By: Kevin Coulson
“None of us are as strong as all of us.” I know that’s not really how the saying goes, but on the topic of integrated marketing communications, that’s how it is.
Definitions for integrated marketing communication vary, but let’s go with the American Marketing Association’s: Integrated marketing communications refers to “a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time.” A little esoteric, but the core concept is very simple. Communication with your target audiences should have the same look, tone and message of your brand. Consistency is key.
Competition among brands is stiff, and both existing and potential customers are inundated with more decision-making fodder than ever. But according to the Consumer Insights Survey presented by the Annual MyBuys/e-tailing group in June 2011, while 72 percent of consumers want integrated marketing communications, only 39 percent felt they got it. That’s a gap of 46 percent! The inference, then, is almost half of consumers are not getting the integrated communications they want. So how can you improve that?
Let’s focus on consistency. Think about all of your communications, including advertising, collateral, public relations, websites, social media, staff and more. If a consumer saw your ad, visited your website or opened your direct mail, would they know it was your company?
I like that the AMA says this is a planning process. Too often companies create flyers, buy ads and post on Facebook with no consistent message. Without a plan, it’s a dangerous shot in the dark. Taking time to develop an integrated marketing communications plan, and then sticking to it, is crucial to getting a leg up on the competition. Here’s how.
Step 1. Research. Gather all of your marketing communications, from ads to uniforms, in one place to determine how close (or far) you are to full integration. Don’t be afraid. You need to uncover issues to address them.
Step 2: Plan. Look at your company’s strategic plan. Make sure your communications are in line with business goals. Be honest in developing your key messages; focus on the consumer and keep messages clear, consistent and brief.
Step 3: Implement. Put your plan into action. This requires discipline, but otherwise, your planning was for not.
Step 4: Evaluate. Your plan should have specific, measurable, timed goals; review these quarterly. That’s not to say you should change your message every three months, but quite the contrary. Just make sure you can adjust the sails in a timely manner.
You don’t have to go it alone. There are a number of online resources, and our area has a wealth of brilliant communications professionals. A unified message across all your marketing channels is exponentially stronger than one-off, piecemeal communication. It’s not easy to integrate marketing communications, but it’s well worth it.
Kevin Coulson, director of marketing and business development at Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., has worked in communications for more than six years and is the host of a public affairs radio show on 93.7 K-Country and Wind-FM 92.5, 95.5 and 107.9. He is the programs director for the Gainesville Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association. Find him online at twitter.com/kevincoulson or linkedin.com/in/kevinacoulson.