PR Training

Integrated Marketing: What it means and what it takes

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Visit PRSA 2015 International Conference sponsor Ketchum in the Product & Exhibit Hall.*

Integration, Integrated Marketing and Integrated Agency Teams are among the hottest buzzwords in PR and marketing today. Everyone is searching for the magic bullet — CMOs want strategic, integrated, omni-channel communications campaigns. But what does that really mean and what does it take to successfully create them? The need and importance for delivering a consistent message to consumers across multiple channels has created opportunities for agencies, and different departments within a single agency, to collaborate in order to achieve higher engagement with audiences and greater visibility. But how do we ensure that we’re presenting and delivering a cross-channel message to consumers that includes a blending of online and offline tools and tactics around a single marketing strategy? Furthermore, how do we ensure that in the name of “integration” we don’t water down channel-specific ideas so that the entire campaign levels out to bland or mediocre? The PR industry has won its seat at the table, so now how do we show our value?

A well-coordinated integrated agency team is like a fine symphony orchestra – every section and instrument has its own specific role and moment in the spotlight. There are solos and duos, but it ultimately adds up to one harmonious and compelling story. For many years PR fought for its place at the integrated table by trying to jump the shark and “lead” right away – like a freshman wanting to be starting quarterback on day one. There are certain situations where PR can legitimately lead – like when an idea has to be seeded in popular culture before the launch of other communications – but PR can also show its value as a supporting player or even a “special team” that comes in and out of the game as needed. Rather than trying to fight for a seat you may not be well suited for, why not be laser focused on demonstrating your best value? It’s key to have the right voice at the integrated agency table, at the right moments. PR pros need to know when to be Princess and when to be Pippa.

Another often overlooked key to successful integration is the critical role the client plays in the process. In a recent PRWEEK interview, Air BnB CMO Jonathan Mildenhall was discussing a recent all agency briefing he held at the company’s HQ. He said “all the leaders of the agency teams were there, as was I, because you cannot delegate the mandate for collaboration.” He went on to say, “As a CMO you have to practice what you preach. Your behavior as a leader is closely watched. If you disengage, then so will your agencies. If you play politics, then so will your agencies. But, if you lean in, play well, demonstrate a passion for the best creative work around – then so will your agencies. It is human behavior that leads to excellence in marketing output …” If the client leaves the agencies to fend for themselves what could be beautiful collaboration devolves into a Hunger Games-like competition that wastes time and money. Rather, a healthy spirit of “co-opetition” – much like the spirit of star players on the same team (are you seeing a theme here?) wins the day and makes everyone bring their “A game” every day.

Ultimately, PR pros need to understand what CMOs desire from their integrated agency team:

  • Creative Cohesion – reinforcing basic campaign themes by increasing the number of times prospects see or hear a coordinated message.
  • Cost savings – creative cohesion in integrated campaigns can be efficient and make all channels work harder.
  • Results – integrated campaigns use the same communication tools to reinforce each other and improve marketing effectiveness.

And when marketers embrace true integration and collaboration they reap the benefits of:

  • Subject matter experts –SMEs from each discipline can work together to support an organization’s vision and strategic direction, each in their own unique way.
  • Holistic solutions – now that CMOs are working with leaner marketing staffs, an integrated team can fill the gaps and provide holistic solutions in an evolving marketing ecosystem.
  • Optimized ROI – the best integrated practitioners see much stronger results than disjointed campaigns.

And while integration is the ultimate winning play in the marketing game, it’s also important to balance cohesion with a tendency to make everything “look the same.” Integrated teams need to employ central strategy and creative themes but also allow specific channels to have “burst” moments where they can use their strengths for maximum effect. Be careful not to make everything match to the point it waters down the entire story. To do this effectively, you need to give ideas from anywhere a fair hearing.

 Integrated marketing is not a set of matching luggage. While it is crucial to be aligned and consistent across disciplines to communicate a powerful message, marketers must also be flexible to let specific channels shine at what they do best. PR professionals are uniquely positioned to be leaders and active participants in integrated marketing because being focused on the most authentic — and therefore effective — message is in our DNA.

I look forward to discussing this further with attendees at the PRSA International Conference in Atlanta on November 9th. Sign up for the session today! There will be exciting surprises and prizes integrated into the session.

William (Bill) Reihl leads Ketchum’s Global Brand Practice and offers a point-of-view on brand marketing in a constantly changing world. Bill has been positioning, defending and supporting brands for more than 20 years. His charge at Ketchum is to drive clients’ business with breakthrough creative ideas; develop the expertise of the agency’s talent; build relationships with key influencers and differentiate Ketchum through innovative products and offerings and thought leadership.

Bill has distinguished himself as a strategic and creative thinker and a collaborator who thrives on working across practices, teams and geographies. Prior to Ketchum, Bill held senior roles at Weber Shandwick, Ogilvy and Edelman, where he was part of the team that launched the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. In the luxury space, he has represented fashion house Hugo Boss, retailers Bloomingdale’s and Tiffany & Co. and accessory brands such as Bulgari, Concord, Movado, Piaget and Bulova. 


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