The marketing communications industry continues to evolve at lightning speed, and we — as marketing communications professionals, must be able to adapt and change with it.
To be successful in the evolving marketing communications industry, marketing managers must have the skills to create, implement, and examine marketing campaigns using an integrated, quantifiable methodology. They must have a clear understanding of how to do so by creating consistent messaging in multichannel communications. Thanks to media and technology, there are more avenues now than ever to get a message in front of consumers, but that also muddies the waters as to which avenue is the best for reaching the desired target audience.
So, what is the solution to disjointed, inconsistent marketing campaigns? West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program seeks to remedy a dis-integrated approach to content marketing by giving senior and fledgling marketing communications professionals alike the skills to develop and perfect marketing campaigns, even across a myriad of channels.
Here at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media, our expert faculty, who represent various industries and practice IMC each and every day, define Integrated Marketing Communications as:
"Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a strategic, collaborative, and promotional business function through which a targeted audience senses consistent, persuasive, and reinforcing brand messaging."
Integrated Marketing Communications help brands convey a relevant and consistent message to the target audience across various platforms. IMC supports an atmosphere where social media personnel work together with the public relations team, for instance, to promote upcoming events and stories with an audience. IMC encourages marketers to work with creative directors to visually and creatively convey brand messaging to the customer. In other words, gone are the days of managing PR professionals, content developers, web designers, and social media strategists in separate silos. Integrated Marketing Communications is about breaking down the barriers and working together towards an organization’s overarching marketing communications goals.
With that in mind, let’s address nine tips that every marketing manager should know for effectively executing Integrated Marketing Communications in today’s competitive marketing communications industry.
1. Routinely revisit and refine your Integrated Marketing Communications strategies.
Every year, you have an annual checkup with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy and that everything in your body is functioning as it should, right? Well, the same applies when implementing and analyzing a strategic, process-driven Integrated Marketing Communications campaign.
Regularly, marketers need to examine their short-term and long-term goals and evaluate if the current strategy in place will get them there.
2. Understand your evolving target audience.
Target audiences are constantly evolving as consumer buying habits change. Amazon, for instance, has a plethora of different target audiences: Prime members who live in the app, periodic Amazon web shoppers, Prime video lovers, and even local artisans and retailers, just to name a few.
Understanding and anticipating the wants and needs of each primary target audience are what makes Amazon so successful.
3. Create meaningful stories that drive your target audience to act.
Part of implementing an integrated marketing campaign is considering your target audience and understanding what content they’d like to see and where they’d like to see it. For example, a fashion-forward Gen Z’er might be interested in a sponsored apparel ad placed on Instagram or Snapchat, whereas a career-driven Millennial might be more apt for promotional, educational content on LinkedIn.
Note: For an in-depth look at why strategic, data-driven storytelling matters for professional marketers, read our recent blog article: 4 Reasons the Art of Storytelling is Essential to Marketing Communications Professionals.
4. Build brand awareness at every stage of the consumer’s journey.
Outline specific strategies to build brand awareness and bolster brand equity at every stage of the customer’s brand journey. Measure brand performance and engagement actions (like web page traffic, submitted forms and downloads, multimedia views, etc.) to determine what strategies your audience responds best to.
5. Incorporate video, design, and other creative touch points to spark emotion in your audience.
People respond to interactive content. Call it laziness, but consumers are evolving into quite the video viewers! Digital videos, especially the 30 to 60-second options, are ideal for sharing quick stories, testimonials, and tutorials to engage prospective customers.
Visually appealing design and clear creative touch points are a must when it comes to a strong IMC campaign. As we attract consumers to our websites and social media platforms, consistent branding and easy-navigation are critical for a positive brand experience that results in repeat visits.
6. Implement a social media strategy that engages and energizes your audience.
What platforms engage your target audience? When is your target audience engaging with your social media messaging? What kind of content is your social media audience consuming? What data do you have to back up your social media strategy?
In order to develop an effective, integrated campaign, you must develop a social media plan that reaches your ideal audience where they spend a lot of time. Share stories, photos, and videos that are human-centered and that are not constantly promotional or sales-y. People want to see people — plain and simple.
7. Adopt a human-centric approach to customer service.
As technological advancements make the customer journey more digital and automated, it’s crucial to still connect with your customer on a personal level. Yes, chatbots are cool, but good customer service is irreplaceable.
Think about your weekly trip to the grocery store. It’s convenient to run through the self-checkout if you’re in a rush, but not all customers want that automated experience. They want a “How are you today?” experience. Human interaction is key.
8. Have a crisis plan in place: You never know when you might need it.
Crises happen when you least expect them to, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Have a structured and fool-proof plan in place for when disaster strikes, including what communications might look like in the event of a crisis.
For example, the show “This Is Us” had an incident with a slow cooker on the show. Afterward, viewers went to social media saying they were going to throw out their Crock-Pots. Crock-Pot had to act fast and work with “This Is Us” executives to divert the crisis. Despite the show using a generic slow cooker, it led to a crisis for Crock-Pot. You never know when a crisis might occur.
9. Adapt with the marketing communications industry, as big data takes over.
Big data has taken over the controls in the marketing communications industry. As readily available as data is, marketing managers still must understand what data is important to them and how to interpret it to inform marketing decisions.
You can have all the analytics in the world, but without a comprehensive strategy for using them, you’re at a disadvantage in today’s data-driven marketing landscape.
Here at West Virginia University, we understand that the marketing communications industry is rapidly changing. We are dedicated to preparing people who are passionate about marketing communications — people like you — to thrive in this competitive field. If you’re interested in establishing yourself as a thought leader in this landscape, we encourage you to request more information or to start your application today.