Convergence of Marketing & Comms: Insights From E*Trade, Dolby, BitGo,  Bank of the West

We have all been on the front lines of the convergence of marketing and communications, but the transformation has not been without challenges: cultural challenges, organizational design challenges and measurement challenges. At the recent Growth PR Conference from AirPR, leadership from E*Trade, Dolby, BitGo, and  Bank of the West shared their personal experiences and thoughts on what works… and what doesn’t.

Becky Saeger, Board of Directors, E*Trade Financial

“I got an MBA and went into advertising back when we basically had general advertising agencies that did your research, media planning and buying, and creative, and we had direct marketing agencies. At a point in time, we started worrying about integration and how we integrate what we do for our clients. I actually traded jobs for a year to get an understanding of the other side. Then when I went to run marketing at Visa, I had responsibility for all of marketing but PR rolled up into global communications and then up to the CEO. So again, I took my integrations skills, and we spent a lot of time meeting to ensure we were aligned. I went to Schwab and had responsibility as CMO, which included corporate communications as well as for PR, basically everything but Investor Relations. Analytics was still at the early stage. We could do marketing mix optimizations and even ROI, but PR was always on the outside of that.

“Since then I’ve worked on boards and as an advisor to a lot of companies that are about technology empowering marketers through technology. That’s why I’m so interested in this topic of how marketing and PR are converging, could converge, and how we should think about that.”

Clarissa Horowitz, VP, Marketing, BitGo

“I feel like I landed a dream job where there were absolutely no people, no processes, no infrastructure, no tech stack… People said, ‘We need marketing, please come in here and do this for us and just tell us how this is going to work.’ I’m in a rare situation where I’m actually not surrounded by people who think they know how to do my job better than I do. I’m sure we’ve all encountered that.

“I thought that this was really a great opportunity for an entire marketing organization to be led by a communications person. I think that’s such an incredible opportunity because so often we feel like communication ends up either under marketing, but it’s not somebody who really understands the potential of what the function can be, or, it ends up completely separate from marketing which can create silos. I’m fortunate to be able to take an approach where we say, ‘All right, we’re starting with storytelling, and we’re starting with what we want to accomplish. We’re looking at our audiences and how that translates across demand generation, communications, website and brand, and how are we going to measure the effectiveness of whatever we’re trying to do across channels.

“When I look at measurement and what people want to see, I’ve found it comes down to three things:  it’s quality, it’s quantity, and it’s all of those in relation to your competitors. There’s a fourth factor, which is ‘How is this changing over time?’ When I do my board presentations, that is what I look at and they’re absolutely fascinated by it.”

Ben Stuart, CMO, Bank of the West

“I think one of the big impetuses of my interest in convergence was when they started calling PR and social ‘Earned Media.’ When you think about the context of Paid, Earned and Owned Media, has been completely blurred. Given we’re in the business of message consistency, the convergence between them is just incredible. People said, you know, Facebook’s not social media, they’re media. I think the lines between what is editorial and what is paid has been completely blurred. And I think, given that we’re in the business of message message consistency, the job is to integrate all of it.

“In the short time I’ve been there, even the floor we work on was physically and culturally divided between PR and marketing. In the past year, I’ve seen the PR and social teams take on a much more commercial lens. In many ways, the marketing folks were traditionally responsible for commercial outcome and the PR and communications folks were responsible for reputational outcome. At the end of the day, we are definitely striving for commercial outcomes and sales, and we’ve definitely seen PR and social teams take a much more commercial focus to their efforts.”

Jennifer Bowcock, VP, Global Communications, Dolby

“For me, currently, at Dolby, our PR function actually sits in the marketing organization. I report into the chief marketing officer. I have a quasi dotted line into the rest of the executive leadership team. When I first joined, I was wondering what the heck I was going to do in a marketing organization. I’ve always worked for the CEO and I spent my first few months wondering how we were going to show value and just really fit in. I’ve since come to learn is that it really doesn’t matter where you sit within the organization. Quite frankly, I have just as much access to the CEO as the CMO. Wherever you sit in the organization, you can still show the value.

“With my current company, PR was traditionally the press release machine of the company. When I first joined someone asked me to put together a report for how many press releases we issued that year. Fundamentally, I personally knew the answer, but I wouldn’t do it. That’s not really the way to measure PR. We started going to meetings we didn’t normally go to. I wiggled my way into the Earnings meeting which I believe is messaging at its finest and now I sit between the CEO and CFO to craft messaging. If your company isn’t already doing doing that, it’s something you should proactively implement.”

Different Paths to Convergence

Regardless of whether PR and communications is currently a part of your marketing organization, or whether your measurement is currently aligned, it remains fundamentally clear that marketing and communications teams that make efforts to align across channels, measure effectively within the marketing mix, and build a culture that works across functions is a recipe for success.