Hutton: The lines have blurred and PR should challenge creative


The global head of Edelman’s international consumer marketing practice Michelle Hutton has urged the Australian public relations industry to challenge other disciplines and help lead the marketing space.

Giving the keynote address of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) national conference, the recently promoted Hutton told the audience that it was time for PR to challenge areas such as creative and digital, and become a full partner with marketing, noting: “the solution to every problem is not a new advertising campaign”.

“What is abundantly clear is that the lines have blurred and these brilliant ideas can come from anywhere: ad agencies, digital shops, media buyers and PR firms,” said Hutton.

“A great story will win if it is brought to life through powerful creative, with immersive, live and virtual experiences and by leverage the full force of earned, owned and paid media.”

Hutton argued that rather than thinking about traditional marketing communications a new paradigm was needed where public relations played more of a leadership role.

“I see communications moving into an even more mission critical role,” she said. “I want to challenge you to think about our responsibilities in a new way. This will require a melding of marketing and communications, grounded in data driven insights and taking risk with ideas.

“Marketing can no longer do it alone. The solution to every problem is not a new advertising campaign. We need real solutions to solve real problems. Inspired by communications thinking.

“We need to start by shifting our language from marketing communication to using a new paradigm – communications marketing.”

Hutton, who moves to London in January to take up the role of global chair of the Edelman’s consumer marketing practice, said that PR had an advantage in that it was focused on relationships and had the ability to generate strong ideas and creative work.

“Communications must be a full partner with marketing beyond just building credibility but becoming the change agent. The simple act of reversing two commonly used words reflects a new environment where classic image driven marketing is giving way to a new focus on long term relationships.

“Our new responsibility to challenge communications marketing will only happen with superb creative work – work that is integrated, brave and has a real purpose at its core.”

She spoke about her own agency which has recently made a number of senior hires out of traditional creative and digital agencies and said many people saw the opportunity in public relations.

“What is most interesting is that talent with these skills want to join a public relations agency and I daresay they see that we are the now not just the future, they see the value in communications marketing and how businesses need it and how businesses are using it,” she said.

“They are tried of selling TVCs that continue not to work.”

Nic Christensen


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