Gini Dietrich

Integrated Marketing Communications for Every Sized Organization

By: Gini Dietrich | July 16, 2013 | 

Integrated Marketing Communications for Every Sized OrganizationBy Gini Dietrich

I’m sure you see or hear this a lot: Traditional PR is dead! Media relations is dead! Websites are dead! Marketing is dead! Advertising is dead! Newspapers are dead!

Granted, sometimes those things are written to motivate people to click on a link, but all of the customary ways of communication are far from dead. Instead, we find it’s necessary to integrate the things that are “dead” with digital public relations.

Integrated marketing communications isn’t new. In the late 90s and early 00s, lots of organizations were finding ways to break down internal silos and inspire departments to work together. Dell asked WPP to consolidate all of its agencies under one roof and you saw traditional ad agencies bringing in PR, PR agencies bringing in graphic designers, and web firms finding ways to work with PR and advertising.

Integration vs. Silos

Then, of course, the tech bubble burst, 9/11 enveloped the world, and the United States faced the Great Recession. Because of that and our unemployment rate skyrocketing, people wanted to protect their jobs. They went back to what they knew and, in most cases, re-created silos inside organizations.

But here we are, facing a world where technology comes at us so quickly now, it’s impossible to keep up, and if we don’t figure out – quickly – how to integrate and work with other departments, we’ll be left behind.

Think about it this way: It used to be you’d have a crisis communication plan written and it would stay in a drawer until your PR team pulled it out the following year, dusted it off, and gave it a good rewrite. Now a crisis can erupt online in about 20 minutes if you have one angry employee or customer.

Customer service used to be kept to the people in the cube farms who answered the phones all day. Now the PR or marketing professionals are managing customer service and experience through the social networks.

And media relations meant you built relationships with journalists who stayed in the same job for years and years and years. Now influencers are bloggers, customers with large Twitter followings, or employees who have highly engaged online friends.

Integrated Marketing Communications

The value of integrated marketing communications and of departments working together cohesively is more important now than it ever has been in our history.

Following are five tips to integrate your efforts with those in other departments.

  1. Lobby your senior executives to make total integration part of the incentive program for every employee. One of the things Geoff Livingston and I talk about in Marketing in the Round is how to do that efficiently and effectively.
  2. Develop an internal team – made up of one person from every department – to lead the charge and to be sure everyone knows what the other is doing. If your organization is small, it’s easier to do this, but don’t think you don’t have silos. When you have more than three people working together, silos exist.
  3. Customer service and HR (if they’re not already) will begin to use the social networks to connect with the people PR professionals have been building relationships with for the past few years. These are the people who work with your organization: They buy from you, they support you, or they work with you. It’s imperative these people have different touchpoints within the organization. Help them help you.
  4. Work with your colleagues on all facets of the organization’s growth. No longer can product development launch something without marketing and marketing can’t do a promotion or event without customer service.
  5. Create a system for complete transparency so people move out of their comfort boxes and are willing to work together, instead of in their silos.

In some ways, this is change management and, in others, you’re going to be asking senior leadership to do something out of the norm.

It’s easy to say, “Oh. I’m in PR. I don’t need to do this.” But someone needs to do it and, as communicators, it’s our jobs to make sure customers and employees are getting what they need.

Why not lead this charge, as well?

P.S. We’re just a little more than a week away from our free webinar with email marketing genius, DJ Waldow. Join us on Thursday, July 25 at 11 a.m. CT. Register by clicking here.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Everything is DEAD!!!!

    • belllindsay You are dead!

      • ginidietrich belllindsay I can see Gini’s 2013 reading material coming through in her blogging 😉

      • ginidietrich belllindsay Integrate or die!

      • ginidietrich “I’m not dead yet!!” Monty Python

        • belllindsay ginidietrich “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.” Princess Bride

        • jasonkonopinski belllindsay INCONCEIVABLE!

  • Great post, Gini.

  • I used to work in government, and as you can imagine silos were a massive problem there. Having seen a worst-case scenario, I’ve worked in every position since then to build bridges with other departments as much as possible. Not only do communication people not think it’s “their job” to help integration, but employees who aren’t managers often seem to think there’s nothing they can do to improve the situation. It simply isn’t true! You can change things, one relationship at a time.

    • Kato42 Being in government would make me suicidal. More power to you! I love your perspective, though. I totally agree you can change things. All of us can.

      • ginidietrich Yep. There’s a reason I moved on 🙂

      • ginidietrich Kato42 Hesitating about saying this b/c it may sound pollyanna, but Gini I wouldn’t count government out as something that could only lead to suicidal ideations (and I have been at a quasi governmental agency for 19 years). While it is true there are layers and layers (and layers) of stuff to cut through more often than not, there’s also the advantage of people who are there for a different set of motivators than is sometimes the case in the for-profit world. What many governmental organizations need is someone willing to say “put away the manuals, the policies, and every single one of our CYA attitudes and let’s see what we are really here for, what we can do.” Again, I know it’s rare but I still have hope.

        • biggreenpen Allow me to rephrase…*my* personality would not work in that environment.

  • What I have found is with virtual offices this is even harder. No matter how much I beat the drum of coordination I still see things happen that missed opportunities for more impact. 
    ‘If you had told me about that trade show I just got photos from I could of supported your presence BEFORE the show with your social channels’
    ‘Hey who is now posting to your dormant Pinterest account. You spammed your Twitter feed with 29 photos within 3 mins. Did you know you were doing that’
    ‘Wow glad you got that TV coverage 2 months back. I found the video doing my normal Google search of your brand to see what comes up. Did you think maybe to share on facebook…2 months ago?’
    This stuff happens more because:
    1] out of site out of mind
    2] I work in this silo it is all I care about
    It really takes a senior person to act like a cat herder. And we know how hard cats are to herd.

    • Howie Goldfarb I think it’s a culture thing. I don’t have to herd my cats. We do a very good job of keeping one another updated. Partly because I’m cognizant about it and partly because it’s in our culture.

      • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb And partly because I enjoy texting Gini at 9:00 pm! LOL

        • belllindsay Howie Goldfarb Whatever. You’re asleep by 9 p.m.

        • ginidietrich belllindsay wait I thought it was the Arment Dietrich company shock collars that keep people communicating. My guess is the bigger and more complex the company the harder communication is period.

        • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb Hmmm. Point Gini. Ok, it’s cause I enjoy texting you at 4:30 am CT!!!

        • belllindsay Howie Goldfarb THAT is true.

  • Funny how obvious this is since I live it every day, but then I see it in “print” and think, wow, that’s so true. 
    “Now the PR or marketing professionals are managing customer service and experience through the social networks.”

    • Word Ninja Social is forcing us to integrate. Customer service no longer belongs just to those people with customer service in their titles.

      • ginidietrich Absolutely. When I started my current job in marcom, social media manager wasn’t even a real position let alone listed in my job description, but when I started the organization’s FB  in 2008 then Twitter in 2009, my role changed quickly.

  • Great post Gini and I agree with the message here and in your book regarding working together and integration is so much more efficient and important than working in silos. And as much as I appreciate the tips I have always struggled with “Lobbying the senior executives”. To me that one is the easiest said than done. Having last worked in a crown corporation where senior executives had really old school thinking,even lobbying for the littlest initiative seemed like the equivalent of trying to move mountains… and in most cases our teams were unsuccessful and frustrated as a result.

    • LSSocialEngage In cases like that, perhaps the lobbying is of your boss and then their boss and then their boss and so on. Like Kato42 said below, we can make a difference, if we think about it one person at a time.

      • ginidietrich LSSocialEngage That’s how I survived working for the government. In that environment, I found that all you can really control are your own actions and relationship-building. And if you can find someone higher-up who is like-minded, and build a solid working relationship with them, you may start to win a few battles too 🙂

        • Kato42 ginidietrich LSSocialEngage You are right. That was my attitude while working for a very similar organization (not entirely govt. but close – crown corp). Wins are achievable with like-minded and forward thinking work folks, it was the old school thinkers that were the powers that be where it was almost impossible to win. We had projects where we spent millions literally on research and the up above would reject all those findings and insights and do what they had been doing for years. But yes one little win at a time – and it is bound to compound and ripple like RegisDudley mentions below.

      • RegisDudley

        ginidietrich LSSocialEngage Kato42 I love this. Even changing one person’s thinking is a win and could have ripple effects throughout an organization.

      • ginidietrich LSSocialEngage Kato42 Yes for sure. And that is an easier hierarchy, it the other layers – internal clients and sales with sometimes very short sighted bonus and incentive structures that become the bottlenecks. But one person at a time and baby steps is a great way of thinking about it.

  • Barry Cohen

    “Every Sized” or “Every Size”?

  • Well put, Gini. Getting rid of those silos (or at least putting wide doorways in) is the biggest imperative. 
    We have to keep communicating that collaboration and internal transparency isn’t a loss of control, or inviting more supervision.

    • OneJillian I love “putting wide doorways in”! What a great descriptor. I’m stealing it.

      • ginidietrich have at it! perhaps an upcoming post can talk about easy collaborations that can open a business internally to relaxing their silos?

  • Regarding #1: “Lobby your senior executives to make total integration part of the incentive program for every employee.” Yes. Show me how people behave and I’ll show you how they’re paid. Yet time after time you see leaders exhorting their people to do one thing when the financial incentives reward the opposite thing.

    • RobBiesenbach It’s so true. It’s hard to change.

      • ginidietrich RobBiesenbach OMG Rob this is part of my bashing of the ‘Social Business’ BS being shilled. That your already underpaid and unappreciated workers should also be tweeting and facebooking with customers the glory of the company they work for. 
        This stuff works when people feel it is a career and they have financial as well as emotional buy in to the company. But when ‘its just a job’ it won’t happen. 
        And yes upper management has to lead. I always hated that ‘Monkey See….but Dont Do What You See do what i tell you to’

  • Great post as always, Gini. This got me thinking more about my undergraduate degree, which was in PR. But PR was a focus in the school of communication at Missouri State University. So, if I wasn’t taking PR classes, I was taking classes like theory, persuasion, and rhetoric. Does Public relations fit best with those communication classes or should it have been complimented with advertising or marketing classes? 
    Integrated Communications has so many arms these days and I think a lot about how it can best be taught at universities. Have you ever thought about teaching a night class in the future?

    • Matt_Cerms I do a little guest teaching for friends who teach, but my core strength is not teaching. To give up my evenings, even just one a week, isn’t something I’m excited to do.

      • ginidietrich I can understand that. You are quite the busy person, so I get wanting to breathe sometimes! Sorry if I got on a tangent with my post — just got me thinking about my past.

  • Hi  ginidietrich great read! This is my first comment on Spin Sucks but I’ve been reading…just wanted to offer another tip & consideration that might catalyze integration efforts: A disadvantage of IMC is the difficulty of managing varied professional training experiences. 
    To aide in this “skills merger” it could be useful to create a private blog or shared document for co-workers to share their experiences, personal tips, and preferred methods. This way, the task of setting up IMC can be supported by the whole team. Additionally, this place becomes a resource and forum for co-workers to Q/A with each other and make lasting contributions for new hires. 
    And now a question: What do you feel is the most vital PR skill that you’d hope non-PR practitioners would absorb as a result of integration efforts? 
    Thanks again for an insightful read Gini.

    • Jesse Aaron I like the skills merger idea you pose, Jesse. I was just reading about how IBM does this by creating a Facebook-like network internally where they not only can connect with one another, but keep things as flat as possible. Sounds like it works in some of the largest organizations.
      The most vital PR skill? Hmmmm…you know, because of the way things can erupt online today and become a crisis almost immediately, I’d like to see everyone be able to react in real-time, without being defensive and understanding how every word they type can either hurt or harm the organization. 
      Applebee’s comes to mind. During their most recent crisis, I can’t help but think if the person behind their Facebook avatar had had a cooler head, most of what happened wouldn’t have seen the day of light.

      • ginidietrich Definitely. The Applebee’s meltdown will be hard to forget, and I agree; immediate social media reactions means crisis management training is incredibly important. Nice answer!

  • One of my favorite reads in awhile…I’m such a huge fan of teamwork and collaboration, so I appreciated this post. And leadership has to “lead the way” and not tolerate the kingdom-building silo mentality.

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  • CommProSuzi

    Okay, after reviewing your graphic, it appears that I’ve been working with a misunderstood definition of “Content.”  My understanding was “Content” referred to all the Owned Media, e.g. social media platforms, blogs.  What am I missing?

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