Integrated Marketing Communications and Strategic Focus

The Oxford Dictionary of Marketing defines Integrated Marketing as:

An approach that influences transactions between an organisation and its existing or potential customers, clients and other consumers connecting all marketing channels. Integrated marketing is more of a marketing management approach than a different type of marketing. The focus of integrated marketing is to ensure that all communications, the brand’s positioning, propositions, reputation development, brand personality and brand messages are delivered coherently and with impact across every channel. This means a holistic approach to marketing communication including PR and internal marketing. This is necessary because of the fragmentation and globalisation of media channels. It may also mean a move away from mass advertising to a more targeted approach where a similar message would repeat across channels.

To achieve integrated marketing communications you need strategic focus. That means:

  1. Measuring the effectiveness of marketing communications;
  2. The growth and increased visibility of the corporate identity, status and reputation;
  3. Corporate governance and ethical behaviour.

A strategic role of the brand is required given the need to add value and differentiate your organisation in the market. You need to understand how your entire organisation communicates not just the role of the marketing department. You need to know the impact that such communication will have. Communications must be managed at all levels of an organisation and you must commit to that management function. Communication is everyone in the organisation’s concern: It isn’t a matter solely for the marketing department. You need professional communicators across your organisation not just tucked away in a management silo.

Communications can be seen at three levels:

  1. Strategic External Integrated Marketing Communications: Top level communications promoting the organisational vision and values, corporate objectives and Corporate Strategies. Strategic communications to build reputation, image and brand.
  2. Internal Marketing Communications: Communication across your organisation involving all business functions including HR, Finance, Productions, R & D, etc. Internal behaviours aligned to organisational goals.
  3. Tactical External Integrated Marketing Communications: Communications to ‘push your products through the supply chain and to increase customer demand (‘pull’ communications). Communications intended to promote goods and services provided by your organisation.

A major issue with integrated communications is that people are different. We all have different views and we perceive the world differently. Particularly in service industries these differences matter. So you need to ensure a consistency of customer experience.

What really matters is communication consistency not difference. If fact difference could be an asset. However, if your communications and customer experience of them is inconsistent you have a big problem. If a single customer can experience good, bad or indifferent communication experiences with your organisation, you may lose not just one customer but many. your customers and prospective customers talk to each other; particularly in these days of social media. Word of mouth means one customer’s perceived bad experience can be used to persuade many other potential customers to avoid your business.

What is Internal Marketing

Over recent years I have seen lots of organisations trying to improve their internal communications. I have seen organisations with poor to terrible internal communication. I have seen organisations with them and us cultures, poor management and dictatorial leaders. Often these organisations play at internal marketing. They go through the motions, put out poor quality newsletters, send long-winded emails and offer poor quality staff away days.

At one organisation, the senior management locked itself away. They went from bunker mentality to an actual bunker. At another, if a member of senior management went onto the ‘shop floor’ it was akin to a royal visit. When the ‘visit’ was over, the staff sighed with relief; well, it would be another couple of years before they would be bothered again.

The problem with these organisations was that they saw staff communication as an un-necessary hindrance on their grand plan. they viewed internal marketing solely as a communications issue not as a core part of service delivery. After all, the best policy, like the security services was need to know.

These organisations also tended to have top down heavy, ‘do as I say’ management styles. They rejected the more modern, policy down/plan up approach to management.

Last week I discussed the marketing of services and stated that good internal communication processes were critical to service competitive advantage.

Internal marketing goes further than communication. It is the creation of an open, information-sharing organisational culture.

To offer superior customer service you need make a concerted effort to communicate better. Your staff need to know what is expected of them in terms of behaviour and attitude. They also need to know how superior customer service will be measured and evaluated.

Internal marketing should be seen as a powerful tool in managing your organisation. It helps align organisational stakeholders to your organisation’s values and goals.

Internal marketing is knowledge management, not just better communications. It communicates management intentions and expectations. It informs, educates and persuades employees to follow your intended course of action. It should aim to motivate employees and to clarify their responsibilities.

The aim should be to unite stakeholders behind your organisational goals. You shouldn’t only rely on formal communications channels. Informal channels should also be leveraged. Don’t just rely on formal communications plans and team meetings, one to one communications with staff are equally important,

The aim of communications should be to reduce conflicts, not to ignite them. Better informed staff are better motivated staff. Using a ‘Intentions down – Plans up’ approach means staff gain ownership of organisational goals.

You are not simply moving data around your organisation. the aim of internal marketing is to inform, educate, persuade, motivate and enthuse. If you view corporate communications as solely a data process you may end up with data overload.

The following are key factors in internal marketing success:

  1. Clear Objectives: Clear objectives unite the workforce behind organisational goals. They promote organisational change and customer focus. they allow the clear communication and sharing of organisational values. Clear objectives commit staff to a total quality approach and they develop a commitment to customer service. Interdepartmental relationships improve when objectives are communicated; as is organisational knowledge and information sharing. Obviously to be clear objectives need to be SMART.
  2. Identify your Stakeholders: You need to identify their perceptions and expectations; their needs and wants; their concerns and motivations. You need to establish how your organisation objectives deal with those stakeholder criteria. you also need to know the status of interdepartmental relationships.
  3. Communications: What is to be communicated? What is the purpose of the communication? How will a communication affect the expectations of different stakeholder groups. Expectations need to be managed and it is important that you establish feedback mechanisms. You need to avid information overload whilst providing trustworthy, honest, timely communications. You need to avoid an information vacuum where gossip and rumour will fester.
  4. Alliances: You need to create alliances across your organisation. This could be through personal exchanges. Avoid an ‘us and them’ culture; the management ‘bunker’. You need to encourage stakeholders to see issues from various points of view.
  5. Training and Development: You need to equip stakeholders with the knowledge and skills required for them to do what is expected of them. Appraisals should specify internal marketing goals.
  6. Control: Internal marketing and communications need a budget, a schedule and performance control mechanisms. Messages should be aligned with the communication norms of different organisational departments e.g. HR, Finance, Marketing, etc.