Hotwire Blog

09 May, 2007

The battle for the empty chair

Hotwire's seminar last week, The Battle for the Empty Chair, provoked a lively debate with the help of two great speakers in Gareth Jones from Marketing and Derek Owen from NEC. We were discussing the future of marketing and who will be the owner of the marketing strategy in this age of digital media. Rather than a being a land grab between marketing and communications the consensus was that these departments need to adopt a much more integrated approach to working together. Nothing new there then you might say.

Do we need to acquire and learn new skills to adapt to the growth in digital media? Yes. Do we need separate departments to focus on digital media? Probably not (worth noting at this point that there was broad scepticism of agencies who have attempted to ride the digital media wave by doing this).

In fact, while the way we deliver the message may be different via a blog or a podcast, the essence - in terms of the message - must fit within a broader and integrated marketing communications strategy. Some of you will no doubt remember how this same debate kicked off 10 years ago when everyone was asking whether we needed separate online teams to cope with the Internet.

More then anything, what I took away from the debate is that we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes, we need to get a proper grip on digital so that we can respond to the changing media diets of our customers, but we need to approach these new channels in the same way we do others. Working towards an overall strategy and with clear objectives and measurement, and then choosing the tactics and media channels that will best support these.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying put the brakes on digital media. In fact, I would say that many businesses, particularly in the B2B arena, are missing a trick by not exploiting digital media more that they are. I just feel we are in danger of fetishising digital media as a new channel, at the expense of the bigger picture of understanding and influencing our customers.

Is there room for calculated experimentation? Absolutely! Without experimentation our approach to public relations and marketing won’t evolve. But just as in science where experimentation is followed by rigorous assessment, so it should in our industries. Only by doing this will learn and move forward.


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