Blurred Lines: The De-Silo-ing of Marketing

The traditional definition of a silo is a structure or space used to store grain or other fodder. Its main function is to separate and isolate. When it comes to farming, it’s a pretty useful idea. How and why marketing—the business of communications—ended up adopting a structure of isolation is a bit of a mystery, though. As it turns out, marketing is filled with silos. Between marketing and the rest of an organization. Between traditional marketing and online marketing. Between strategists and specialists. Between specialties.

The list goes on and on.

Of course, some separation is necessary in business and in life. As marketing moves full speed ahead into a world of real-time communication with audiences across channels, though, these silos will slow marketing departments down and ultimately leave them in the past.  Certain divisions in marketing teams make sense, but the question on most forward-thinking marketers’ minds is, “Which ones will be helpful to progress and which ones will be hurtful?”

Traditional Marketing is Not Dead It is Going Through a Rebirth

When thinking about the future of marketing, it’s easy to focus on the impact of expected digital transformation. That’s fitting given that the rapid growth of digital technology will likely affect every aspect of our future lives. This may sound like a death knell for traditional marketing, suggesting that the simple elimination of traditional marketing strategies, teams, and specialists is the solution to adapting to the future. This is not the case.

As marketing departments adapt to the changes referenced above, the first breakdown that will need to occur is the strong barrier between traditional marketing and digital marketing. Before digital took over marketing efforts, it was relegated to its own island and thought of as a niche specialty. The scale is now tipping in the opposite direction. Rather than replicating past mistakes, though, this time around we have the opportunity to bring these skills together. After all, although digital and traditional marketing each take different skills they have the same end goal of spreading a brand message. The main difference being that instead of communicating exclusively through traditional channels, we’re now amplifying brand messages in a digital world.

Nonetheless, traditional channels are very far from extinction. Television, print, and even radio can still play a role depending on your audience. The key to utilizing these channels is to take a fresh approach and view them holistically. For example, if your audience views your television advertisement, they should know immediately how to find you online, and when they do, your digital message should blend cohesively with your television advertisement.

The only way to effectively accomplish this is to take down the walls between traditional and digital specialists and allow them to strategize and work together.

PR & Social: Two Sides of the Same Coin

So, just as divisions between traditional and digital marketing are dissolving, so too are silos breaking down between positions and specialties. Whether it’s for reasons of efficiency or simple common sense, the functions of many specialists are transforming and merging.

A primary example of this are the merging roles of public relations and social media. Not only are these different specialty areas, they also reside on the respective sides of traditional marketing and digital marketing. In the insightful Moz blog The Marketing Department of the Future, author Samuel Scott speaks to his own difficulties working with divided PR and social media departments. Telling the story of one specific company he worked with on a media blitz campaign, Scott wrote “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.”

While I won’t go into all of Scott’s proposed solutions to this dilemma, they all basically come down to one idea–that the PR team should have incorporated social handles and social strategy into their own strategy. Because the PR team did not do this, the success on television and in print did not translate to social success and there was a huge missed opportunity to continue communicating with an audience whose attention they had already captured.

If this doesn’t highlight the ways that marketers need to work together between specialties and across boundaries of traditional and digital media, then I don’t know what will.

Specialties Folding Into Each Other Across Departments

The mixing of PR and social is just one example of the marketing department adjustments that are coming down the pipeline. Modern marketing simply relies too much on consistent messages across dozens of platforms and channels for specialists to be functioning in independent silos anymore. Successful marketing will require a blend of online and offline communications across specialties.

Of course, no functions or specialties will truly die, they will just be redistributed amongst specialists in a more efficient way.

Social Media

The first of the specialties to get a makeover will be social media. It is true that social is big and getting bigger. Still, once the hype dies down social media will be understood as what it truly is—just another communication channel. In fact, Forbes predicted that there would not be any social media specialists in a few years.

Content Marketing

Similar to social media, content marketing isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s going to be everywhere. Once it’s more fully realized that content marketing is marketing, the role of ‘content marketing specialist’ will be about as redundant as ‘marketing marketing specialist’.

The reason content marketing seems new and unique now is because we marketers got lost in the ability to spam our audience with television, radio, print, direct mail, and digital advertisements until it simply became ineffective. Reverting back to content marketing—a strategic view that has actually long been considered the standard of marketing—is necessary to be effective. The more common the practice of true content marketing becomes, though, the more it’ll be understood that it’s not a specialty, it’s just good marketing.


Google is becoming smarter, we all know that. This means that basic SEO and link building tactics simply will not work on their own. These capabilities will be folded into content, PR, or web development roles, depending on the respective skills necessary.

General Marketing

Overall, marketers are expected to take on the responsibility for end-to-end customer service, according to The Economist. Thanks to the constant accessibility of brands through platforms like social media, consumers are expecting more from brands and marketers will be the ones to answer this need. This will require marketers to regularly collaborate with all different areas of an organization.

These are just a few of the popular specialties that will see a rebirth of their own.

Staying Ahead of the Future

Instead of waiting for the standard of the marketing department to shift and then trying to catch up, you can be a paradigm shifter in your own organization. Advancements are coming sooner than many realize, and it’s never too early to begin restructuring your own marketing department for success. After all, the structure of your team will dictate how it functions. Get away from flat, divided structures; they will keep your efforts flat and your communication limited. Think in terms of creation, strategy, communication, and execution rather than specific channels. By grouping your marketing team according to general skills and collaborating accordingly, you’ll find your team functioning at higher capacity and delivering on needs with agility.


Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog How to Close Your Marketing Skills Gap to find out which skills you should look for in marketers as your craft your own marketing department of the future.


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One Comment

  • Buenas!! he estado investigando asi como unas 3 horas
    en la red hoy y no he llegado a ver nada tan fantastico como tu
    escrito. Me ha impresionado mucho la manera que tienes al escribir y
    que es lo que me ha llegado. En mi humilde opinion, si muchos
    de los redactores usaran tan buenos contenidos, Internet seria mucho mas practico.
    Espero que ofrezcas mas de esta manera y siga bebiendo relatos de la calidad de este.

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