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January 25, 2018

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

Corporate communications departments have long been the fifth wheel. When sales and revenue drop, it’s the first group to have headcount and budgets slashed. However, with the evolution of the industry over the past few years – from shrinking newsrooms to new marketing software and social media networks – CCOs and CMOs are finally getting a real seat at the C-suite table, as leadership understands now more than ever the direct impact both marketing and PR can have on all aspects of the business. Nonetheless, with greater understanding comes more pressure to deliver. Today’s communications roles now span brand awareness and brand equity as well as sales growth – all of which are deemed successful…or not successful – through quantitative measurements.

With these newly defined roles and greater responsibility, traditional corporate communications teams are restructuring and rethinking how to effectively market their companies. To succeed, they must be more focused on delivering multimedia content, creating integrated campaigns and consistently demonstrating ROI.

Marketing and PR worlds collide

Marketing and PR – traditionally siloed business units with different messages and goals – have been increasingly joining forces in recent years. Here at ARPR, we position them as one in the same. Why? Only 8% of PR and marketing professionals believe that PR will continue as a distinct and separate function in five years. Therefore, agencies like ours have had to quickly adapt to meet the evolving needs of clients, as this convergence is fundamentally changing the way today’s corporate communications teams are structured. With both of these departments now developing more unified campaigns and strategies centered around consumer-centered experiences, there is a natural increase in collaboration. In fact, 73% of CMOs now oversee PR.

However, with the expanded CMO role comes greater accountability, increasingly tied to sales-driven key performance indicators (KPIs). Simply issuing a press release and securing a great feature in a tier-one publication to generate awareness, and creating “impressions” equivalent to advertising (AVEs), is no longer enough.

An integrated approach is needed to maximize visibility, which translates into increased web traffic and ultimately conversions. From SEO-optimized press release headlines and social media ads to marketing automation and demand gen campaigns each designed to “nurture” the relationship, integration is critical to engage potential customers at every touch point during their buyer’s journey. However, 70% of marketers still lack a consistent or integrated content strategy, with the biggest challenge, of course, being lack of resources.

To combat this challenge, more internal communications teams are leaning on integrated agencies for a wide variety of specialized talent (not just bodies) like SEO, social media, marketing automation, traditional media relations and digital marketing. In fact, Gartner recently reported that CMOs have actually spent more on external agencies than technology in 2017.

The consumerization of everything

Let’s face it; the consumer is large and in charge. Nearly every industry is experiencing a shift in power from vendor to consumer, forcing marketers and PR pros to throw aside traditional campaigns in order to effectively communicate with today’s digitally savvy, always-on consumer.

Today’s consumers want to be engaged at every stage of their buying journey and are quick to jump ship if another brand catches their eye. In fact, the average B2B customer is already almost 60% through the buying journey before they even speak with a salesperson. In other words, if a business isn’t capturing the attention of a potential buyer online in the early stages via social media, earned media, email marketing, and Google AdWords, there’s a good chance they’ll ultimately make their purchase from another vendor that’s created a more engaging experience.

Therefore, many corporate communications teams have gone back to the drawing board to shift mindsets and adopt completely new strategies in order to create the experience this next generation of consumers craves and expects.

Living in a Content World

Sixty percent of marketers create at least one piece of content each day and it’s consuming corporate communications departments. Content is no longer just traditional written communications, such as a blog, contributed article or whitepaper. To engage consumers, additional types of content are also necessary, such as a video on YouTube, an infographic on a corporate website, a Periscope Live broadcast, a GIF on company’s Instagram account or a poll on Twitter.

And it’s getting personal. To reach target audiences, drive website traffic and ultimately conversions, marketers need to produce highly-targeted, personalized content that aligns with each stage of the buyer’s journey. To be truly effective, companies require a strategic combination of earned, owned, paid and shared content that’s SEO-optimized. And, a consistent cadence is also critical. According to HubSpot, businesses publishing more than16 posts a month get almost 3.5 times more traffic than businesses publishing four or fewer articles. Furthermore, as reporters continue to be stretched too thin, they are turning to PR pros to fill the gaps, requesting more contributed, ready-to-go content.

What does this mean for in-house marketers? To create a consistent stream of diverse custom content, corporate communications teams need to have great writers (easier said than done) with a hybrid skill set that encompasses digital, social, analytics and creative. In fact, research shows that almost one in two content jobs today requires SEO skills.

Although 63% of marketers still keep their content marketing in-house, many are outsourcing – not only to fill the void but also to gain access to talent they are struggling to find on their own. In fact, 45% of ad and marketing execs are challenged by finding quality content team members, according to The Creative Group.

Is all this content worth it? Absolutely! Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads. Plus, conversion rates are six times higher for companies and brands using content marketing than those that aren’t.

Overcoming data overload

For years CMOs and their teams struggled to effectively track, measure and report the impact of a marketing or PR campaign to the C-suite. However, the emergence of big data in recent years has not only transformed the way marketers track campaign performance but also give them the insights from performance data that enables them to modify and optimize future campaigns. Industry practitioners who don’t adapt to this analytical approach will have difficulty proving their long-term value.

However, dealing with massive amounts of data from multiple vendors tracking a variety of mediums in various formats can be a daunting task. In fact, 61% of marketers feel overwhelmed by data. Fortunately, there are a growing number of cost-effective software and analytics tools available on the market today to help simplify the data mining and analytics process. At our agency, we use tools like Google Analytics and Sprout Social to help track and optimize campaign performance for our clients.

To help our clients rise above the noise and adapt to the future of PR and marketing to create engaging, integrated campaigns that drive measurable impact, we're embracing this new model, which we call our Panoramic Approach. See how we utilized this strategy to help PowWow Mobile increase brand visibility and drive qualified leads.