Do CMOs care about distinctions between PR and Marketing?

CEOs and CMOs – a PR professional’s biggest internal stakeholders – mostly equate PR with media and influencer relations; some may include government and analyst relations. So it’s no surprise that when recruiting a PR firm or a Corporate Communications staffer, CMOs typically stick to the traditional PR attributes in their RFPs / job descriptions. Most firms are also happy to accept this, as these skills are in their comfort zone.

However, as you begin work, you find expectations quickly move to things typically in the ambit of Marketing. Review meetings begin to blow up. There are questions about impact, ROI, and even leads, with all considerations of paid, earned, shared, owned (PESO) quickly dissolving into theory.

I think that’s perfectly fine. Do CEOs and CMOs care about PESO distinctions? Do they even understand them? Should they?

Sure, they care deeply about their image and reputation, and probably have your number on speed dial for those panicky crisis communication calls. But they also want to see you influencing tangible business results. They want you to contribute to ROI. They want you to influence business development and leads. They want to make their lives less complicated by working with full-stack firms and not separate ones for PR, Brand, Social, Performance, Activation, Video …. 

Let’s see how a CMO thinks when planning a major campaign, and how you can upskill to be their go-to.

A big product launch is coming up at a large international trade expo. The CMO is a ticking bomb, with several things up in the air. They are thinking of drumming up pre-event excitement, in-event mega launch, post-event ‘viral’ coverage – all with relevant audiences, within budget and great ROI. 

At this point the lines between PR and Marketing start to blur. They may start off by expecting you to manage media / analyst / blogger / influencer relations and content, but as the event closes, questions are asked “is your content optimised for search,” “why aren’t you boosting it on social,” “have you set up a countdown newsletter,” “what is the CTA,” “is your campaign driving traffic to the landing page,” “have you set up lead capture,” “what about lead qualification,” “what is your success metric?”  

You are thinking, “I’m doing what I was hired for. This is Marketing’s job.”
Marketing is thinking, “Hmmm, the PR team can help. Let me connect with them after this meeting.”
The CMO is thinking, “I have too many firms. After this event, I should consolidate them, maybe even insource some of the work.”

Lose-lose. So what should you do? 

Go where the demand is. Work for your primary internal stakeholder – CMO. 

The good news is that you can easily make this a win-win. The CMO wants full-stack skills. You want a larger piece of the pie. So just remove the distinctions in your mind. Think of PR as a business function, and invest in broadening your skills – Audience analysis, research, content creation, SEO, distribution, measurement….

For a CMO, relationships – whether with the media, government, bloggers, influencers or analysts – is a distribution channel. There’s a ton of work to be done before and after messages are distributed via the Relationship channel. 

But, remember, you have the one skill which is least likely to be taken over by bots – Relationships. Build on this core. 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Juhi Hajela
With experience across marketing, communications and online operations, I am an advocate of being ‘lateral’ – see the big picture, be comfortable with ambiguity, and work well with a range of people!

I have worked at Google, McKisney and CyberMedia, and am currently leading marketing communications and employer branding at STL. I am an alumni
of Oxford University and a Chevening scholar to LSE.

I have had the good fortune to have worked with some of the smartest people in the world, and want to give back some learnings to the younger generation of professionals. I care deeply about women in leadership, and am happy to volunteer my time to mentor young women as they navigate the corporate world.

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