A Brand Communications class I attend at university always touches upon interesting and vital aspects of public relations. Yesterday, we spoke about social media and have briefly touched upon integrated communications. In today’s communications world it seems like a must. But why? What is it and why is it so important? In this post, I’d like to explore this concept a little bit more in depth.
The term “integrated communications” can be defined in a number of (quite complicated) ways. However, I think it is quite a clear and straightforward idea. According to MMC learning, “Integrated Marketing Communications is a simple concept. It ensures that all forms of communications and messages are carefully linked together.” Essentially, it means that the most successful communication efforts are those that reach out to people in a variety of ways, on a variety of platforms. In modern world, communications could not be successful if we relied just on the fact that out product is good. It’s not enough to say the right message about it either. What’s important, is how we say it and how we ensure our message reaches appropriate people (Jonah Berger’s “Contagious” is a fascinating source of information on this particular concept).
That’s precisely why I belive integrated communications is important for today’s communications realm. This particular practice helps PR practitioners ensure that all relevant channels are utilised and therefore – that their message has more chance of reaching relevant people on more than 1 platform.
However… is that it? Is integrated communications just about being able to reach out to people in a “multi-channel” way? According to an article by S. Bidlake (2006) for Marketing Magazine – not really.
“Everybody’s talking about it, but very few are doing it. Most companies that think they have integrated marketing are merely engaged in multi-channel communication.” Since people tend to look for specific answers to specific questions, often on specific platforms, the idea of getting a message out there on all available channels seems obsolete. “It’s not mass, but segmented, media now.” (Shar VanBoskirk in Bidlake, 2006).
Therefore, there are two substantial points explaining what integrated communications really is about. Firstly, it is a cross-channel effort to reach out towards a significant amount of relevant audience representatives. Secondly, it is the seeming segmentation of media and channels of communication, where each message is tailored according to the platform used.
I think this particular practice in communications is becoming more and more common nowadays, to the point of probably going to be indispensible soon. It defintely brings out a set of values and benefits that cannot be overlooked. These are the 4 main ones that I believe will help understand the importance of integrated communications.
- Integrated communications helps maintain an ongoing, healthy, 2-way relationship with the audience. By reaching out to a certain group of people with a tailored message adjusted to each platform, the audience is unlikely to dismiss the message on the grounds of it being generic. Integration ensures personalisation (at least, to some extent).
- It helps build brand/corporate identity. By adding character and tone to the conversation, a brand or a company aims to personalise itself in the eyes of the audience. When sending a clear, consistent, engaging message – we build identity and public image amongst our audiences and customers.
- Integrated communications ensures more tailored communication. Simple. When adjusting the message to the right people and to the right platforms, we eliminate the quality of it being generic. In the era of all-encompassing personalisation, it’s a must!
- Integrated communications is is consumer centric. It therefore puts the people first and makes sure they see messages that actually speak to them.
Before exploring integrated communications in depth, my idea of it was quite shallow and simple. I thought it was a straightforward and uncomplicated multi-channel approach, when in fact there is much more to it. Nowadays, it seems, this particular aspect of communications is growing rapidly to become one of the most important aspects that NEED to be utilised when aiming for success. Quite rightly, it brings great results and pushes the profession to new levels as well.
Header image: HERE
Bidlake, S. (2006).Targeted Communication: Integrated marketing is not simply multi-channel. Available from: http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/593061/targeted-communication-integrated-marketing-not-simplymulti-channel
London School of Marketing. The importance of integrated marketing communications in branding. Available from: http://www.londonschoolofmarketing.com/blog/the-importance-of-integrated-marketing-communications-in-branding