Richard Edelman says it's time to drop the term "marketing communications" in favor of "communications marketing" to correctly reflect PR's role as full partner with the marketing department.

richard edelmanBy reversing two commonly used terms, PR would illustrate its movement beyond credibility to becoming the change agent, the CEO of the No. 1 independent firm told the Arthur Page Society on Sept. 21 during his induction into the group's Hall of Fame.

Edelman followed the footsteps of his father, Dan, who was elected to Page's Hall 17 years ago. He called Dan "my best friend and mentor."

CM's Guiding Principles

Edelman talked of the rapidly shifting PR environment, where image-driven marketing is giving way to a laser-like focus on long-term relationships.

Three core principles drive CM. They are "evolve, promote and protect."

Evolve is to "enable serious change inside the enterprise or to introduce a product that is a discontinuous large step forward."

The PR person's job is to "help fellow executives lead the organization, not manage perceptions," explained Edelman.

Promote is grounded in PR's "storytelling heritage." Edelman said it's not restricted to campaigns—like advertising—but rather designed to create movements.

The communications marketer is "alive 24/7 with content and immersive experiences that are true to life and add value to relationships."

Edelman pointed to client General Electric as an example of a company with a robust media shop, producing GE Reports, Technologist Blog and Ecoimagination sites.

Protect goes beyond crisis management. "We need to hold the organization to its promises where it matters most, on issues as diverse as human rights, tax and product safety," said Edelman.

Since globalization and transparency are permanent game changers, Edelman said brands can no longer try to suppress or divert bad news.

"PR now must be publicly accountable and aim to prevent problems, not solely repair them."

Communicators and marketers are inextricable linked. "Communications must operate with the rigor and analytics of marketing and marketing must operate with the storytelling mindset and marketplace reality of ideas," according to Edelman.

CM, to Edelman, is a "powerful way to re-imagine the opportunity staring us in the face."