Day six and counting of gloomy, rainy, damp weather in Boston. It’s as if we swapped places with Seattle. The forecast calls for another 4 to 5 days of this muck, including the first official day of summer which is expected to top out at 64 degrees. The weather seems appropriate given the business climate over the past 10 months. Pessimism has worked its way in to our collective bones like a damp chill.
That is precisely why I believe there has never been a better time for marketing and communications experts (including PR) to rise and shine. I think the explosion of online publishing and advances in communications technology combine to create remarkable opportunities. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of HBS’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter: In a Recession, Put Everyone in Marketing.
From this marketer’s perspective this recession feels different. When the dot com bubble burst in 2001, companies swung the axe on a wide arc at M&C. I was a victim along with over a hundred talented colleagues at Genuity as were thousands of others across the country. The same was true in the late 1980s when the technology bubble collapsed under the weight of Wang and DEC. Pick your industry – finance, manufacturing, FMCG – in challenging economic times, M&C has always been a target of opportunity for right sizing the organization.
What’s different now?
- First of all, marketing and communications as a discipline is far more sophisticated and strategic than ever before. The lines between public relations, crisis communications, investor relations, and marketing are blurred. CMOs (or CMCOs as in my case) are concerned with and responsible for consistency of message across the board, which would be tough to achieve with an eviscerated marketing organization.
- Second, the marketing caste system is breaking down – the pecking order that flowed from strategic marketing to product marketing to marketing and communications (snarkily referred to as arts and crafts in one place I worked). Gone are the days when people only turned to us for logoed apparel. Today, content is king and the ability to communicate complex ideas is prized whether about a new product or service, a brand position, or an earnings report. Companies can ill afford to cut out their tongue in times like these.
- Third, and perhaps most importantly, authenticity and transparency are here to stay. Communications lies at the heart of transparency. Social media is driving this change at blinding speeds and CEOs are trying to catch up (see Risky Business by Weber Shandwick). M&C, by virtue of their ownership of the organization’s web presence, are the best informed and most fluent in social media, the most comfortable too. It suits our extroverted personalities and provides us with a direct connection to our customers and stakeholders. Even better, it gives us the opportunity to open a dialogue – formerly the sole territory of sales/customer service.
The confluence of these things has me feeling very optimistic for the future role of M&C, despite Fortune’s take on the importance of CMOs. People are searching for answers in the economic gloom and organizations seem more aware that silence is not the best strategy. I’m not alone in my optimism. PR Luminary Richard Edelman blogged about it as far back as December (Fight the Good Fight), where he rallied PR professionals to the fore saying, “This is a classic PR assignment; rebuilding credibility”.
So to all marketing and communications/public relations peers, let’s seize the moment to Rise and Shine. No matter the weather.