CMO Council explores the remit of earned media – and strained relations between marketing and comms

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have forced a change in some respects, but a new report from the CMO Council makes it clear: marketing and comms are still too adversarial, and more media cohesion is needed.

In its report ‘Bridging the Gap for Comms and Marketing’, the council, alongside Cision, surveyed more than 150 brand leaders, as well as conducting interviews with executives from Schneider Electric, IBM, Nokia, and more.

Ultimately, marketing and comms don’t really understand each other’s roles – but one area they do agree on is that earned media is still not performing to its potential.

But there is a caveat. 81% of those polled said the change in global business climate due to the pandemic has led to definite rise in earned media efforts and importance. “More than ever, marketing and comms teams need to be aligned to ensure messaging is consistent across paid, owned – and especially earned media.”

Nearly every survey respondent agreed marketing and comms were moderately or strongly aligned as it relates to earned, owned and paid media output. The CMO needs to keep a watchful eye on all media channels, and ensure consistent themes and messaging get out.

Earned media is under the remit of comms, while owned and paid media is controlled by marketing. As a result, responses to questions around goals, resources, and media channel effectiveness garnered different results.

This can be down to the age-old adage around the battle between comms and marketing. “Comms and marketing teams are often adversaries battling for budget and respect,” the report noted. “Earned media under comms wasn’t deemed as important as paid and owned media under marketing, yet earned media has recently been able to prove otherwise.”

When it came to forging a better relationship between the two departments, many frustrations remain. More than half of marketing respondents (55%) cited functional silos as a top challenge in aligning marketing and comms, while different KPIs (41%) and issues with reporting lines (41%) were also cited.

For comms, the issue was much more stark: budget. As marketing has much more influence on revenue, their department tends to be nearer in line to the cash pot. The report noted how this aligned with another issue: marketing’s top metrics were sales leads and revenue contribution, whereas comms cared most about awareness.

The pandemic has forced organisations’ hands in some cases. Paid media, according to many respondents, was put on ice. Advertisements pushing products were ‘tone deaf’, as Kevin Briody, VP of global marketing at the Center for Creative Leadership, put it. Owned media, such as webinars and virtual events, nearly tripled as a result.

The report explored how greater cohesion can be forged between comms and media. Maggie Lower, CMO at Cision, explained how the model of using separate strategies from separate teams to provide KPIs needs to be rethought.

“In order for marketing and comms to achieve true integration we must first attain collaboration within the one constant both teams can agree upon: data,” wrote Lower. “Both teams need to treat data as the single source of truth and have someone with the skills to interpret that data as it relates to specific KPIs in order to understand progress.”

You can read the executive summary of the report here (email required).

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