Hot Scotch: A family affair

There once were two single departments.

A little more than a quarter century ago, there were two separate departments: public relations and marketing. The departments functioned and acted separately, both coexisting on behalf of the organization.

It used to be that the marketing department’s job was to generate sales among the targeted audience(s), and the purpose of the public relations department was to build lasting relationships for the organization among many different groups.  There was often a “love-hate relationship” between the two departments, but never a marriage of duties.

But one day, they were joined together.

Today many organizations marry the two functions into one department.  Some say globalization brought the two together; some say it was the change from traditional news sources to the internet and social media that forced the union. It might have even had something to do with the economy and organizations needing to downsize to stay afloat.

Regardless of the reason, we are seeing more and more public relations messages communicating marketing messages and vice versa. Like a married couple who will often start finishing each others sentences, sometimes it’s hard to tell which function is doing the talking: marketing or PR.

Content marketing is one way in which organizational marketing and public relations communications often are one and the same. Many of the tools marketers now use to attract more sales, such as news, ebooks, white papers, case studies, how-to guides, and podcasts, were once tools used solely by the public relations department.

Trouble on the home front.

Because marketing and PR are joined together and tools of both trades are shared, there is often a “turf war” between marketers and PR pros.  Like two divorcing parents, an organization’s website, social media accounts and blogs are the children caught up in an ugly custody battle.

I’m sure that some might say that bad marketing strategies actually causes more problems for public relations managers. And I’m sure that a lot of marketers blame public relations managers for their problems.

But every once in a while you come across a story that shows how marketing and PR can work together.

Hot Scotch: A family affair

According to several recent news sources, including CNN, it is predicted that the world’s supply of single malt scotch is dwindling.

I won’t pretend that I know anything about scotch, aside that my husband likes to drink it and it’s really expensive for those of us on beer budgets. So, if you’re wondering what makes scotch so scotch-y, I recommend you head over to Malt Madness.  This site has everything you’d ever want to know about scotch and other whisky and whiskey.

But, the fact that there is going to be a shortage on good, quality scotch wasn’t what made me consider this story.  Instead, I wondered who was responsible for generating this news?  Was it marketing or public relations?

After some investigating, and considering the CNN story that has everyone running to liquor stores today, I considered a third option.

Neither public relations nor marketing was the source.  Instead, it was their child who is telling this story.

The product of the marriage of PR and marketing.

Investor Relations, the bi-product of both public relations and marketing, integrates marketing strategies into communications dealing with investors and potential investors. Investor relations falls under the category of specialized public relations, and the very nature of this specialty requires a close working relationship with both marketing and public relations.

In the case of the scotch shortage story, investor relations was most likely responsible for disseminating the news.  And here’s why:

  1. The news focused on the investment value of scotch.
  2. Stephen Notman, quoted in the article, is “Scotland’s Ambassador to Whisky in China“.  Notman holds a degree in Politics and International Relations, but has assumed duties of marketing scotch to the public and investors in China, and does this by creating special public relations events.  If you’re confused as to whether Notman is a marketer, a PR manager or is in charge of investor relations, it’s difficult to say.
  3. The news article reads very much like a PR press release, generating more news for the industry’s public relations departments, but . . .
  4. Marketers of the scotch industry will surely benefit, too.  Surely sales of scotch will start to soar and prices will rise, especially for the really, really good stuff. This is also good news for investors. Whenever a shortage of a product is announced, there usually is a quick spike in sales of that product. And this is not a new phenomenon to the whisky or whiskey industry as a whole.

After carefully considering the news story and determining the source, I conclude that this story benefits the entire family: Marketing, PR and Investor Relations.

Sometimes it takes the children to show the parents how to get along.


As the economy grows more globally, and communications department relies more and more upon integrated and converged media, we will soon need a family tree to determine what department is related to each other and which departments will be a perfect match for each other.

Paige Hawin of PR Daily suggests that we might even see a new child come into the world with an integration of PR and international relations, or public affairs. The Stephen Notmans of the world are showing how that might happen sooner than expected.

I expect that we’ll  be seeing a lot more stories like the scotch shortage one.  And, I see more family squabbles over which department gets more control over which forms of communications.

But if we end up with successful integration of communications, such as the scotch shortage story, then we’ll all benefit.

What do you think?

All respectful and constructive dialogue is welcome and needed.









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