The secrets of integration
24th November 2015
There are usually so many arms to any marketing campaign, that most PR teams are used to working across disciplines to create integrated work. Most, but not all. Jim Hawker, co-founder of PR agency Threepipe, illustrates how some PR agencies are limiting themselves by focusing on one dimension of communications work: “We had a meeting with a prospect recently who was keen for its current PR agency to deliver stunts and then hand over the ensuing digital content to its separate digital agency because the PR team didn’t know how to leverage the content through multiple channels in an integrated way.”
But it is better to focus on what you are good at than promise something that you can‘t deliver. As Hawker says: “PR teams can only create integrated work when they have the knowledge and ability to do it and increasingly this requires a team of experts that have intimate knowledge of SEO or paid media, to ensure that PR content can be repurposed effectively through multiple channels and that the impact of it is measured. Whether PR agencies are managing multiple channels themselves or working within a rostered framework, it is key that there is a good understand of the potential of all the channels and how they can work together to create truly integrated campaigns.”
Creating integrated campaigns is not easy, but something worth doing is never easy. Abigail Lloyd, senior account manager at agency Lewis PR, explains that whilst it’s not always the simplest of processes, it is vital that organisations make the leap to integrated communications. “In today’s age of multichannel marketing, all marcomms functions should represent a single brand message, and this can only be achieved with a well-researched and planned strategy, and a strong management process.
“The strongest campaigns weave together multiple marketing disciplines tailored to suit the brand goals. By combining the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines, across traditional and non-traditional marketing channels, the brand can increase impact and consistency.”
Lloyd says the most important step of implementing an integrated campaign is planning: "There’s no point in having a presence across multiple channels if you don’t have a view into what is going where at what time and what the end goal is. This starts with making sure that everyone involved is on the same page. Include team members of varying levels of seniority in your planning – as well as members of different departments. A fully integrated campaign will involve representatives from marketing, communications, sales, digital, and often many more, so making sure that everyone understands what the integrated campaign entails, and what success looks like, is key."
What does integrated mean in PR?
Nev Ridley, managing director at agency Manifest Communications:
“I think that integrated is one of those terms that perennially flirts with becoming painful jargon; but can (at least for now) still be broken down to mean something more tangible.
“In the broadest sense, it's used to mean delivering campaigns that are multi-discipline; campaigns that bring other services such as creative, video and digital into the core PR plan. Beyond that, it gets quite subjective. As an agency, we tend to define the term in two ways that we can directly relate to our processes.
“The first relates to our internal workings. How, for example, our video and creative teams will collaborate with our PR teams to create something multi-faceted, but also strategically coherent and seamless. Our second understanding is of integration from a client perspective and how we can make them part of the process. After all, if you can integrate and collaborate with your client you have the best possible chance of delivering something that yields genuine results.
“That said, it’s hard to think of an effective modern PR campaign that isn’t integrated (in the broad sense-way) in some way – and it's even harder to imagine (in a world of marketing immediacy and short attention spans) that there’ll be many more in the future. If that’s the case, then PR is already more than just PR; it's already essentially integrated by definition.
“All of which strongly suggests that the way we understand ‘integrated’ today, won’t be how we understand it tomorrow.”
Lisa Morton, managing director at agency Roland Dransfield PR:
“For us, integrated communications simply means extending the reach of any PR or marketing activity as broadly as possible. And we think this ethos should flow both ways – off and online.
“It’s all about making sure things are joined up and considering a mix of channels as a matter of course. For instance, if you’re holding, or participating in, an event, are you live-posting on social media and uploading appropriate imagery? If you’re writing thought leadership-style blog content, are you outreaching to print with a view to reworking this as a feature?
“It takes preparation and practise to internalise this attitude, but the potential for fantastic results means it’s well worth it. And whilst it’s still possible to create a non-integrated campaign, we feel there are few excuses for doing so, since a few procedural changes can yield such powerful returns.”
Why PROs must understand integration
Tara O'Donnell, UK MD at PR agency Text100: “Although ‘public relations’ is often defined as ‘media relations‘, it has always meant communicating with audiences. PR firms need to determine the best way to help clients reach their audiences and that might mean communicating with consumers directly via social media, creating owned content to tell a story, media relations and/or advertising. Integrated means planning holistic campaigns that meet business objectives. We can’t silo communications into categories. Everything has to work together to successfully reach key audiences and get great results.”
Andy Turner, founder of agency Six Sigma PR: “PR has never simply been about communications. I wish more people recognised this, but there are still too many with no professional qualifications and a very narrow field of operation working in public relations. Jon White, visiting professor at Henley Business School, captured it perfectly when he recently wrote: ‘PR makes use of communication, and is often confused with it, or mislabelled as it‘."