I am often asked about how businesses, brands and not for profit or community organizations work towards and an integrated communications plan when there are so many channels to consider.

Are you still struggling internally with integrating your communications planning ? Are you still witnessing a battle between marketing, sales, PR, media, corporate, call centre ? It is time to start moving towards an integrated communications plan.

In a world of communications that is just a click away from someone judging your work as “good, bad or indifferent”; it is time for companies, individuals, charities, community organizations or political candidates and entitities to get on with their integrated communications plan.

PR folks commonly say that “everything communicates”. Back in the day, when you could plan your message, test it, run it up the ladder, receive sign off and then work it into a press release to issue it, respond to it and manage it…things were pretty controlled.

Today your control is determined by:

  • how effectively you are on monitoring conversations in social and traditional media about your brand
  • how quickly and authentically you respond to converse in those networks, by monitoring that pulse
  • how authentic your voice and personality is in those networks, vs a message pushed out because it’s what got “approved”, or what message you want to convey
  • how effective you are at generating your own storytelling in the channels
  • how well you stay connected with traditional journalists and media who have more demand on their time today than ever before
  • how you keep your communications sweating by delivering an integrated communications plan

The first five bullets above might seem quite “tactical”. The sixth is the over riding strategic point. Integrate.

What does integrated look like ? I have a perspective. I am not suggesting it is the only approach, just an approach.

Whoever owns the “message” needs to own bringing all aspects of the communciations together

Aspects of communication include:

Ensuring that the owner of the “message” is playing off a check list that is integrated. The integration should be across messaging, but it should also be across channels. If you are pushing a new reveal on your website, make sure that this is what you are talking about in your social networks, rather than another string of conversation. At any given time your conversation should be integrated across all communication networks.

If you are truly designing an integrated communications plan, that plan will involve marketing, sales, web, social networking and public relations within the same plan. Learn to plan inclusively rather than in isolation.

Whatever sales model you deploy – whether a large organization with feet on the street, or a small business with on line selling tools, be sure that your “sales team” is equipped with messaging and response (they are on the front line and most likely to be in the conversation at street level) that is consistent with your communication channels.

Further to the front line sales, your social media community managers or communication leads need to be equipped and knowledgeable and to be free to respond “on message” or have the access and ability to get a quick response when and if required. Plan these messages and responses well in advance so that they are free to respond in the moment, vs. getting caught in a web of approvals and missing the right moment to respond. Critical to social media is being in the conversation when it happens and as it is unfolding, rather than catching up with your key message days later. “They” will have moved on.

Towards a better I.N.T.E.G.R.A.T.E.D plan:

  • Inclusive…have all parties involved in communications at the table – marketing, sales, social media, media relations, corporate affairs, digital, planning.
  • Team approach…take advice from the team, have the conversation and seek everyone’s input.
  • Effective communications based on a purpose, an intent, what goal is in mind, will this communication deliver it ?
  • Grounded in fact, don’t lapse into trying to spin – stand by the facts and speak the truth.
  • Responsive through listening to how the community reacts.
  • Always open to listening and monitoring to ensure that you are in the moment to respond.
  • Tell your story, make it authentic, personal, in the language of the audience.
  • Engage with your audience, don’t broadcast “at them”, make it a conversation, that’s what the new mix of media can and will deliver for you.
  • Discuss on an ongoing basis with your team how you are doing against your objectives and where you need to stay the course or make adjustments to achieve your goals

Try new approaches, get an integrated communications plan by having the team working together and discovering new channels of opportunity and influence to meet your objectives. And don’t forget to have some fun – it can be ! Cheers @FergDevins  @DevinsNetwork