It is easy to be cynical about the word ‘integration’. Like so many marketing buzzwords, this one has been stripped of all meaning, applied to every conceivable situation in a manner that reflects the laziness of much industry thinking.
Yet if we try to suspend our cynicism over the language for a moment (harder for me, I assure you), it is clear that the convergence of marketing and PR, particularly on the in-house side, is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity.
In an era when corporate concerns (like issues management, public affairs and CSR) increasingly affect marketers, and when marketing issues (like sales promotion, customer service and e-commerce) go hand-in-hand with communications, this makes instinctive sense. In reality, however, it has been harder to gauge the actual extent of integration beyond anecdotal evidence, like this interview with Aston Martin’s Simon Sproule last year.
Which is where the Influence 100 comes in. Now in it’s fourth year, our guide to the world’s 100 most influential in-house communicators has always provided a useful barometer for trends at the top of the in-house world. And this year’s edition offers substantive insight into how major organisations are dealing with the inevitable collision of marketing and PR.
The first thing to note is that the 2016 Influence 100 includes 33 new entrants, the highest proportion since 2013. Of these additions, six are marketers, swelling the overall total to 14 marketers out of the 100 people on the list. This marks the latest evidence supporting our findings (from the Global Communications Report) that marketers are increasingly responsible for driving PR spend.
Meanwhile, exactly one quarter (25) of the Influence 100 lead an integrated function that includes marketing and communications. This is a major increase on previous years, and reflects how many companies are now structuring oversight of the ‘engagement’ functions. The research into responsibilities also bears this out — 43% of the Influence 100 are responsible for hiring advertising agencies, along with digital agencies (64%), sponsorship (68%) and, of course, PR firms (100%).
It is also telling that, when asked where they plan to spend their budgets next year, a broad range of areas emerge, including content development (59%), analytics (53%), social media (41%), and paid digital (31%), alongside PR/corporate reputation (53%).
So, who are the people that are being entrusted to lead integrated functions? Of the 25, 15 are marketers, including such well-known names as Unilever’s Keith Weed, Marc Pritchard from P&G, Lenovo’s David Roman and Burberry’s Sarah Manley.
That still leaves 10 who are communications people, which is encouraging news. It is tempting to compare this group to unicorns, so rare is it to see PR people in charge of an integrated function. (Of course, it is even more rare to see communications execs move into business leadership roles, as our new Crossover Stars section confirms.)
Yet the fact that we are now into double-figures must be seen as a positive sign for the public relations world. And, in particular, for the calibre of in-house leaders that are rising up the ranks. These roles are not without their challenges, particularly at larger companies that have complex legacy structures to unpick.
Accordingly, it is worth listing them here; the hope, of course, is that this proportion will continue to grow in the years to come and — unlike unicorns from the tech world — do not prove to be quite as overhyped or overvalued.
Influence 100: Comms execs who lead an integrated function
UN Foundation — chief marketing & communications officer
GE — vice chair
Claire Dorland Clauzel
Michelin — director of communications & brands
Hewlett Packard Enterprise — CMO & CCO
IBM — SVP, marketing & communications
Juan Manuel Cendoya
Santander — SVP, communications, corporate marketing
Pearson — chief corporate affairs & global marketing officer
The SABRE Awards is the world's largest PR awards program, running across six continents. 2016 details now available.