Advertising Club of Buffalo ~ MarComm Panel Summary

I attended my first Advertising Club of Buffalo event last night at Templeton Landing near the Naval Park in downtown. It was great to see the waterfront before sunset after seeing brown terrain and whirling dust storms in the desert of the Southeast Valley of Metro Phoenix for the past several years. I served on the Phoenix Ad Club board for two years, so I was curious to learn more about my hometown chapter.

There were about 52 attendees to observe a three-member panel (Lisa Hackett from First Niagara, Katie McKenna from Tops and Virginia Bates from Eric Mower + Associates) discussion moderated by Carolyn Human, who was sharp and maintained an efficient flow for the 90-minute program. Incoming Ad Club president Charlie Fashana kicked off the event by announcing the upcoming Ad Week festivities, including the Aaron Draplin address on October 11 and a presentation on copyright by Jim Cavanaugh on October 12.

Per my M.O. of recapping professional development programs I attend, a synthesized summary of my takeaway notes from the panel follows:

  1. The primary guiding topic for the panel was “Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations: What’s the difference?” It is apparent that most of us in these ultimately inter-related industries are fairly clear on the accepted definitions and normal functions of each of the these three core areas of practice. Yet, the digital demands of online communications continue to alter the de jure definitions, as illustrated by PRSA’s recent effort to streamline the elevator answer to the commonplace layman query of “What is PR?”
  2. Another fact that many of us have faced is that the pre-digital era of working within strictly silo-enforced roles and functions is mostly an antiquated notion in many sectors. The days of the various in-house disciplines operating on an island or in a regimented assembly line process to producing company collateral, promotions and messaging to stakeholders evaporated with interoffice memos, dial-up and faxing. Many people need to not only be aware of how the other side of the house operate, but also must develop a working knowledge of different services to be versatile and transferable for the benefits of bringing greater value to their organizations and augment their own career progression.
  3. Last summer I attempted to break down the alphabet soup of the disciplinary spectrum that I called the MarComm Matrix when speaking to the Arizona State University PRSSA Chapter. Here is that recap.
  4. It is not an excuse to say that you don’t know or aren’t really aware what the other service groups are doing. Find out. Collaborate a little more. Contribute to plans and campaigns earlier where feasible.
  5. With the overlapping and convergence of these disciplines, comes the ongoing territorial battle over which department should manage social media applications. Bates noted that the platform space can and must be shared in a fashion that the varied messages and content can occupy different areas of applications. Just as in the editorial and advertising balance that you see in print, a wall, blog, feed, board or channel can effectively accommodate a contest, earned media link and ad message. It comes down to efficient project management and assessing priorities to ensure the strategy, aesthetics and objectives are aligned with the potentially overwhelming content queue.
  6. Practitioners may have different takes on what the ultimate umbrella of disciplines is, i.e.: all the other services are strategies or tactics under marketing), but this chicken-or-the-egg argument is moot as the complimentary nature of each should rise past semantics and power struggles in the name of providing the best public-facing voice, imagery and information for customers, clients and partner agencies.
  7. The fact that different disciplines need and often have to craft or customize their message to accompany their strategies and channels shouldn’t deter from efforts to “de-siloitize” departments. Involving the public relations group earlier in a process rather than just dumping the final product in their lap as a courtesy FYI should prove prudent to improving internal efficiencies and showing that an integrated marketing communications front can be possible under one big roof.
  8. The specialized, and often creatively autonomous, roles of chief bloggers, reputation managers, brand ambassadors and CSR spokespersons can all co-exist in articulating an organization’s voice and protecting and enhancing brand equity. Baker noted the functional differences between an Account Manager and a Project Manager for integrated client, necessary with the continued development of digital communication tactics.
  9. There was an extended (and somewhat spirited!) discussion among the panel and attendees when the topic of mergers, acquisitions and conversions of companies and brands came up. That eventually came to a point where it was fodder for a whole separate program.
  10. Aside from the panel’s diversity of expertise (finance, grocery retail and integrated agency) and the sharing of some of their campaigns, tactics, anecdotes and customer issue scenarios and the questions about who owns what and who should respond on social channels, each participant was enthusiastic, interested and forthright.

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