10 tips for in house teams to create integrated communications

Everyone seems to be boarding the ‘integrated comms’ buzzword-bingo-bus. More often than not, the reality is a limited, sporadic, slow and painful effort on single campaigns. So what’s stopping you from becoming fully integrated?

1.) Integrated comms is much more about ‘being’ than ‘doing’. Put another way, delivery of integrated communications starts with the attitude and mind-set of collaboration. External integration is first and foremost an internal communications and change management programme. So start by collecting champions from other teams around you. Invest in building strong relationships with them. Be able to articulate the ‘what’s in it for them’ when you first sell in the concept.

2.) Think about the back-office support you need, not just the heads of different comms disciplines. HR will likely be able to help with change management and cultural barriers. Finance may be able to offer advice on tracking efficiencies and approvals across BU boundaries. What about the customer support team to advise on direct feedback as well as challenges that emerge? How will materials get to the sales team? Or your channel partners? What other external advocates may need briefing or engaging?

3.) As you take your first steps, don’t be afraid to copy and reverse-engineer great campaigns you see. Share these examples around your group and analyse how they’ve taken the core creative wrap and pulled it through each channel. How do they work together? How did they complement each other? (Integrated doesn’t mean everyone does the same thing.) How did they structure the campaign over time? (Good campaigns will build and evolve across channels.) How did they engage and encourage their audiences to participate in the campaign rather than just talk at them?

4.) How could you use your agencies to champion the cause? Good integrated campaigns start with an insight-driven idea that could come from anywhere (or any part of the marketing mix). Good agencies will be very familiar with working across a broad set of stakeholders.

Do you brief agencies separately depending on their role in the marketing mix? If so, try giving them all the same brief, see who comes up with the best idea and has the capabilities to lead a campaign that creates a consistent customer experience across channels and touch-points. Set out your expectations clearly for the role you want them to play – including how agencies from different disciplines will play nicely in the sandpit together.

5.) Start small and prove the principle. ‘Pilot & Amplify’ is a much under-used and under-rated approach. Pick an event, a campaign, a country, where you’re able to form an effective working group and operate below the radar if necessary.

6.) Who's your champion? Identify a senior champion within the company. Without top-down patronage any long term corporate behavioural change is unlikely to take root.

7.) Set goals up front. Obvious, but it’s amazing how often I see companies struggling with measurement when the real problem is a lack of effective goal setting. It’s not too surprising if you struggle with the metrics after the activity if you haven’t invested effort in setting targets before you start. Don’t just think of audience metrics either: this is a change management programme remember – what are the behavioural and team-working goals you’re setting?

8.) Be clear and honest about what your working group wants from being integrated. Is it primarily a cost efficiency exercise (be honest!)? Are you looking more at the customer impact, or is it internal workforce mobilisation, or a closer tie to the sales cycle – this will also help you in determining targets. 

Consider longer term structural and efficiency goals as well as short term campaign outcomes. Be clear about the different phases of integration. How will you agree on core needs and budgetary structure? How will you integrate resources (team, time, agencies and budget)? What about development of the creative concept and then co-creation of materials? Think about the options for content delivery. How will you engage and respond to your customers once it goes live? How will you adapt the campaign after it goes live? All these elements and more require team integration – but it doesn’t need to be the same answer at each stage. 

9.) Agree on how to agree …or not. How will you handle approvals and escalation for the specific tactical content building blocks of an integrated campaign? ‘Everyone gets to vote’ can rapidly come to mean that nothing gets approved – or worse, your integrated campaign just panders to the lowest common denominator or to everyone’s second favourite option. Being integrated doesn’t mean you live in each other’s pockets. Agree campaign shape, structure, creative direction and then assign leaders for each area to own sub-elements – and then leave them alone to deliver.

10.) Remember the content you create needs to drive audience influence and impact. Integrated work groups can quickly become seduced by the newness of working together and forget the ‘silent partner’ in the room – the customer. How are you inserting the audiences needs into your discussions?

11.) Turn it up to 11! Above all, great integrated campaigns require trust. With trust you’ll be able to work effectively together, agree decision making, believe your colleagues are delivering against agreed goals and spend more time building great content that engages your customers. Acknowledge the needs of team members, the different disciplines, the politics, structure and cultural norms of the company and you’ll be on your way to ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ Integrated.

Chris Talago is the Executive Vice-President and General Manager for Waggener Edstrom Communications in EMEA. You can contact Chris by email, Twitter or, LinkedIn

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