What is Integrated Marketing and Communications?

The term “Integrated Marketing and Communications” has become more prevalent in the last couple of years, with companies now using it in official job titles and agencies implementing it for their clients. I’ve been advocating an integrated approach to communications and marketing for more than fifteen years now, when I started leading programs on the client side and realized how inefficient it was to manage your communications and marketing separately. What does it mean though and why is it important?

What Is Integrated Marketing and Communications?
Integrated Marketing and Communications is really just making sure that the marketing and public relations programs you develop support each other and work across multiple channels. You start with a core concept or problem you’re trying to solve for and go from there. So, rather than say you want to create a TV ad to get more people to buy a product you’re launching, and then do a press release for the ad and a social media campaign for it, you say that you’re going to create a campaign with a central idea that drives it, and then develop different channel extensions of that single campaign.

Why Now?
As earned, owned and paid media channels have converged in the last decade with the growth of social media an organization’s key stakeholders now have the ability to learn about it in multiple ways without having to try that hard to seek out information. An article written by a reporter will be on social media instantly, before it’s published in print. A TV ad might be released on YouTube and show up on Facebook before airing in the 8:00 pm timeslot. Customer service may respond to a consumer complaint on your twitter feed, essentially opening up your standard operating procedures for the world to see. Now more than ever, consistency in messaging is critical and consistency in campaigns, across advertising, public relations, marketing and sales is essential, or you risk communicating disparate messages to your key audiences and not making the strongest impact possible.

It’s also a matter of resources. In a still challenged economy, with marketing budgets for most organizations that haven’t quite bounced back yet from the recession, it’s really important that you get the most bang for your buck. It doesn’t make sense economically to develop separate marketing and PR programs for separate channels. Rather, build one program that works really hard for you across all of your channels.

How To Make It Work
The most important step in developing an integrated marketing and communications program is making sure that everyone in your organization who touches marketing and PR is engaged early in the development of a program. As you’re concepting an idea, make sure that your social person is weighing in with what they would need to hit out of the park, while your PR person is telling you how to maximize it for media relations and your marketer is thinking about what they need for an email campaign and paid advertising.

With a 360 degree approach to marketing and communications that brings together all of your resources across earned, owned and paid media to drive an integrated program you are really maximizing your resources and ensuring the most consistent messaging and engagement with your key stakeholders.

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