This is a subject that I struggled with, deeply, for about a year or two after I graduated from Kent State. You smile. Okay, I was naive. At the time, I believed back then that PR was its own entity in an organization, offering sage advice, leading the way during times of crisis and waving the corporate/organization logo on a flag during the good times.
After graduating with a BS in PR and entering the working world, I learned over and over again — in both the non-profit world (Red Cross & a church headquarters) and corporate: Dart, Kraft, Hasbro & Rubbermaid — that PR is viewed a subset of marketing.
Maybe not in the books. Or in college classrooms. But in real life.
There are PR professionals who disagree — check out Bill Sledzik’s ToughSledding and many of the 32 comments at Geoff Livingston’s Buzz Bin. I got “egged on” with the recent posts about this subject. Check out these links, but watch out — the comments get heated!
I see PR under marketing from the direct report standpoint: For example, when have you seen a Director of Marketing reporting to a VP of PR? or VP of Advertising? or VP of Promotions? Once in a while I see the PR function report in to the VP of Corporate Communications, who is probably responsible for the financial analysts relationships, SEC announcements and annual report. Or the PR person may report to the VP of Human Resources if they are doing employee and community communications like videos, events and newsletters. But almost of the time, PR is reporting to the VP of Marketing with the main goal to provide the 3rd leg to the 3 legged stool of PR, Advertising and Promotion.
I also see PR under the marketing budget. For example, not an hour ago I received an email about an upcoming AAF meeting with a panel of major Cleveland marketing executives consisting of:
- Judy Abelman of Avery Dennison
- Peter Baka of Lincoln Electric
- Rob Horton of ICI Paints
- Tom Leibhardt of Moen
- Rob Spademan of Cleveland State University
They will be answering questions about marketing topics such as: “How is your marketing budget allocated on a percentage basis? (e.g. advertising, PR, direct marketing, promotions, research, collateral, events, etc.)”
So, at the risk annoying some, my vote today: Marketing leads, PR follows. Just my opinion.
(Sorry Bill, if you don’t want me to come be a guest speaker at your class anymore, I’ll understand. But I really wish that someone had told me this when I was in school and I was believing everything that Ralph Darrow was telling us.)