Content is “key” when it comes to integrated marketing communications

Content can be a bridge in the transition from Siloville to integrated marketing communications. (Image credit:














You’ve heard “content is king.” Well, this post is all about why “content is key.” Key to making integrated marketing communications a reality for big brands. Key to helping them ditch the silos and actually approach communications strategically. Key to changing the perception of the business value communicators provide.

Why is content king? Well, there are three reasons I’ve seen working on recent client projects:

  1. It bridges gaps
  2. It forces us to look at the big picture
  3. It’s the new marketing

Let’s take these one at a time.

It bridges gaps

If you’ve worked at a company that is siloed, you know how hard it can be to emerge from that culture to work together. Marketing is focused solely on marketing, PR is focused solely on PR, advertising is focused solely on advertising. And no one is focused on collaborating to achieve business goals.

People get used to operating a certain way and company cultures reinforce that behavior. If you’ve always done your own thing and there is no incentive to integrate, why would you. But let’s say you’re forced to come together. All the communications disciplines within the company. Because the CMO demands it.

Incentives change. Approaches change. But people don’t change right away. That’s where content helps bridge the gap. Part of the reason departments become siloed is because they’re have blinders on to only what they’re group is doing. But when all the pieces of the marketing communications team start coming together and talking about the content they produce, a couple of things can happen:

  • There is an education process that takes place where each team now starts to know what the other is doing.
  • Content leads to collaboration because it’s what employees share even before they share ideas — check out what we did on this project. Here’s how PR could use this buy advertising did. Here’s how marketing could use this blog post PR earned. And so on.

It forces us to look at the bigger picture

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that a company doesn’t need specialty strategies, like a social media strategy. They need an IMC strategy. In this recent post, Gini Dietrich talks about how it’s important for all the different marketing communications pieces to center around a hub and work together.

When you’re living in a silo world, you are a silo girl (or guy) and there’s no way your team is focused on how all the communications pieces work together in the best interest of the brand. But sharing content forces us to see how the other side lives and provides an opportunity for us to grasp how our brand is perceived by different audiences at different touchpoints. And how we can work together across those touchpoints.

For example, it’s one thing for marketing to be pushing ads about how brand A has improved customer service, PR to be pitching that customer service angle to the media and customer service to be working to help customers on Twitter in a bubble without anyone else knowing.

Now, take that same scenario where all teams are working together:

  • Customer service listens to an influential customer’s rant on Twitter and helps resolve the issue.
  • That customer is so happy about the service, he/she makes a video telling the story and shares it online.
  • Brand A asks the customer to use that video and the customer agrees.
  • Customer service shares the story of the customer’s issue with PR and gives them a story to pitch to the media. Maybe PR sets up follow-up pitch opportunities with this influential blogger.
  • And marketing shares the customer service story on Facebook to highlight brand A’s customer service prowess via social media.

Throw into the mix that one of brand A’s objectives for the year happened to be improving customer service perception and actually retaining 90 percent of current customers. All of a sudden you have a strategic IMC program working together to achieve business objectives. And the anchor of it all is the content being shared across departments.

It’s the new marketing

Sometimes you read a post and it sticks with you because it rings so true. That’s what happened to me with this post by Mitch Joel about content marketing. In it, Mitch talks about a fundamental transition marketers need to make from broadcast marketing to publishing, which in itself is the idea behind content marketing — that the content you generate becomes your lead marketing tool. Here’s my favorite line from the post:

“But now that publishing in text, images, audio and video is so much more pervasive with such a lower barrier to entry, the time is ripe to re-evaluate how much Marketing your company should be doing versus how much publishing your company should be doing.”

Content is not just a marketing tool. It’s a PR tool. And advertising tool. A branding tool and so on. Scott Stratten (@Unmarketing) says people don’t share key messages, they share awesome. And he’s right. People share awesome — wait for it — content.

And when people, instead of brands, share that content, it’s much more trusted. In fact, Nielsen research shows people trust recommendations by people they know 20 percent more than the next closest form of advertising. That’s a huge number. But to take advantage of it, companies have to generate content people you and I know think is worth sharing. And who’s going to generate that content? Marketing communications teams, that’s who.

A lot of people talk about integrated marketing communications. Not nearly as many have actually seen it happen or been a part of making it happen. It’s not an easy transition. But it’s a necessary one for brands that hope to provide the experience their customers are coming to expect.

As more and more companies move toward making IMC a reality, content will be key. Maybe more key than it has ever been before.

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ginidietrich 1160 pts

Really great thinking here,Justin! The only thing I'd like to see you explore differently is the role of PR in all of this. Here you use the example of media relations (blogger outreach), which continues to enhance the perception that that's all we do. Why not use the customer in some of the content creation? White papers, a webinar, a blog post, etc. It doesn't have to just be the publicity end of things.

JGoldsborough 91 pts

ginidietrich Fair points, GD. You know I agree that PR is more than publicity. Figured I was pushing it with asking people to read 1,000 words as it is :). But the examples you gave in your comment all apply as well. Blogger outreach is a big part of the work we do for the client that inspired this post, which is why I went there.