Behind enemy lines

man_in_suit_ready_for_combatThe title of this post is very much tongue in cheek, although if you believe some of the headlines and analyst opinions doing the rounds, CIOs everywhere are apparently at war with their marketing and PR colleagues.

There is no such war, of course, but there are some tensions between the two functions as I discussed in my article CIOs: CMOs do not want your job. The growth of digital marketing, the increasing importance of the (online) customer experience and the use of analytics to understand customer behaviour is leading to a rise in the technology budgets of marketing departments. And this is changing the relationship between CIOs and CMOs. Whilst this may be creating some tensions and frustrations, references to wars, fights and other such hostile terms are both wide of the mark and unhelpful.

But back to the title of this post: for the second time in six months I attended a marketing/PR event this week. This time it was the Public Relations Show run by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Not surprisingly subjects such as social media, big data and mobile were covered by a number of the speakers and it was useful to hear what the other side are saying about these areas and to hear about the challenges they are facing.

I have three key takeaways for CIOs from my time in enemy territory; firstly the marketing/PR and IT communities actually have quite a lot in common. At the digital marketing conference I attended earlier in the year there were references to marketing departments not keeping pace with digital, data and customer expectations, and CMOs being excluded from discussions about the wider business strategy. At this week’s PR Show the challenge of being able to explain the value of what PR teams do was discussed, as was the need for them to talk the ‘language of the boardroom’. This will all sound very familiar to CIOs and IT functions.

My second takeaway is something I have written about before. In Engage, engage, engage, I advised CIOs to go marketing/PR events as it will help them understand what is going on in those areas, the challenges facing CMOs and what they need from IT. It also provides useful background knowledge about the marketing and PR fields in general. And the events themselves are different; they have a different feel to them and a different demographic. What better way to understand the challenges facing your key stakeholders than to attend the conferences and events that they attend? By immersing themselves in the language, challenges and issues of other business disciplines, CIOs will gain valuable insights that will help them work with their counterparts in these functions.

My third and final takeaway comes courtesy of a presentation by Peter Sigrist, Managing Director of 33Digital, on the subject of maximising the mobile reach of PR messages. Sigrist talked about the concept of affordances with regard to communicating PR messages about a product or service to its target audience. Affordances are what the product or service does for the customer, the benefits or advantages it gives them and/or what they can use it for. Like CMOs, CIOs are often challenged to focus on the value of what they do, and to talk in terms that are relevant to the rest of the business instead of using technical jargon. By focusing on the affordances of a device, service or solution rather than describing its technical details and specifications, CIOs are likely to find it a lot easier getting their message across. It will also help them demonstrate that they are a more rounded business leader and not just a techie.

Marketing and IT are not at war, or at least they should not be. To survive the digital revolution that is sweeping through organisations across every sector, and society in general, organisations need their CIO and CMO to work together. And the starting point for a good working relationship is for both parties to understand one another. From my time behind enemy lines it is clear that marketing and IT can learn a lot from each other and, if they can develop a model for working collaboratively, they can be quite a force in the digital business.

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