Why the future of communications is integrated

For communicators who are out to prove their impact on the bottom line, being able to work in concert across multiple channels is a crucial ability.


Picture this. You’re the communications director for a company that has separate teams for PR/communications (your team), marketing, social media and digital advertising. While there’s a lot of crossover between the work these teams are doing, there’s no real alignment.

When the advertising team plans a campaign, they might come to the communications team for messaging support, but not every time. When the digital advertising team is ready to launch a new paid campaign, they might come to marketing to see if that team is running similar campaigns on other channels, but not always.

Does this sound like an effective process? Not even close.

With so much crossover between PR, marketing, social media and digital today, you might think it’s crazy that teams can continue to operate in such silos. But while we’ve made a lot of progress on the integration of these teams and their respective work, the siloed approach still exists. In a recent survey by Intrado Digital Media and PRWeek, more than half of respondents said their brand’s marketing and PR departments still operate independently from one another, at least organizationally.

Read that again: more than half. We can, and must, do better.

What does ‘integrated’ mean?

To put it simply, integrated communications is aligning your messaging across all channels. While the specific tactics and delivery can (and likely will) look a bit different, the message is consistent—and that consistent messaging must ladder up to business goals (a topic for another time).

Along with consistent messaging, there are several other reasons why you need an integrated communications program, including creating a seamless user experience and building brand authority.

Embracing and committing to integrated communications across all respective teams means you’re delivering a consistent, clear and organized experience to the audience you’re trying to reach.

Think about the rule of seven, which says the prospective buyer must hear or see the marketing message at least seven times before they purchase. But if your prospective buyer is seeing seven different messages on different channels, will that persuade them to buy? Not likely.

It’s going to confuse the heck out of them and cause them to ignore your brand.

Integrated comms at work

Here’s what integrated comms could look like:

The digital advertising team starts running a paid campaign to promote a product enhancement. It’s not a major change to the product, and it’s really only relevant for a specific set of your company’s audience. So ,someone in charge made the call that digital advertising was the best option because of the ability to carefully target a specific subset of your audience.

But wait…had other teams been clued in, the advertising team would have realized there were other opportunities. There are niche influencers and media who would love to know about this and help spread the word about the product enhancement. There’s an opportunity to refresh existing content with this update, and a renewed reason to share that content again on social channels. This is great content for the company’s social media advocacy program.

This example shows that without embracing the integrated communications model, you’re missing out on opportunities to maximize each and every business initiative.

The best graphic representation of integrated communications is the PESO model, created by Gini Dietrich and her Spin Sucks team. PESO stands for paid, earned, shared and owned. You can see from the graphic how the tactics in each bucket are unique, yet they’re all related. That sweet spot in the middle when paid, earned, shared and owned are working together beautifully is where integrated communications lives. It’s what breeds reputation, credibility, trust, thought leadership and authority.

When PR, marketing, social media and digital (the list can go on to include event planning, internal communications, etc.) teams work in harmonious unison, that’s when the true magic happens. And by “magic,” I mean real results that help your business grow and succeed.

Nikki Little is the vice president of strategy at Franco.



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