a significant investment in the research, strategy and content—and despite the agency’s best efforts—the client failed to use the final asset beyond the PR pitch.

Did the content team, the social media team or the broader marketing team even know this content existed? The answer, sadly, was no.

Each siloed team failed to think beyond its own departmental functions and personal KPIs. The broader team, though, could have benefited from the research and content to create a cohesive campaign by amplifying the assets across owned and social media distribution channels.

As marketing and communication experts, we need to create more cross-functional solutions, increased visibility, shared ownership, shared measurement goals and a full-funnel mindset.

We must break down our communications silos and encourage collaboration. Successful approaches include holding regular cross-functional meetings to discuss all activities currently under marketing’s umbrella and designating coordination liaisons.

What can have the biggest impact in breaking down silos is creating shared objectives and key results (OKRs) and a shared reporting structure. This can help encourage and enforce integration, and reporting successes to executives and others outside the typical chain of command can spark new ideas and promote future collaboration.

Mona Charif, CMO at NTT Data Service and former vice president of marketing and communications at Dell, told Mashable over five years ago, “If you aren’t using the PESO model for your communications work and measuring the meaningful metrics that help an organization grow, you will not have a job in 10 years.”

Her statement is still true today. When we put paid, earned, social and owned communications channels into silos, we hurt the business and diminish the results. However, when those who oversee these functions work together, they can streamline their efforts and optimize their PR opportunities.

As communications experts we know this truth. To fix it, we must create a clear vision at the top and develop processes that allow for and encourage collaboration and integration—two ideals that perish in silos.

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