Integrated Marketing CommunicationsRaise your hand if you have a hard time keeping up with all of the marketing buzzwords and trends bombarding us on a daily basis?

I read an article last week that, no lie, needed a glossary at the top just to read the 800 or so words.

If you need a glossary to read an article, it uses too many buzzwords.

No wonder we’re all overwhelmed with the new social networks, strategies, and shiny tools constantly buzzing around us.

How can you tell the passing trends from those with long-term potential?

How do you know if a buzzword is just, well, a buzzword?

When is it time to combine your strategies?

What’s the right time for your marketing strategy to meet with your PR strategy, and when does social media come into the conversation?

The first question doesn’t always have a clear answer, but the other two?

Well, that’s easy.

Integrated Marketing Communications

This is where an integrated marketing communications strategy comes into play.

This is not a new concept.

Integrated marketing communications has been around since the last 90s and early 00s, when a lot of organizations were looking for ways to break down internal silos.

When we entered the recession and unemployment skyrocketed, silos were unfortunately re-created within organizations.  

People wanted to protect their jobs, so communication began to break down between departments.

Fortunately, we began to break down those silos, but we may not be doing it fast enough.

As the great scholar Ferris Bueller says,

Life moves pretty fast.

In this case, news and crisis move pretty fast, which is why it’s more crucial than ever to embrace integrated marketing communications.

Think about this: When your social media manager sees a customer service complaint come through on Twitter, are they equipped to handle it because there’s transparency between your departments or will they flounder as they try to get a hold of the right person in the right department?

Every person in your organization should feel empowered and educated about your communications strategy.

When there are silos within an organization, communication breaks down, bottlenecks occur, and worse, miscommunications can create public relations crises.

Ask the Right Questions

An effective integrated marketing communications plan will ask and answer these questions:

  • What does success look like? How will you measure the return-on-investment?
  • Who is going to be managing the strategy and execution? How are the roles defined within your teams?
  • How is your internal team communicating with one another? What’s your process for checking in and escalation if there is an issue?
  • Why should people care about what you’re saying? Are you creating thoughtful and useful content? How are you interacting with your customers and influencers online?
  • Is your messaging cohesive? Are you distributing an email campaign without amplifying it on social media? Does your direct marketing campaign include URLs to your landing page? Is there an email newsletter sign-up form on your blog? Are you using the same keywords for SEO, SEM, and marketing content development?

Integrated Marketing Communications in Action

Let’s take social media, as an example.

From customer service to public relations, all the way up to your c-Suite, social media belongs to everyone, which is the perfect example of how crucial integrated marketing communications is to your company.

  • The PR team should use it for reputation management, brand awareness, and to manage an issue before it becomes a crisis.
  • The marketing team should use it for customer acquisition.
  • The sales team should use it to network with new prospects.
  • The executive team should use it for thought leadership and credibility. According to American Family Insurance CEO, Jack Salzwedel, social media is “a part of the job” for CEOs.

Don’t Get Left Behind in Your Silos

Crisis communication, customer service, media relations all used to have clearly defined silos where strategy and procedure were filed away in locked drawers—only to be dusted off when necessary.

Now, with the speed of social media, a crisis can erupt online in 20 minutes, and your social media managers are yielding customer service questions, and media relations are no longer grandfathered in with the same journalists writing the same beat for a decade.

The value of integrated marketing communications is more important now than it ever has been.

There are countless examples of crisis situations which could’ve been handled properly if brands were better prepared.

If you haven’t moved toward creating an integrated marketing communications strategy within your organization, you’re already lightyears behind.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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