European Association of Communications Directors (EACD)

At the European Association of Communications Directors’ Conference in Brussels last week there was frequent reference to a development, probably more prominent in the US, which is the integration of the marketing and corporate communications/affairs functions.

Historically corporate communications has concerned itself with traditional ‘corporate’ stakeholder and marketing has focused on the consumer of customer.  However the lines between ‘corporate’ and consumer audiences has blurred over recent years and they are now more inter-connected than they were.

This means that the corporate communications/affairs function needs a much stronger knowledge and awareness of consumers, their opinion, mood and expectations, and how to engage with them on all manner of issues and programmes.

This has significant impact on the relationship with marketing, which normally ‘owns’ consumer research, insight and data.  And which tends to have more sophisticated data analytics capability.  There is a strong case for more holistic stakeholder research programmes, which implies greater integration and at very least, cooperation between the two functions.  Research for instance that would generate a broader and deeper understanding of the external landscape (media, government, regulators, politicians, consumer groups, other opinion formers) and the way in which it shapes consumer/customer perceptions, brand loyalty and, ultimately, purchasing decisions.

This represents an opportunity for corporate affairs to make its business case for a slice of the marketing research budget, since this arguably corporate affairs’ domain. However the function will have to look at strengthening its strategy and planning and data analytics capability, an area where it has been notoriously weak.  In conjunction with this it needs to improve its ability to demonstrate RoI, something that marketing has been doing for many years.

What is beyond doubt is that there is clearly a growing need for a much higher level of cooperation and coordination with marketing when planning and delivering integrated reputation and brand building campaigns, because of the audience overlap, particularly those campaigns with a large social media component.  And inevitably this is likely over time to lead to greater integration of the two functions, and there can only be one leader of the function.

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