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February 25, 2015

Posted by: Kevin Homer


The Marketing Department of the Future

This article was written by Samuel Scott, a digital marketing and communications consultant. The original article was posted by Moz, one of the SEO research and analytics tools we use to optimize our clients' search engine visibility. 


My first marketing job was in porn.


After leaving my journalism career and having studied marketing in an M.B.A. program in Boston, I moved to Israel some years ago to pursue a marcom career in the so-called "Startup Nation." My first job, however, turned out to be at a pornography website that broadcast live "shows" for $1 a minute.


Yeah, it's a little embarrassing. But I learned a lot – about what not to do.


Every day, I would write fake porn stories that would be stuffed with keywords and then published on an "independent" site with links to the main website. One day, I heard that Amy Fisher – the "Long Island Lolita" of the 1990s Joey Buttafuoco scandal – would be "performing" on the website. Finally, I thought, a chance to use my marketing knowledge! I outlined a few ideas on promotion and publicity – but the SEO director dismissed them with a wave of his hand.


"I'm sure the marketing department is handling that," he said. As I understood later, I was in the SEO department. I left that job quickly. (Actually, I was doing "black-hat SEO" – in other words, spam. Of course, real SEO – "white-hat SEO" – is something entirely different. But more on that below.)


Today, I recommend that anyone who wants to get started in real digital marketing should work for a company that sells a specific product to a specific audience. Porn, forex, and gambling websites – despite their lucrative potential salaries – are usually generic businesses that rarely differentiate themselves and instead rely on methods that try to "trick" Google. (Seriously, I just heard the other day about one company here doing what it called "black-hat PPC" to get around Google AdWords' restrictions on its industry.) And those tricks don't work anymore.


After leaving the porn website, I held various positions at global agencies before working now as a digital marketing and communications consultant. Today, based on the problems that I have seen and the fallacies that I have encountered, I wanted to propose a strategy to Mozzers on how marketing departments and agencies should structure themselves in light of the need to integrate traditional and Internet marketing today.


Don't Divide Traditional & Online Marketing


In large corporations and similar companies that have been in existence for decades, digital marketing is often added as a second parallel structure alongside the historical marketing activities. The incorrect assumption is that traditional and Internet marketing are entirely different things that need entirely separate approaches. My basic example:

Marketing Department Grouped by Types of Communication Channels


But such a structure can lead to major problems. 


At a prior agency, we had a client who hired us for both public relations and organic social media (in addition to paid social-media advertising and conversion-rate optimization). The goal of the PR team was to get coverage of the business and its executives in major, relevant publications. The goals of the Social Media team were to generate qualified sales leads and build a large Twitter following.


However, due to the flawed decision to separate PR and social media, the extremely-large number of good Twitter followers did not come despite the company's gaining of major coverage from outlets including Fox News, The New York Times, Forbes, Wired, and AdWeek.


Why? The PR team did not concern itself with social media, and the Social Media team did not think about public relations. There were many missed opportunities:


  • Press releases that were sent to reporters and influencers could have included the Twitter handle and links to the Twitter account
  • The PR team could have asked the Fox News' segment producers to include the company's Twitter handle on the bottom part of the screen when the program showed the CEO's name and business
  • PR could have advised the CEO to make sure that the company's Twitter handle was listed in the footer of presentation slides
  • The company's booths at global events could have showcased the Twitter hashtag

Now, it was not the PR team's fault – I can attest that they were intelligent, professional people. It was just not how the agency's operations were structured as a whole. The PR team did not think about anything relating to social media because it was the Social Media team's responsibility – and vice versa.


In a personal essay on my website, I explain how to get more good Twitter followers. First, use Followerwonk to find relevant journalists, bloggers, and influencers based on your target audience and strategic messaging and positioning. Then, incorporate Twitter naturally into your PR and publicity activities. There are no "tricks" to gaining large followings. The key to being big on social media is to become something big in the first place. The online and offline worlds reflect each other. (Rare viral cases such as "Alex From Target" are exceptions that prove the rule – "going viral" is too-rarely successful enough ever to be a solid strategy in and of itself.)


Don't Create Too Many Silos


In contrast to larger companies with long, vertical, and parallel structures, many small businesses and startups today are extremely horizontal and flat. According to 7Geese, companies such as Morning Star and Return Path have even taken it to an extreme by stating that "no one has a boss."


Here is another basic example of mine of how marketing departments in companies with flat philosophies are structured. Every single function is on the same level:

Marketing Department With a Flat Structure


I once walked into the office of the CMO of an Israeli tech company that was building numerous products in various sectors. I was there to explore a consulting opportunity. Each product had an overall product marketing manager, and there were numerous, separate teams on a flat level that would each do "PR," "SEO," "social media," and more for each product.


Here are a few excerpts of my conversion with the CMO:


Me: What is the function of the SEO team?

CMO: To get more links.

Me: But the PR team will get the links you need naturally.

CMO: The SEO team will buy the links that we want the most. It's just easier and faster that way.


And then:


Me: So, you've got a PR team to reach out to journalists and bloggers?

CMO: Yes.

Me: What if a writer is only reachable on Twitter – will the PR or Social Media team reach out to them?

CMO: (silence)


And then:


Me: What will the Social Media team do?

CMO: Spread the word about the company's products on social media.

Me: How will they do that by themselves without content and without essentially doing PR's job?

CMO: (silence)


I can hear countless Mozzers groaning while reading each quote! I did not take the consulting job – the CMO was committed to the old ways of thinking that do not work anymore, and I could not convince him otherwise.


How to Think About Marketing Functions


A Guide to PR & SEO Integration

Important note: I know that I just said NOT to separate traditional and online marketing. In context, this earlier step-by-step infographic on how to integrate SEO and PR separated the two because the use of the differentiation was the easiest way to explain the integration process – it was not a recommendation to divide the teams themselves.


In that essay, I explained the traditional marketing and communications process in this way:

A sender decides upon a message; the message is packaged into a piece of content; the content is transmitted via a desired channel; and the channel delivers the content to the receiver. Marketing is essentially sending a message that is packaged into a piece of content to a receiver via a channel. The rest is just details.


That same theoretical idea can be applied in an actionable way in terms of how to structure a marketing department, agency, or campaign. I describe the four-fold process as such: Strategy, Creative, Communications, and Audit.


In light of this idea, I argue that the operations of a marketing department should flow along these four lines and not divide traditional and digital channels because the Internet is just a set of new communications channels that can be used to execute overall marketing functions.


Here is a new flowchart that outlines this overall process:


How to Structure a Modern Marketing Department


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