Jul 8

A case for integrated communications

Integrated communicationsI studied business administration and marketing in college. Our business school was completely separate from the communications program, which held public relations and advertising, and the art program, which held graphic design. I think we had about a paragraph on public relations, briefly discussed advertising as a tactic and never once mentioned design principals.

I now work for a communications agency and almost always have a design project on my to-do list. I’ve also assisted on a fair number of advertising campaigns.

The problem is we often see these as separate disciplines. However, especially in an age of slashed marketing budgets and a surge in digital media, it’s become nearly impossible to think of them as independent of one another.

A truly sophisticated marketing strategy can be created when professionals from all disciplines get together and collaborate on how to best use the strengths of each to craft an impactful campaign. That’s because marketing goals need to have spot-on messaging, driven by engaging creative. And it needs to happen right from the get-go – not halfway through nor as an afterthought near the end of the process.

If I’m being truthful, barring the largest of firms, one person is usually responsible for marketing, advertising, public relations AND design. So when we teach up-and-coming professionals how to be a marketing, advertising, public relations or design professional, we often don’t prepare them for the real truth: it’s probably ALL going to fall on your shoulders.

At Sabo PR, we truly do specialize in communications – it’s the bread and butter of what we do. However, we understand the value and need of other disciplines in our industry and regularly work with folks from all sides of the house to achieve our clients’ goals.

We’ve also noticed the need to shift and expand our skillset over the years. When Mary Ann first opened shop nearly 17 years ago, she focused almost exclusively on media relations and crisis management. Over the years we’ve changed and adapted to include social media strategy and management, digital content creation, graphic design, marketing communications, photography and videography, etc. Investing in new skills and keeping abreast of how consumer information-gathering is changing has allowed us to offer a one-stop shop for many of our clients’ needs.

We also know when we’re getting over our skis and have to bring in partners who specialize in areas we don’t. As we work with other disciplines, we always keep a sharp eye on each element to ensure they speak with one voice, complementing and augmenting each other in the overall strategy.

Too often I see brands on various platforms, whether social media, in the news, in a print ad or a digital banner, and they seem so disjointed in what they are trying to tell me. When I see instances like this, my mind immediately wonders whom is talking to whom in their marketing efforts. As you work on your marketing strategy, consider these three things to help guide you in an integrated approach:

  1. Collaborate: As you begin strategizing, get everyone around the table right from the get-go to get everyone thinking with one voice. This will help ensure various tactics aren’t just an afterthought, ultimately bolstering each one’s effectiveness. Having a variety of backgrounds around the table will help facilitate healthy discussion as you seak to craft the most-effective approach.
  2. Think multi-channel: When you are working through messaging, consider how it will translate across all the channels you’re going to use. Can you use your key messages cohesively on your website, social media platforms, digital and traditional advertising? Consistency is key, and you must have all your messaging connect, reinforce and build on each other. In the political realm, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, or “Mayor Pete,” is doing some interesting things around an integrated approach. Mainly, he has no digital department. That’s because digital is just automatically built into every part of his efforts. I think this is a superb example of multi-channel thinking.
  3. Be thoughtful and planful: Overall, just take the time to think through your plan and not throw darts with a blindfold. This seems rudimentary, but often businesses may be tempted to try one random thing here or one random thing there and then question why they aren’t seeing the results they want. Strategically look at where to allocate resources, regularly review their effectiveness and adjust from there. You also have to remember that true brand resonance is a long game. It takes time to build a strong awareness, so stay the course.

So, I encourage all of us out there who are in some way responsible for the success of a brand to think beyond your particular discipline and learn how all the various tactics working in tandem create a truly wonderful result.


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