The latest chapter in the ongoing dialogue about whether or not to integrate marketing and public relations featured head-to-head confrontation between its proponents on both sides.
The panel, comprised of Larissa A. Grunig, Ph.D., Thomas L. Harris, Fellow PRSA, Mitch Kozikowski, Fellow PRSA, and Betsy Ann Plank, Fellow PRSA, was clearly divided on the issue. Grunig and Plank expressed opposition to integrated marketing communications (IMC). Harris and Kozikowski made a case for integrating the two disciplines.
Harris led off the discussion claiming that "the increasing acceptance of IMC is good news for public relations" because it shows "PR has at last won a well-deserved place at the marketing table." He cited a 1993 Golin/Harris study where two-thirds of marketing directors and brand managers surveyed said PR "is as important or more important than advertising in building brand awareness." Eight of 10 surveyed also believe public relations is more important than advertising in building brand credibility. "IMC isn't about subsuming non-marketing PR functions," says Harris. "It's about speaking with one voice to the consumer."
Grunig took exception, noting her longstanding opposition to "the integration of all communications functions." Grunig, an academic, says "the organization is best served when those functions remain distinct and coordinated, yet not integrated."
As to academic curricula, Grunig cited a study supporting IMC as a part of existing PR courses, rather than as a separate curriculum. However, both Grunig and Plank gave thumbs-up to IMC studies at the graduate level. Plank says that graduate study seems the appropriate place for IMC, "particularly for the professional who wishes to invest in advanced studies."
Kozikowski, however, sees IMC offering "significant new career opportunities for public relations professionals." He cited a recent survey of 66 heads of corporate communications that says "PR people can and should lead the integration process." Public relations, he says, should not be an isolated function and "should become proprietors of the IMC process."
Panelists agreed, however, that the IMC dialogue has "called attention to important issues facing our field." However, it's dear that a schism still exists between those who believe public relations should never be subsumed by marketing functions, and those who think a marriage of the disciplines is not just a trend but a harbinger of the future.