Integrated Communications: Showing One Face, Telling One Story, Reaching Many Prospects
New technologies, along with globalization and innovation have forced marketers to change their mentality about how, when and where to communicate with customers and prospects. Add to that the proliferation of available communications channels and it is easy to understand why more and more companies are realizing they must communicate to their target audiences with one face and one story line in order to be successful. Enter integrated communications.
While there is no exact formula for creating an integrated communications campaign, there are ten steps businesses can take to get started, maximize campaign effectiveness and help ensure success:
- Before embarking on a campaign, businesses need to ensure that they have a strong strategic foundation. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies need to view communications as a strategic imperative for high performance and growth. With that, business leaders need to set the stage for the importance of communications with a clear roadmap, including mission, statement of purpose and objectives.
- Make sure to have the right set of tools and establish success goals. Develop a toolkit that will guide the planning and creative efforts of your internal team and external partners. Develop a “who, what and how” model and mapping tool that defines the messages and experiences you want to create. Also, establishing clear success goals at the beginning of your campaign will help determine those components that worked and those that didn’t. This will help in fine-tuning current programs and developing future campaigns.
- Many businesses select external partners (agencies/consultants) to assist in the planning and execution of the integrated marketing campaign. When selecting an external partner, it is important to choose one that aligns with the goals and purpose of your brand, and has the capabilities necessary to carry out your objectives.
- Once you have internal leadership support and internal and external teams in place, you’ll want to establish a clear understanding of who your target audience is. This is key. Identify your target audience and understand who they are both demographically and psychographically (e.g. their attitudes, interests and behaviors.) This information will help you in developing key messages and determining the best communications channels for reaching them.
- Once you identify who you want to communicate to, the next step is to determine how. Understand the channels your customers use as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each channel, and how these channels will help meet business objectives. While there are so many different channels available, most communicators would agree that it is better to focus on those channels that are most effective in reaching your audience than trying to be everywhere.
- Maintain a consistent look and feel to all communications. Everything should look like it comes from the same company so that a person reading your e-newsletter or issue brief, for example, will experience an immediate visual connection when visiting your website.
- Create “multi-purpose” content that is clear, consistent and compelling. While first impressions are important, it usually takes several impressions for someone to recognize a brand or specific marketing message. Also, each piece of content should be created in a way that can be repurposed in as many places as possible. For example, a case study can be included in a newsletter; posted on LinkedIn; tweeted as a series of informational shorts; and pitched to target trade publications.
- Integrate your messaging. Each element of your marketing communications campaign should be set up to drive traffic to an ultimate target, whether it is a website or a social media network such as Facebook or Twitter. Also, be sure to use the same keywords and phrases throughout your integrated campaign.
- Make sure internal and external communications teams are synchronized. As one marketer notes, if you have multiple members of a team working on disparate prospects within the same integrated campaign, hold regular meetings/discussions to ensure that all members are on the same page, all messages are consistent and brand standards are managed appropriately throughout.
- Track results. The most important component of an integrated communications campaign is putting the proper analytics and attribution methods in place to track how you are achieving conversions and results.
Integrated communications will contribute greatly to retaining current customers and acquiring new ones. It also will prove to be a cost-efficient and effective way to contribute to your business’ success.