How to Create an Integrated Communications Platform

21st December 2017

When referring to an integrated communications strategy, we’re talking about a strategy centred around the principle that a brand’s communications should be linked across all platforms and mediums. This philosophy advocates that rather than sending mixed messages, brands communicate harmoniously and holistically across all channels.

The idea of ‘integrated marketing communications’ isn’t a new one. In fact, it has been around since the 1980s but with the surge of new communication methods over the past 10 years or so, it’s a concept that warrants some fresh thinking behind it.

So what exactly could an integrated communications strategy do for your business?

  • Boost awareness - spreading your message across multiple channels can lead to maximum reach and coverage
  • Save time & money - resources can be used more wisely in an integrated campaign, e.g. working with one communications agency vs many different agencies, having one full day photoshoot vs multiple smaller photoshoots
  • Reduce stress - when the people in charge of each platform are all working collaboratively, there’s less stress involved in coming up with new ideas and less likelihood of a communications crisis

All in all, these benefits can help to set a business miles ahead of the competition. When they deliver unified cross-channel messaging, a brand can really cut through the noise and make more of an impact. This is especially true in a world where we’re bombarded with hundreds of different marketing messages every day.

Despite the numerous perks of integrated communications and the fact that the concept has been around for over 30 years, many marketers either don’t fully understand it or don’t practice it, according to Steve Olenski.

According to Pickton and Broderick, the authors of ‘Integrated Marketing Communications’, there are 4Cs to consider when it comes to determining an integrated communications strategy:

  • Coherence - are different communications connected in a way that makes sense?
  • Consistency - are current messages ‘on brand’?
  • Continuity - are communications phased logically over a given time period?
  • Complementary - do multiple messages cooperate well with each other?

So how have brands successfully executed an integrated communications strategy? Here are two of our favourite examples to allow you to get a feel for how it works in practice:

Example 1: Transfarency

  • Brand: Southwest Airlines
  • Message: No hidden fees
  • Website: Dedicated microsite breaking down the hidden costs people would incur booking with competing airlines, a ‘fee or fake’ quiz to help educate the market & more
  • Social Media: #FeesDontFly hashtag, encouraging members of the public to share their own tips for avoiding unnecessary extra fees
  • PR: Positioning the brand as likeable and honest, at a time when corporate transparency is a hot topic in the media

Example 2: Small Business Saturday

  • Brand: American Express
  • Message: Shop Small
  • Website: Dedicated website explaining the many ways different types of people could get involved with the initiative
  • Social Media: Encouraging conversation and building brand awareness through the hashtag #SmallBizSatUk
  • PR: Successfully blurred the lines between advertising and PR, giving the public themselves the tools & motivation to creating a ‘movement’ and behind the event that has now been going on for 5 years

So how could you leverage 3 of today’s key channels in tandem to launch your own integrated communications efforts?

Website

  • Create a dedicated campaign microsite
  • Populate microsite with content that reinforces your message
  • Give people the resources they need to become brand advocates
  • Use website to build an email list for future communication via email marketing

Social Media

  • Drive traffic back to campaign microsite with relevant social content
  • Encourage social conversation by creating a campaign-specific hashtag
  • Incorporate social sharing buttons on the website to encourage people to share via social channels
  • Launch an employee advocacy programme to leverage staff members’ personal social networks

PR

  • Leverage the press to spread messages in print and online publications
  • Recruit online influencers/bloggers to rally behind your campaign and act as brand ambassadors who embody your message and share it with their audiences
  • Host an experiential event which allows people to truly ‘experience’ your message for themselves in the offline world

For businesses new to integrated communications, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to make sure your new strategy can be executed smoothly.

  • Strong internal and external communication systems and processes are necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page
  • Increased collaboration and cooperation between departments is required and this often means that a culture and mindset shift is required
  • Clear brand guidelines need to be established and adhered to
  • Getting senior buy-in and leadership is key to make sure everyone gets behind the new strategy

It’s clear that it implementing integrated communications for the first time will require time, resources and organisational change, but if there’s one thing we’re sure of it’s that the hard work pays off and can place your company miles ahead of your competitors.

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Does your business have an integrated communications strategy? Tweet us @DMA_Partners and let us know your thoughts. If you’re looking to establish an integrated communications strategy, please contact our Managing Partner, Philip Martin, to discover how we can help: philip.martin@dma-partners.com.

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