Lou Capozzi- PR people are too siloed, should take a broader view and need to get better at managing advertising!

At the ICCO Global Conference in Delhi of a few days ago, Lou Capozzi, chairman of the Publicis PR Group, and Paul Taffe, chairman of Hill&Knowlton, challenged pr firms to step up to the opportunities created by what Lou called “The New Conversation Age.” The panelists documented the changes and outlined the skills needed in this emerging new environment — skills possessed by PR practitioners more than any other discipline.

Those skills include comfort with lack of control, a strategic view of communication, understanding of multiple constituencies and their interactions, dealing with third parties, and the ability to manage multiple forms of communications. Capozzi told the group, “get better at managing advertising, because advertising should be seen by our clients as one of the disciplines we can offer in a holistic program.” He also said PR people are too siloed, and need to take a broader view.

Interesting thoughts….particularly when Lou says ‘get better at managing advertising’ which ‘should be seen by our clients as one of the disciplines we can offer in a holistic program’.

Let’s open this box and look inside….

Advertising is used both in corporate and product/service communication. In the latter case, public relations has traditionally been called by the marketing machine to come in at the last minute to support advertising programs. However more and more often, due to what Lou defines the Conversation Age, it seems that in many ‘holistic’ programs, advertising comes in after public relations has paved the way. This would imply that public relators be involved from the very moment the marketing machine initiates its course and, where useful, anticipate advertising but also support it once the ad campaign begins.

To the contrary, in corporate communication, advertising is traditionally used as a (very important) tool of a more comprehensive public relations effort.

In both cases there is no doubt that Lou is right as we certainly need to be more competent about advertising and what makes it tick. Shunning advertising, as we do much too often, is simply silly, and in most cases our benign neglect covers only a dramatic ignorance which makes us lose the growing challenge to deliver and manage holistic or integrated marketing programs, as well as makes us grossly mislead clients when the issue is corporate communication.

In some ways, if you line up the classic stakeholder categories for a public relator, you will find journalists and advertisers almost always in pole position. I don’t think that Lou implies that PR firms need to be able to actually articulate, create and deliver specific advertising programs, particularly in the marketing arena…as much as I don’t think PR firms should ever enter into the mainstream media market (which is where journalists usually operate). The three roles are very distinct, serve different purposes and should not be confused. However a public relator’s relationship with these relevant cousins is intense, and anyone competent in stakeholder relationships should know that the pillars of a superior relationship are, well before the chumming and wining and dining parts, a genuine interest, a competence of their environments and a knowledge of their rules of the game.

While we tend to be fairly attracted by the changes which are shaping mainstream media and their impact on the journalistic profession, we seem instead to be much less interested in the dramatic changes which are shaping the advertising profession and of their impact on relationships with both mainstream and new media. 


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