What an ‘interconnected’ approach to PR looks like in 2021
To ensure you are breaking down silos between teams, one PR pro says you must become the ‘question master.’
Many agencies claim to be integrated but continue to struggle at reaching consumers across media in a way that drives results.
Today, integration is basic table stakes. Oh, you can do creative and PR and brand planning? OK—great. In reality, that’s what a client is told in a pitch and it usually appears on a slide about a holding company’s vast network that can bring a 360˚ approach to their business.
We all know that, in reality, the holding company’s different groups are still very siloed. How often does PR get stuck activating on an idea or plan they had little insight into developing? How often do PR and media pros sit down and come up with mutually beneficial ideas together? And bring in analytics? And creative?
Interconnected vs. integrated
Integration is simply making sure everyone is vaguely activating on the same message. Interconnection is acting in concert. In fact, it’s coming together to create a plan that conforms to consumer behavior
What do I mean? Consumers don’t robotically lift up their mobiles and think, “Now I am consuming a message on my mobile phone” and then, “Now I am sitting at my desk consuming messages on my laptop computer.” People aren’t robots, but agencies often still work with that approach.
Truth be told, PR is perfectly positioned within agencies and the marketing mix to serve as the nucleolus of interconnection. I like to think of PR professionals as the original hybrid marketers—always having to do a little bit of it all—which means they keenly see how every piece of the mix matters. They’re also often the first called when anything in that mix goes wrong.
With our interconnected approach, we’re able to be more efficient (creating cost savings for our clients), more collaborative and have a greater impact on our clients’ businesses.
Built toward outcomes
Integration is often defined as a unified message across media. Frankly, that’s outdated.
A brand has its core values and its positioning to which it must remain true; however, consumers do not care if your “message” on your TV spot is “Tricks are for kids” and then on your TikTok you have a dancing influencer in a rabbit suit making s’mores with Lucky Charms. If those channels are well executed, and true to the brand’s DNA, the “right message at the right time to the right audience” is what matters.
Interconnection gets you there, because it is focuses on business outcomes. By identifying a common busines goal for each client, you ensure that no matter the department, everyone is working towards the same result.
Another way we define our interconnectedness is by using the PESO model. While the four areas each contribute uniquely to an overall communications strategy, ensuring they’re merged seamlessly is key to its effectiveness.
Implementing your interconnected approach
Here’s how you can implement an interconnected model for your agency or organization:
1. It starts with your leadership team. From the top-down, you need to understand and embrace transparency within disciplines. Even when you do not hold every part of a client’s business, you have to get involved in it and make the case for interconnection. Turn to data whenever possible to help track your progress. It’s never easy to change your process, but it’s crucial if you want the wheels to spin in unison.
2. Imbue in your culture that ideas come from everywhere. We have subject matter experts, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones who can have ideas in a given discipline. We have core teams that work on a client’s business that pull across disciplines; even if we don’t, for example, have the client’s media business, we have media represented on the core team to ensure we continue to ideate and act in an interconnected fashion.
This also involves a great deal of continuous learning for staff. At our agency, we have a bi-weekly series called “C-K Curriculum” where members of different teams or outside experts come in to teach and discuss industry trends, consumer behaviors and different types of technology. Learning—intellectual curiosity about our work—has to be part of an interconnected organization because no one gets to say, “Oh that’s just a PR thing,” or a creative thing, media thing, etc.
3. Become the “question master.” It can be as simple as asking your media team, “Did PR weigh in on this?” Because no matter how much people profess integration, without actively maintaining connection, teams slowly relax into their own “turfs.” To avoid that, teams have to get used to honest questioning as part of the process.
Teams should also ask clients questions and listen to their answers. Never hit “set it and forget it.” Questions connect us to learning and insights that create business results for your agency and for your clients.
Peter Krivkovich is the chairman and CEO of Cramer-Krasselt.