The Staying Power of Integrated Marketing Communications

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

In the early 2000s, the buzz phrase in marketing was integrated marketing communications (IMC). Industry professionals were continually talking about how marketing efforts needed to be “integrated,” similar to how marketers talk about digital marketing today. As each industry evolves, new disciplines emerge within the field and all the focus goes to what is new and exciting. Constant innovation is necessary, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about the principles and tactics that lead us to the latest trend.

There are several aspects of marketing and communications. Each element provides a specific purpose and drive value in different ways. When all of the elements are linked, powerful results follow. As marketing leaders, it is critical we build teams that represent various types of marketing and communications, and that helps each team member integrate their efforts to ensure seamless execution of the marketing strategy. After all, we need to meet our customers where they are, and they are generally spread out over many different channels. Therefore, our messaging and branding needs to be consistent.

How do marcomm departments create integrated campaigns? The answer to this question may vary depending on budget and talent. However, marketers are used to wearing many hats and can likely handle juggling several elements of marcomm. Below is an outline of the various types of marcomm tactics you should consider including in your strategic marketing plan and then you can build your team around your plan.

Strategic Planning
Everything should start with a strategy. You need to have a well thought out plan to accomplish a comprehensive plan that is integrated. Strategic planning is likely done by a more senior level person that has a deep understanding of the target audiences, marketing tactics, channels, public relations, and is knowledgeable about the inner workings of the business.

Social Media
The power of social media, when done well, is undeniable. Therefore, it needs to play a significant role in your marketing strategy. Being successful at social media requires time both in the term of longevity, but also in terms of resources. Creating engaging, useful, meaningful, and consistent content takes time and should include a budget to execute it effectively. The team member that manages your social channels should be creative, analytical, and be willing to stay up on the ever changing landscape.

While email has lost its buzz, it is still extremely effective channel when done well. The key is to understand your customers and what they want and be able to convey that in a concise and catchy way. Email marketing should be about quality over quantity. Just think about the numerous emails you get every day, the companies you hear from daily, likely don’t get your attention because you constantly feel like you are being sold something. Whereas, great email marketing is purposeful, keeps the subject lines short and grabs your attention. Furthermore, email marketing requires someone with a strategic mind that understands can plan well into the future, how to drive people to take action, determine when to clean up the list, know about privacy laws, how to segment customers, and dive into the analytics.

Paid Advertising
Many companies allocate funds to paid advertising, some still engage in traditional media, while others are all in on social, and then there are some that do both. Executing paid media campaigns requires a great deal of planning, budgeting, analytics, and the ability to stay up-to-date on the latest offers.

Public Relations
Utilizing public relations (PR) to help tell your story is a great way to build credibility with consumers since they are hear the news from a third party. Additionally, if you have done the other aspects listed above well, this will be another way the consumer hears the message, but likely in a different way. PR people need to be strong writers, fact finders, creative, relationship builders and tenacious as they work to come up with new angles as they pitch story ideas to various news outlets.  

Likely everything you do will point back to your website. It is your storefront and it needs to run efficiently and convert. The site should be well designed, load quickly, easy to navigate, able to capture data, and much more. People that manage the website need to be in tune with emerging trends, have a good eye for design, analytical, and patient as they work through a/b testing. Further, they must be knowledgeable about SEO and proficient in technical development.

All websites need content since content is king. It is critical that new content is created regularly and that it is useful to the consumer. Much like PR content specialists need to be creative storytellers that find new perspectives, but that also have an understanding about SEO and how to weave identified keywords into the copy to help with Google’s performance, but also drive conversions.

Corporate social responsibility is no longer just a nice thing to do. Customers are demanding that companies give back in meaningful, authentic ways. Selecting the right organizations to partner with requires strategic thought to ensure alignment. Additionally, it is a balancing act to do things for non-profits and work to ensure your consumers understand your efforts without it coming off as though you only did it for the recognition. Therefore, you need a savvy person that can navigate how to position your mission to help others, while sharing your efforts.  

Internal Communications
Marketers work so hard to get everything out to the public, that sometimes they inadvertently forget to tell the employees of the organization about their efforts, which is a big miss. The employees can act as ambassadors and help amplify your efforts within their network. Additionally, they will likely have a sense of pride when they know about the promotions, which increases morale.  Must like PR and content your internal communications specialist should be strong writers that have a knack for storytelling.

Once you have determined the types of marketing efforts you want to include in your plan, it becomes critical that you find a way to create synergy between each aspect. Below are some tips for creating and executing an integrated marketing plan.

  • Create an overarching strategy
  • Assign tasks based on strengths and interest
  • Create a marcomm calendar filled with tactics to help you plan, integrate efforts, and determine deadlines.
  • Weekly meetings to discuss projects
    • Discuss goals and common interests in projects
    • Identify overlap
    • Encourage sharing
    • Encourage collaboration
    • Encourage teamwork  
    • Share results
  • Have a point person to view the work product to ensure synergy, consistency and brand standards are followed.

There are additional resources you could consider adding to your team to help support your efforts, such as graphic design, videography/editing, website development and copywriting. Great design, effective storytelling through video, compelling copy, and strong website development support your desire to produce quality work that builds and maintains the brand. If you don’t have the budget, consider outsourcing these tasks.

Overall, IMC is here to stay. Your efforts are best served when they are strategic and all facets work together to reach your customers in a compelling and consistent manner.

How do you ensure you have an integrated marketing communications approach? Leave a comment below.

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