NEW YORK, July 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A subtle but fast-growing shift is taking place in companies across industries and the world: the convergence of the corporate communications and marketing functions, a trend driven by dramatic shifts in digital media and the stronger relationship between brand and corporate reputation. Weber Shandwick, one of the world's leading global public relations firms, has found that the rate of chief communications officers with marketing oversight is on the rise (up 35% since 2012). The firm recently conducted new research, Convergence Ahead: The Integration of Communications and Marketing, to understand the experiences of executives at the center of this trend and who have successfully integrated marketing and communications, two traditionally siloed and disparate functions.
The study and its findings provide timely guidance to business leaders who are considering convergence, including the drivers behind the decision to converge, the upsides and downsides, and the various organizational structures that emerge. The research consists of 10 in-depth telephone interviews with chief communications and marketing officers (CCMOs or CMCOs) responsible for integrating the communications and marketing roles for their organizations. Interviewees were based in the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific.
"All stakeholders hear company messages through one enterprise voice today," said Micho Spring, chair, Global Corporate practice, Weber Shandwick. "For some companies, the dual-structure of marketers primarily targeting customers and corporate communicators primarily targeting other stakeholders only adds an extra layer of complexity to an already highly fragmented media environment. The explosion of digital media technologies and channels makes the integration of marketing and communications imperative in developing a cohesive and authentic enterprise narrative."
Digital Media Accelerates Converged Roles
The findings from the new study identify a number of accelerators behind this trend of integration. Among the most pervasive is the role that digital media, content creation and technology play in convergence. Social media and digital technologies have blurred the lines between marketing and communications, and these newly integrated roles are better aligned to meet the demands of an ever-changing and increasingly complex and data-driven media environment.
Indivisibility of Brand and Reputation
Another factor behind the growing convergence in communications and marketing is the rising interdependence between brand and corporate reputation. Weber Shandwick's chief reputation strategist, Leslie Gaines-Ross, says, "As companies increasingly see the value in investing in corporate reputation as well as brand reputation due to the instantaneous accessibility of information online, leaders are seeing the strategic need to get communicators and marketers on the same page when it comes to marketing communications."
Six Step Guide to Successful Convergence
Convergence Ahead: The Integration of Communications and Marketing offers a guide to successful integration, developed from lessons learned from prominent CCMOs who shared their convergence experiences.
1. Consider convergence for strategic advantage – CCMOs have found integration invaluable to initiatives involving marketplace repositioning as well as reputation recovery.
2. Start with a shared vision and mission – Establish a definition of your brand identity and organize the newly integrated department around this singular corporate or brand mission. Clearly articulate the rationale for change – to deliver on the company's mission – and consistently communicate your compelling case for integration.
3. Evangelize widely and deeply – Promote the converged mission by sharing with internal stakeholders what you can collectively achieve and how your new hybrid function works. Importantly, explore the aspirations and needs of key internal partners, such as business unit heads, as well as external clients, such as customers, to understand where you can add value to move the business forward.
4. Govern the integration – Managing larger organizations requires strong coordination, often across distant geographies and business units. Regardless of whether a CCMO has oversight over brand or region, convening leadership advisory groups across disparate parts of a company helps manage priorities.
5. Move quickly but planfully – Trust your instincts and accelerate actions that will make the newly merged organization run smoothly. A number of research participants say, in hindsight, that they should have moved faster on personnel decisions and lament not filling resource gaps more swiftly, risking their ability to effectively execute integrated programs.
6. Celebrate successes early and often – Find ways to internally promote the benefits of integration by showcasing results as soon as possible. Importantly, consistently demonstrate value to the C-Suite to gain internal support.
Convergence Ahead: The Integration of Communications and Marketing demonstrates that there are many factors to take into account when deciding to merge communications and marketing, but CCMOs – those who have lived through the ups and the downs of the process – generally agree that the changes in the media environment will increasingly demand organizations re-evaluate the alignment between the two functions.
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About the Research
Weber Shandwick conducted in-depth telephone interviews with 10 chief communications and marketing officers (CCMOs) responsible for integrating the communications and marketing roles for their organizations. Interviewees were located in Europe, the United States and Asia and came from a variety of sectors. Interviewing was conducted from Q4 2013 – Q1 2014.
About Weber Shandwick
Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations firm with offices in 81 countries. The firm's diverse team of thinkers, strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work, including being honored as a 2014 Ad Age A-List Agency and winning 23 Cannes Lions together with its Prime unit since 2009. Weber Shandwick was also named PRWeek's International Consultancy of the Year and The Holmes Report's Best Healthcare Consultancy in the World in 2013, in addition to earning numerous best place to work accolades. The firm deploys deep expertise across sectors and specialty areas, including consumer marketing, corporate reputation, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate social responsibility, financial communications and crisis management, using proprietary social, digital and analytics methodologies. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit http://www.webershandwick.com.
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