That’s a broken model.
“Communications marketing” vs. "marketing
communications,” as we see it, marks a return to
more substantive storytelling. And it favors holistic
thinkers who have a PR mindset, an approach that’s
social by design and an intense focus on measurable
This approach – “communications marketing” – is more
than semantics. It stresses relevant, substantive
storytelling, stakeholder engagement, trust and, above
all, shared value for customers, organizations and
shareholders. It does not favor classic advertising or
Now, when you combine the quantitative/financial view
of the marketplace and my more qualitative/
philosophical view, I hope you will see the huge
opportunity for PR agencies like Edelman. By carefully
expanding “into the suburbs,” if you will, by picking our
spots, we will not only expand the remit of PR but also
create new career options for your students.
So what does “communications marketing” look like in
action? At its core it is about becoming what we call a
“living brand.” This requires that brands/corporations
be purposeful in how they act, be attuned to multiple
voices and stakeholders and be participatory and social
by design rather than as an afterthought.
A great example is Starbucks, our client. They have
a clear brand platform/purpose, a continuous
connection with key customers/stakeholders, an
emphasis on powerful storytelling at the core and a
belief in personal, human, trusted communications
that’s social by design. They neatly stitch all of
these activities together and think, act and then
The recent move by Starbucks to subsidize their
baristas’ college tuition costs is just the latest example
of this ethos at work. It starts with the CEO but is
pulled through the domain of the CMO and the CCO.
So, given this, what is the role of the PR agency? In
my mind, it’s simple. We lead with communications
to evolve, promote and protect both brands and
reputations. This is the natural evolution of the PR
agency and it’s the framework for everything
we’re doing as a company, and arguably, as an
Here’s what I mean by that:
We help position and transform companies
like GE, Starbucks, eBay, Pepsi, Unilever and
We help launch products for Samsung,
Kellogg’s, SC Johnson and Activision. We create
demand, spark conversations, generate visibility, drive
retail traffic and trigger purchase.
Finally, we engage in the intellectually
challenging work required to manage crises in real
time, as we did with Penn State and more recently in
Malaysia with MH370. We help to repair sentiment as
we’ve done for PayPal and HP, and we help clients
navigate reputational attacks like those facing
Chevron and Walmart.
To be sure, media relations and community
engagement remain core capabilities our clients want.
However, in this era of blurred lines – between
marketing and communications, between CCO and
CMO, between paid and earned – we aren’t standing
still. We are folding it under a more holistic view as we
expand into the ‘burbs.
That’s an update on “what’s now” – themes that
emerged since we last convened.
Now let’s turn our attention to more of what’s next. I
promised earlier I would assign homework. Here we go.
As you listen and participate in the sessions here at the
Academic Summit, I’d like you to begin thinking about
three ways we can continue our partnership as we
evolve from “marketing communications” to
“communications marketing.” We need you to:
Encourage new kinds of talent to enter the
In the last year, Edelman added over 1,700
people worldwide. Many of these certainly are
classically trained PR professionals who are deep
experts in industry sectors, practices and various
However, we also added lots of people who have
never worked in PR – some of whom you’ll meet
They include people like Adam Hirsch, who is an
expert in emerging technology and was once the
COO of Mashable; our new global head of paid
media, Chris Paul, who joined from Publicis’ Vivaki;
Tyler Gray, who came from
to run our
creative newsroom in New York, and our new head
of global strategy, Glenn Engler, who was president
at Digitas, the largest global digital agency.
Within Edelman, there’s now a growing sense of
urgency to onboard all kinds of specialists who are