Why the Fight Between Communications & Marketing Needs to End Now
Remember when you were a kid and you had endless arguments with your siblings about who hit whom first? In my case, with my sister, it always ended up with a hit and the endless stream of “now we’re even,” with no one wanting to give up the last word, and no one really remembering who delivered the first blow.
I feel the same way about the ongoing battle between communications and marketing over which is more valuable, who owns what, and whether the CCO (chief communications officer) should report to the CMO (chief marketing officer) or the other way around.
Our industry has changed dramatically since I started in communications more than 20 years ago. Then, a Venn diagram of communications and marketing would have shown little overlap. Once social media started, that overlap started to increase and I don’t think it will stop anytime soon. In the 80s, Northwestern professor and marketing guru Don E. Schultz declared integrated marketing communications the way of the future—and when I look at the way the world is going, I think all of us in the industry need to realize IMC is not just happening but has already happened.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Both marketing and communications disciplines are unfortunately considered by many in the boardroom to be “soft skills” and are sometimes marginalized or deemed less important than other disciplines—especially when compared to sales, operations, and finance. This is especially true in business-to-business marketing, but we face this challenge in many industries, nonprofits, and other institutions. At the end of the day, marketing and communications are a cost center and have to constantly show value.
The more we can work together, the more we can dispel this myth. Each side brings a lot of skills to the other that can make the individual practices better: Communications offers a broad view of the big picture and great words while marketing showcases the customer story and a stronger focus on measurement models (ROI and KPIs). As I progressed in my career—when I didn’t have both channels working together, telling the same story—I felt like I was swimming without using both arms and legs. You didn’t go nearly as far or as fast, and while you may still have been able to stay afloat, the end result wasn’t as compelling.
Time to Join Forces
In today’s marketplace, consumers are fickle and distracted. They are bombarded by messages, logos, and slogans—both in our physical space as well as in our virtual space.
As an industry, marketers and communicators don’t have time to fight against each other and argue over which channel is stronger or more strategic. We have to join forces. Ad agencies should begin adding communications teams, and communications firms should begin adding advertising. Recently, I have seen large corporations pulling together communications, marketing, and customer experience to center their operations around the customer. The industry needs more of this. I think it is time to bury the hatchet and start working together to be seen as the strategic business resource that we are. Marketing and communications are perhaps more important skills now than ever before—it’s time we stop squabbling and start leading.
Wendy Zajack is the faculty director and assistant professor of the practice at the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies for the Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications. Before joining academia, she had a 20-year corporate career working for large, global organizations building messaging for multiple audiences and using a variety of marketing channels. Now she brings her extensive experience into the classroom and helps her students explores new and innovative ways to market and communicate in an increasingly crowded business environment. You can follow her on Twitter at @wendyzajack.
Updated Monday, February 1st, 2021 at 11:19 AM EST
Georgetown University remains open and dedicated to excellence in providing key services to our community. All in-person courses continue through distance instruction. All staff and faculty who normally work at the 640 Massachusetts Ave NW campus are teleworking and are available virtually.