What is an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan?
An integrated marketing communications plan ties together strategy and tactics. It serves as the foundation of all of your marketing and PR efforts for your business. The most effective forms of marketing are part of an integrated communications plan. As you begin a quarterly review of marketing activities, it is important to look at the different tactics used and evaluate what worked, what didn’t work and what needs improvement.
In today’s digital media landscape, PR, Marketing, and Advertising are merging together at a rapid pace. Now, more than ever, it is important for public relations practitioners to return to their core value: being persuasive storytellers. There are so many ways to tell a story. And as PR practitioners, we have learned that earned media is not the only way to tell a story.
Yes, it is extremely important to get your message out there through a PR campaign, but sponsored content or digital advertising can be instrumental in reaching different target audiences to increase exposure.
How to Create a Cohesive Integrated Marketing Communications Plan
As you create an integrated marketing communications plan for your business, consider trying several different marketing tactics. For example, an earned media strategy which only includes PR and nothing else is NOT an integrated strategy. Integrated marketing should pull from different types of paid media, earned media, shared media and owned media.
Here are several different PR and Marketing tactics to consider when creating an integrated marketing communications plan:
Experiential Marketing: This creates an experience for the consumer to interact with a brand in a real-world setting, such as branded festivals, pop-up shops, and behind-the-scenes tours. This face-to-face engagement, which is best used to enhance and complement traditional marketing campaigns, leads to an emotional connection with consumers, something that is necessary to reach GEN Y consumers.
Sponsored Content: This approach is similar to native advertising. Native advertising is advertising that appears to look like editorial content. This content can be a sponsored tweet on Twitter, a suggested sponsored post on Facebook, or sponsored piece of content paid for by the advertiser. Sponsored content has a higher click through rate then traditional banner advertising. According to a recent survey, 70% of individuals wanted to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising. The survey also stated that people view native ads 53% more than banner ads. Also interesting to note, 71% of publishers received no major complaints from readers for featuring native ads. It is important to remember that the information and tone of your sponsored content is still key in having a successful campaign.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Google is the first stop when prospects want to learn more about your business. It should be your goal to get your brand onto the top page of relevant search results, because 75% of users never scroll past page one. SEO can take a lot of time and thought, but you can begin by trying keyword analysis, which will enable relevant searches to link to your site. Also, be sure to use quality website content with on-trend keywords and phrases. 61% of global Internet users research products online prior to buying, making the Internet and search-friendly content the best way to reach customers today.
Blogging: This may seem so last year, but you would be amazed how many companies have yet to embrace a corporate content strategy. However, just writing for the sake of writing isn’t enough. What format are you going to put the content in? A blog? Downloadable e-book? Listicles? Guest posts? Writing a blog is a great way to craft your brand’s voice and engage consumers in a more real and thoughtful way. Companies that blog typically generate 88% more leads than those that do not. Businesses that blog more than 20x a month generate 5x more consumer interest and attraction. Frequency and quality are the two most important factors when beginning your brand’s blog. What is your content strategy?
Promoted Social Media Posts: One out of every 7 minutes spent online is spent on Facebook. Social media in the US has increased by 356% since 2006. The most important thing to remember when using social media is to know your audience. Where are they? Is your target audience mostly on Twitter? Or Instagram? What do they respond to? Do they prefer engaging in conversation or do they want short, snappy one line posts? What type of content has resonated with your audience on Facebook? Analyze it then boost accordingly! Boosting posts is also a great way to reconnect with fans who may not have seen your posts in a while. Once you know your target audience, you’ll know where and how to best reach them.
Inbound Marketing: Traditional advertising is no longer as effective as it used to be. Studies show that a whopping 86% of people skip TV ads and 44% don’t open mail from irrelevant advertisers. The answer to traditional advertising woes is Inbound Marketing, or “earned advertising.” Rather than pushing your message out to the consumer, Inbound Marketing compels consumers to find out more about your brand. Inbound marketing includes, but isn’t limited to blogs, social media, and search engine refinement, which make your brand more noticeable to consumers.
These are just a few of the strategies that brands can use to create a successful integrated marketing plan. However enticing social media may be, it is important to remember that social media is a tool and not something that can replace a strategic communication plan. In fact, some campaigns do not need social media components at all because it would not be effective in reaching the target audience.
With the ever-changing state of communication, we are always on the lookout for new and innovative communication tools and channels.
PR is only one part of a comprehensive integrated marketing communications plan.
A well-thought-out IMC strategy should include a PESO model that incorporates all four areas into the mix:
* Paid Media
* Earned Media
* Shared Media
* Owned Media
These four media vehicles need to work together to make sure you are reaching your target audience through every avenue possible.
- Do not only choose 1 out of the 4 and make that your entire marcom spend.
- Paid media cannot replace earned media.
- Earned media cannot replace targeted digital advertising.
- Targeted digital advertising cannot replace the power of strong content marketing.
- You have to do a mix of all of these PR tactics to remain competitive.
- The good news is that you can work with PR & Marketing specialists in each area to execute this for you.
For example, you could work with a NY PR firm that specializes in earned media, and you could work with a digital marketing firm who specializes in paid lead generation.
The key is to be where your customer is. Not where you are most comfortable being.
What marketing and PR strategies have been most effective for your business?