Invent what you like, but at the end, you communicate-with to develop relationships. Even Roberts and Sorrell now say this of advertising!!

Only a few days ago in Rome Kevin Roberts, the global Ceo of Saatchi, addressing a professionally mature corporate audience, said something like ‘ the most dramatic change which is disrupting the advertising markets is that we are now required to develop relationships with customers’.

Sir Martin Sorrell , Ceo of WPP, said more or less the same about one year ago in New York.

Yet, a few public relators professionals and scholars -although conceding that the communicating-with mode might be more effective than the communicating-to one when dealing with corporate related issues- claim, in what they define as integrated marketing communication, that the at or to modes prevail because they are more effective.

This, in my view, is a sign of miopia or, at the very least, simple stubborness in not conceding to reality.

In any public relations program -be it corporate or marketing oriented- there are always phases which require outreach activities (i.e communicating-to).

Similarly, the framework and mid term aims which guide any organization’s communicative activities -be it corporate or marketing oriented- need today to be relationship driven for all the good reasons (and more) that this blog has been arguing over these years.

I have much curiosity in better understanding the motives of all those colleagues out there who refuse to accept this fact of life, beyond the ‘we have always done it this way’ and the ‘we have never done it this other way’ syndrome acutely posted here by Bill Brody

You can dance around words, bury the gurus, overhype their presumed abstractness, invent new contraptions…. but when even the least likely of advertising thinkers and doers say now what some public relators have been saying for 120 years, many others repeatedly for the last 25 years, and some of the younger ones for only a few years, but simply because they seem to believe the world was created by the digitalization of society…. even the die hards should embrace the frontier which is now wide open to us:
that of gsrg (global stakeholder relationship governance)….and this is new draft of gsrg….at least for the time being….

Take every single one of Bill Huey’s roles for the public relator he ironically derives from the confusion he claims public relations thinkers have been producing in what instead (I believe..) is the most fruitful and dynamic period of enrichment of our body of knowledge coming from all continents… and if you analyse the required skills and competencies needed for each…you will find ,first, significant overlappings as well as, secondly, striking similarities with those which were discussed here some time ago and to which Bill also contributed.

Of course if you compare those required skills and competencies with the curricula of studies which are going on just about everywhere…but this is yet another argument…or is it?

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11 Replies to “Invent what you like, but at the end, you communicate-with to develop relationships. Even Roberts and Sorrell now say this of advertising!!

  1. 3 recent anecdotes to support Heather’s cynicism:

    I tried to contact L’Oreal’s customer service through their online interface because they have a great product — with no equivalent from any competitor — which is still on their website, but which has disappeared from my stores. I received an error message from a third party (to whome L’Oreal had apparently outsourced the “relationship”) saying that the person I tried to reach was no longer in the e-mail directory.

    In France, banks and utilities have been pushing us to stop receiving bills through the mail, promising that legally valid electronic ones will remain accessible online. I have persistently found it impossible to access past months’ Orange/France Telecom bills, which I need for the accounting of my small emterprise. My e-mail to customer service has received no reply weeks later. (And I won’t even get into the amount of time I have lost being ping-ponged back and forth between various of their customer relations departments on the phone.

    Last year, I ordered New Year’s cards for my firm from Unicef. It was a smooth and pleasant experience. When I tried to buy the cards again this year: 1) They claim that my account doesn’t exist, even though they send me e-updates linked to the account I created last year! 2) They offer a screen for a second billing address, but not all countries are there, and in any case, they only allow you to enter French commercial register details, which obviously would be useless if you are asking to be billed outside the country. 3) I have yet to receive any sort of detailed confirmation — just a generic screen that assures me the order has been taken into account, but since there is no transaction number or details, I have no proof that they owe me cards, even though the credit card charge went through.

    Customer relationships indeed.

  2. Thank you Paul and how very welcome you are!

    It makes a lot of sense to create preoccupation mongst colleagues that social media somehow force organizations to adopt dialogue rather than monologue and of course we are always eafer to cite token cases in which this is effective. Also, it is highly probable that social media accelerates what, as you correctly say, had always been there before.

    Often I am faced with the typical give me some figures, show me numbers issue…or ‘why is it more effective?’… questions.

    I prefer to concede that one of the two parties to begin the conversation needs to attract the attention of the other and therefore any form of relationship inevitably begins with communicating to phase.
    I see a sly smile when this is said ( see??).
    And then, maybe, it is easier for them to concede that even a one shot, quick fix activity needs a balanced relationship…

  3. “A few public relators professionals and scholars… claim that the at or to modes prevail because they are more effective.”

    Not more effective, just easier.

    Social media do not change any of the principles of good communication… but they do make it harder to get away with bad communication. Reliance on what you call “at” or “to” modes — what I would call monologue rather than dialogue — is now much more dangerous. You’re likely to be called out on it sooner, and punished for it more severely because of the proliferation of social media and the standards to which they hold business.

  4. Stimulating points Joao.

    Before I express my views, allow me to say that your reference to the value chain concept (michael porter) is possibly faded as it has been a paradigm now for some thirty years and corresponds less and less to organizational reality.

    It needs to be reviewed for the very reason of this here blog.

    Let me explain: while the value chain is substantially linear and self contained, in today’s society organizations need to create value through their networks rather than their chains.
    This implies that environmental analysis as well as decision making processes rely more and more on fuzzy and chaos rather than linear concepts.

    Organizations are systems of relationships, they belong to networks which are also systems of relationships and all need to relate with society, which is again a system of relationships.
    Thus,the role of communicator both within an organization or within a network changes substantially.

    You might wish to look at our swedish colleagues amazing five year research effort involving many of the largest Swedish organizations, call ‘business effective communication’ focussed on the ‘communicative organization’ at which could very well be the core essence of the June 13/15 World Public Relations Forum in Stockholm co-organised by the swedish association and the Global Alliance. But more on this in a separate post once the actual contents of the Forum will have been agreed upon.

    As for your other points, in our studies way back in the mid eighties to define and supply coherent guidelines to effective integrated communication efforts, we agreed that according to the specific objective of an initiative one of the (then) four practices (pr, advertising, promotion and directe response) one of these takes the lead and coordinates the others.

    For example if the organization is launching a new product the principal effort is clearly push (you have stakeholders only when they are aware of who you are and what you are trying to do, and if this has consequences on them or they have consequences on you, then they become stakeholders) and, even if in many occasions you plan your initiative beginning with a word of mouth or viral effort, advertising or promotion (according to the timeframe you are preparing to achieve your objectives) lead in respect of pr or dirct response.

    Similarly, if you are arguing a social, technological, economic or political issue then it is clear that pr or direct response take the lead and also use advertising and promotion.

    Obviously real life is not that easy, but I don’t wish to bore you and other visitors with details.

    Basically, if you adopt an integrated communication approach, all four practices need to be considered, not necessarily adopted, every time you attempt to achieve a relationship building objective through communication.

    I hope I have helped to clarify…

  5. Toni, having the privilege to know something about your view on this subject – and though I was unaware of this particular and highly interesting story – I understand the utility and applicability of your arguments.

    I don’t question the “global stakeholder relationship governance”, I just question that Public Relations’ tools and knowledge to work with “Stakeholder Publics” are equated to those of, for example, advertising. In other words, the knowledge needed to “govern relationships” is different from the knowledge needed to apply communication techniques to influence those relationships.

    Being involved with the whole value chain of an organization, working with the business and the internal stakeholders, dealing with a company’s credibility, providing strategic advice before decision-making, lobbying, managing issues in the public agenda and dealing with the opinion of the publics are some outcomes linked with public relations (though you can achieve them through communication processes, they represent an outcome)

    So, if you will, I see that the ‘global stakeholder relationship governance’ should include a distinction between:
    1. Managing communication techniques
    2. Producing outcomes relevant to a relationship
    3. Being able to manage relationships (changing the type of relationship, the characteristics of the relationship, moving the relationship from a point a to a point b, ….)

    And even if I can agree that Advertising (even in the sense that Roberts describes it) is capable of claiming to execute 1 and 2, I doubt it can do something about the point 3.

    For clarity, I don’t think that most of the PR we practice and teach in today’s world is equipped with the concepts and tools to perform the activity in point 3. But it is my conviction that we’re surely closer to get there…

  6. Heather,
    I agree with all you write.

    If advertising is also creating relationships with a customer this implies that listening is the essential part of any relationship and that customer relations (as the term clearlu indicates) if properly performed is a relationship.

    Also, a relationship does not necessarily mean engagement.

    As I have argued elsewhere here there are two levels: one is involvement and the other is engagement.
    And consumers who wish to have a relationship (certaily you cannot develop a relationship with someone who is not interested…) as any other stakeholder may choose to either accept an involvement (their choice again) or an engagement (once more).

  7. I remain to be convinced that a relationship perspective within a marketing framework is anything more than another attempt to persuade “them” to do what the organisation wants (normally to buy more product or sign up for services).

    The one critical area where an organisation needs to genuinely show it can listen and build a relationship with its consumers (let alone any other stakeholders or publics) is in the area of customer relations. I’m not talking about a few Twitter examples of where problems have been picked up by PR or marketing employees, but the first hand, contact when a customer has an issue or would like help.

    Premium charge lines, queue waiting, and other non-customer relations strategies don’t reflect listening organisations, and you cannot build a relationship without listening.

    Surely the only relationship that advertising can build is an exchange one. We also have to ask whether most customers actually want a relationship with most organisations. Surely what we’d actually like is that they deliver on their side of the exchange first.

    Companies need to earn loyalty and they don’t do this by spamming stakeholders emails, Tweets, apps etc etc.

  8. Joao,
    very interesing indeed.
    I can think of two ways to elaborate on your question.

    The first is ‘objective’:
    it seems to me that the concept ‘Whereas brands are owned by companies,“Lovemarks” belong to the people who are loyal to them’ and the additional ‘evolution from the concept of ‘customer’ (or target audience) to the concept of ‘partner’’ belong very much to the very foundations of this blogs’ conceptual structure…and ,of course, to the two way symmetric elaboration…(honny soit qu mal y pense…).

    The second is ‘subjective’:
    when I was Ceo of SCR, italy’s then leading pr consultancy, my first international network was with the wonderful, wonderful Dan Edelman to whom I am greatly indebted.
    In the early eighties I concluded that an organization’s communication policy needed to be fully integrated and, having ascertained that the Edelman group had no intention to move in that direction, I found a very valid italian company to take SCR’s place in that network and look around.
    In doing this I studied two alternatives:
    the Ogilvy ‘orchestration’ concept and the Young & Rubicam’s ‘whole egg’ one.
    I eventually ended up with the first, mostly because I had great respect for David Ogilvy (already retired, but still active) and for Giancarlo Livraghi (Italy’s most intelligent advertising manager at the time).
    Ogilvy acquired a minority stake in SCR and the two formed a 50% joint venture called ‘Sintonia’ which specialised in integrated communication programs and projects.
    In order to ensure that the new venture would work, I assigned to Methodos (then a management development consultancy) the role of a one year total immersion (one full day per week) for all of SCR and Ogilvy professionals.
    The objective was to carefully dig into promotions, advertising, public relations and direct response (as Ogilvy called then direct mail) as if they were different disciplines and collectively come up with a consensus based process for integrated communication.
    A substantial, conceptual, and intellectual effort which gave us splendid results for a couple of years.
    Unfortunately, this exciting experience terminated in 1998 for personal reasons:
    my bad character turned out to be even worse than Giancarlo Livraghi’s and my personal life forced me to break up the venture.
    SCR ended up being sold to Shandwick, which still today is Italy’s major pr consultancy under the leadership of Furio Garbagnati, who was one of my original SCR partners.
    Actually I believe that Furio is still today the only (and highly successful) mohican of the first Shandwick wave of acquisitions in the world…

    So you see, Joao, I have been a long time advocate of integrated communication and the borders between the disciplines are, as with many other things today, even more blurred than they were at that time….

  9. Toni, I was at the Roberts conference you mentioned and listening to such and authoritative leader from the global advertising industry claim that the future of advertising lies in what can be described as the creation of relationships based on respect and love I couldn’t avoid thinking that disciplines are indeed getting closer.

    Kevin Roberts, worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, demonstrated his view that the advertising industry is about creating Lovemarks or “brands that inspire loyalty beyond reason”. In other words, the future is not so much about creating brands as it is about promoting emotional ties that mark the people and make products/ creative ideas and integral part of their lives. Whereas brads are owned by companies, Roberts adds, “Lovemarks” belong to the people who are loyal to them.

    In a way this confirms that the industry of advertising is moving into the business of creative relationship building. On the other hand, this seems to imply an evolution from the concept of ‘customer’ (or target audience) to the concept of ‘partner’. But could this also mean a shift in the traditional communication model of advertising based on one way promotion? On this issue, a relevant quote from Roberts: “we’ve got to get the conversation started”.

    Do you agree with this portray of advertising being about creative relationship development, about promoting partnership-based relationships (winning over the hearts of the partner/customer) through conversation? If yes, where will the borders between Public Relations and Advertising stay?

    And while one possible answers is to argue that no borders are actually needed or useful and that a “Global Stakeholder Relationship Governance” framework can be on the horizon, I still that there are relevant differences to take into account before getting there. Your views?

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