I’m a PR who’s fascinated by and passionate about communications. And although a PR, I haven’t let myself get funnelled in my career. In fact my CV probably screams generalist. I might even have tried to hide it when I was considering seeking alternative employment rather than going solo. Because typically businesses don’t want generalists, they want specialists. They want to understand what their contribution is, what the headcount ROI is. Who can blame them.
The risk with that is twofold:
Failure to maximise tangibly effective outcomes. If you’re part of one of those amazing marketing team that works on the same campaigns, using the same data and to the same deadlines it’s likely that your campaigns are packing some serious punch.
If instead you’re in a team where you all do your own thing, in your own channels, on your own topics, aren’t you missing something? How does your target audience join the dots that will compel them to engage with your brand?
A status quo is allowed to establish; you become scared of disruption. If you’re all doing your own thing, what happens to the objectivity? Who plays devil’s advocate? Someone in ‘the team’ may have a great idea, or have heard about a new marketing trend, but they don’t know where to start introducing either because everyone else is just carrying on, on their own, business as usual.
Yet brands become household names because they (and their staff) disrupt the status quo - both in the ideas and campaigns they deliver, and in the techniques and channels they use to deliver it. These brands have marketing staff that work together or at least coordinate, even if they’re spread across different teams or even different offices.
The textbooks call the dot joining Integrated Marketing Communications. The industry nowadays calls it PESO.
With my marketing generalist hat on, I love the PESO model because if you want to, need to or just have capacity to, you can deliver all the layers not just one of them.
For the fast-paced world we live in today, uptake of the PESO model by marketers appears to be in slow burn mode. PR is at the centre of this long lead time. PR is also the most impacted by the application of PESO to marketing activities. Most other marketing functions stay the same because they’re already working large budgets and have to be very tangible in the outcomes they achieve. But PR is now required (not just desired) to be quantifiable too. And guess what, it’s expected to spend a little budget here and there as well (audible gasp).
That said, other marketers would be wise to welcome PRs into the fold a little here. Share your ideas and your learnings. Collaborate for the biggest and best results.
In case you’ve missed the conversation around this some refer to it as the PR vs SEO debate. Some even call it a war. Some recognise that the disruption goes beyond PR and more broadly affects responsibility for the marketing mix. Some, in the most senior industry positions, scarily think it’s only just happening now.
Whichever camp you’re in, if you’re a PR there’s no doubt (really there isn’t) that you need to adapt to the PESO model (though you really should have already done this by now). Ditch the pure PR mindset or forever hold your peace (and probably your P45).
If you didn’t follow that last link, I must give credit to Paul Sutton. Before he wrote that post, his typical twitter prowess had led me to that on-the-money visual of the PESO model from Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks. It sums up PESO beautifully. It is my everyday reference point - for me and my clients.
Take a moment to absorb that graphic. Whatever type of marketer you are (lead generation or retention or engagement, print or digital, CRM or content, PR or SEO), however your marketing team is organised (team or no team), it’s worth absorbing. If the PR guy in your team isn’t already trying to grab your ground (as you may first see it), they will be soon. If the PR guy is asking how you can collaborate more then bite his/her hand off and ask them if they know PESO. If the PR guy is just fretting that the SEO guy is grabbing the PR ground, then steer them towards PESO.
So the gist of all of this, as I see it, is threefold:
the whole marketing mix, not just PR, is subject to being disrupted
the opportunity lies with PRs who are prepared to put in the legwork and get up to speed with the other marketing functions
all marketing functions working together on a campaign will produce multi-layered multi-channel messages that will extend through more channels, reach more of your audience, reach more of them multiple times and in turn resonate more effectively in some smug-looking ROI
At the heart of achieving all this is data and content.
Data tells you stories about your business, trends within your customer base, your most and least powerful inventory, what’s hot right now and what might be hot next August.
Content is the vehicle for delivering those stories (in a consumer-friendly fashion) through that multi-channel campaign.
The power of content creation is in our hands. PRs have been creating content forever. SEOs have been getting better and better at creating it over the last 15 years (give or take a few either side). But the crux of this for PRs is that online coverage (the stuff that can be measured) is more valuable for most businesses nowadays than that Sunday paper double page spread you spent days securing. Valuable because it can deliver direct traffic to your business’s website. Valuable because a distinct metric can be applied to it and ROI gleaned.
So yes, PRs need to turn their focus to delivering online coverage, but they can make this even more effective if they switch their focus to content first. Content that demonstrates expertise and integrity; think endorsements, case studies, blogs, videos and webinars. In other words, generate a more impactful ‘sell in’ that is of interest to more than one publication, more than one channel, more than one audience. Don’t just think about journalists, think about bloggers, influencers and consumers. And think about reaching them through digital marketing (paid), editorial (earned), social media (shared), and content (owned) every time.
That is the opportunity for PR: take ownership of content creation, don’t rely on media to disseminate it for you and work with marketing colleagues to deliver aligned, multi-channel communications.
The PESO model should bring one and all together, each one’s work layering the others to deliver neatly integrated, well timed, on message campaigns that are measurable and capable of responding to (engaging with) consumer reactions (good or not so good).
So is it a good time to be a generalist?
It is if you know enough about all the various marketing functions and the value of the PESO model.
It is if you have experienced the effectiveness of multi-channel messaging and delivered projects cross-team.
Is it a good time to become a generalist?
I believe that anyone successfully directing a team working to PESO will prove how good a time it is.
I also believe that anyone (anyone willing and diligent) within a successful PESO-modelled team will learn more marketing insights and skills from their colleagues than from most career development training days. Teams living and breathing PESO should naturally encourage disruption and limit rut-sticking. Because when specialists collaborate they ask questions and they push boundaries. This encourages new ideas and testing, and results in learnings, both business and personal.
Marketers should be tackling PESO like the All Blacks approach a scrum - to put numbers on the board and be proud of the results time and time again.