Interview Segments on Topic: Marketing/Advertising/Branding
Bill Margaritis is the executive VP of corporpate affairs at Hilton Worldwide. Previously, he was corporate vice president for global communications and investor relations for FedEx Corporation.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve talked about corporate culture. I wanted to find out from you, what is your role in shaping and reinforcing the corporate culture in FedEx?
MARGARITIS: I think corporate culture is arguably the most important asset that a company has. It is the connective tissue to reputation and brand. And if you have a strong culture, you will invariably have a strong reputation. The two are complementary and intertwined. Our philosophy is, you start inside before you can win outside. And particularly today in culture it’s so important because as businesses become more and more commoditized, and there is a race for intellectual capital—particularly because we’re dealing in free agent societies—people and workers are so mobile now. They’re not as loyal as they used to be. Employees can be either your best ally or advocate, or your worst enemy. All of these reasons--recruiting retention, discretionary effort, the ability to engage people and empower them to be your advocates over the Internet--to me demonstrate the fact that culture now is more important than it’s ever been. And if you can put that front and center as an executive—and we’re fortunate enough to do that here so it’s a real pleasure to work in a company that really shares this philosophy—corporate communications people can find immense opportunity to add value.
INTERVIEWER: Marketing communications, is that redefining the practice of public relations? Is there a line anymore? Or have they really been integrated?
MARGARITIS: Marketing communications certainly is a term that in my mind has changed dramatically. I think that there is certainly a fusion between the two disciplines, between marketing and corporate communications. That’s, I think, primarily because everything is now being adjudicated on one playing field. So all the stakeholders, customers, NGOs, politicians, they all can see everything. The channels are available to all of us now. The notion of controlling the message is no longer important. You’ve also got to look at workplace and marketplace more holistically. So the days are over of taking linear views of the customer through the marketing lines and all the budgets, and all the programs and all the channels that they avail themselves to versus corp. com. or PR who would look at the media or maybe employees and occasionally put out a fire and have its own budgets and consultants and channels. All that now has just converged. The two disciplines need to work collaboratively and in an integrated manner at the planning phase, to the execution phase, also in the analytics phase. And then find a way to optimize all of your resources, your channels, your budgets. Take a common view of all stake holders, looking at both offense and defense requirements of the corporation. So, there really should be an opt-in or opt-out. If the corporation is facing some adversarial situation, well that ought to be of as much interest to the marketing team as it is to the corporate communications team. Because clearly there’s a lot at stake there. So, I think we’re in a world where there is collaboration, integration, and a common view of the diagnostic tools and research; the positioning, the language. How we go to market. Paying joint attention to cultural activities, understanding that there is a distinct difference between brand and reputation—that the two are complementary. That it’s not an either/or. And recognizing as I said earlier that culture is at the heart of everything we do. So there is tremendous change in the world of marketing communications as you put it earlier.