Matthew P. Schwartz | Marketing’s New Secret Weapon: PR
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Marketing’s New Secret Weapon: PR

When Jamie DePeau took charge as senior VP and CMO of Lincoln Financial Group (LFG) in 2011, the company’s marketing and public relations functions were not exactly aligned.

“The communications team was very focused on executive communication and employee communication, but there wasn’t really a connection to media relations and what [marketing] was doing,” she told

DePeau sought to change that and, in the process, alter the DNA of the brand’s overall marketing strategy. With buy-in from the C-suite, DePeau was able to establish “shared goals,” which apply to marketing activities deployed by all of the company’s marketing channels, including PR, advertising, and social media.

Big picture, LFG’s cohesive approach to marketing communications demonstrates how major brands can break down their silos and create more integrated marketing programming, with PR executives now playing a more central role.

“When you start to establish shared goals, it’s a way for people to understand that their compensation and their success is based on the success of other people,” DePeau said. “It’s a little bit of a carrot and a little bit of a stick.”

That Was Then … And Now
In ancient times, say, 2005, once a marketing campaign was finalized, marketing execs would call on PR to knock out a press release and conduct some other tactical efforts to get the message out.

But in the past several years—with CMOs putting more of a premium on earned media—PR execs have moved toward the core of strategic marketing and are involved in marketing- and advertising-based campaigns from the get-go, rather than the back end or not at all.

Take LFG’s “Then and Now” branding campaign, which rolled out Oct. 19 across network and cable TV, national print, digital, and social media outlets. The campaign encourages both customers and LFG employees to post and share their old photographs on their social media channels, along with #ThenAndNow.

In support of the campaign, LFG’s PR and communications team are driving an integrated internal and external communication strategy to ensure the marketing message is consistent across multiple platforms, including the company’s new website, which rolled out the same time as the ad campaign. The PR department also will create online contests to generate interest in the ad campaign.

“Given corporate marketing shares the overall goals of building awareness of Lincoln, enhancing our reputation, and engaging with employees, consumers, and others, activities viewed more traditionally as being in the corporate communications space are fundamental parts of any brand or advertising initiatives we lead,” DePeau said. “What may have started as an inside-out approach has evolved to be a core, integrated mindset that drives our activities.”

Content Partnership
For shipping and business services giant UPS, marketing and PR executives regularly work in tandem to create and distribute content catering to different stages of the sales and marketing funnel.

To promote UPS’s 2015 “Industrial Buying Dynamics” study, PR worked closely with sales, marketing, and customer communications to break the study into snackable bites and push out the content to customers, prospects, and appropriate media channels in the trade space.

PR was able to provide marketing with tangible results: Forty-three percent of the initial downloads of the study by targeted customers were attributed to PR because the content was downloaded before the paid media portion of the program kicked off. Those leads, of course, were handed to the sales team.

“PR people are embedded with marketing teams, and there are a number of communications people to support marketing,” said Peggy Gardner, senior director of public relations at UPS, in an interview with “We’re constantly talking with marketing about expectations and priorities.”

UPS has three tools designed to build ties between PR and marketing, for joint planning (as part of the annual business plan), joint training, and joint content strategy and development, Gardner said.

“Strategically, we’re designed to break down the silos,” she said, adding that marketing, PR, branding, advertising, and customer communications execs all report to the senior VP of global marketing, Theresa Finley. “Organizationally, we’re focused on driving the business and oriented in helping the company meet its business plan.”

Added Derrick Johnson, VP of segment marketing for UPS: “In today’s environment, when we put together programs, PR and marketing are directed toward the same goal: How much success are we having, and how is that activity driving prospects and customers toward the sales funnel?”

More Work Ahead
Despite the progress that some companies are making to align their marketing activities, integrated communications remains elusive for many companies. The result? Companies tend to limit their ability to get their messages to wider audiences and probably end up leaving money on the table.

Just 19% of marketers said they are extremely good or very good at creating multichannel, digital marketing campaigns that reach and resonate with diverse audiences, according to a 2015 CMO Council study of 287 global marketers in the second quarter of this year. The study also found that 45% gave lackluster grades on their ability to engage customers, partners, and employees through fully integrated mobile, Web, and social channels. This compares to just 21% of the respondents who said they were very proficient.

“Generally, we still have very siloed marketing organizations, which is a challenge because companies are not optimizing the effectiveness of their campaigns,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. As brands invest more in content creation, PR execs have an opportunity to enhance their value in the eyes of marketers, Neale-May said.

“When you take a campaign to market and are trying to position your brand [or C-level exec] as a thought leader, you need something meaningful to talk about, and you need to be ahead of the latest [marketing] channels,” he told “That’s where PR should be way ahead of everybody else. But you don’t find a lot of that with PR people, who should be looking for those issues that can be built into potential [marketing] campaigns and products.”

Collaborative Approach
Marriott’s M Live, which debuted last May, helps to illustrate how marketing, PR, and other media channels can work together for the greater good.

Situated inside the lobby of the hotel chain’s Bethesda, Md., headquarters, M Live is a glass-enclosed studio that includes marketing/PR/social teams, in-house creative agency members, and media buyers. PR and marketing executives sit side-by-side, where they track content relevant to the brand and monitor trends in the marketplace.

Within M Live are seats at two long desks with workstations for representatives of each of the marketing disciplines. At any given time, there could be members of all, most, or some of those disciplines, as needed based on a content calendar or a breaking/trending story.

“We believe it is best for marketing and consumer PR to work as one team, which we have done, to engage guests and amplify the value we create for them,” said Karin Timpone, global marketing officer at Marriott International, adding that M Live will be expanding to other Marriot locations. “This is why we have created a team dedicated to consumer public relations within the marketing department.”

The Miami Heat also takes a collaborative approach to its marketing efforts. Executives from traditional marketing, PR, social media, digital media, creative and retail, for example, sit together in wide-open spaces at the basketball team’s office in downtown Miami. All of those disciplines report to executive VP and CMO Michael McCullough.

“There are no divisions between the departments. First comes the topic and then the goals,” said Lorrie-Ann Diaz, senior director if the Heat Group Business Communications. “The CMO defines the campaign and provides the direction; each of the disciplines then falls in line and executes its own specific elements of the campaign.”

The marketing team is putting on full-court press to promote the Heat’s three new team jerseys debuting this upcoming season. The design of each jersey was informed by market research, while Diaz is driving the overall message for the campaign, which will include website promotion, online videos, social marketing, and media relations.

“Each discipline has its own marketing channels and different constituencies,” Diaz told “But the plan is integrated, and everyone works on an equal footing.” – Read more at:–hvaE6I#gs.sqhzWRc

Matthew Schwartz
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