Good partnership is the foundation to successful integrated communications programs.
What are a few foundations of a solid partnership? Transparency between client and agency. Advanced planning on long-term elements. Collaboration among a company’s entire team of agencies. While these seem obvious, challenges present themselves for various reasons.
There is much to be gained when the communications team is brought in early for planning initiatives instead of working in silos. And even more so when clients regularly bring together their multiple agencies for joint meetings. Mutual planning, perspectives and insights bounce around the room. Agency partners across the public relations, advertising, media buying, social media and/or branding disciplines forge better working relationships to create more thoughtful and informed work on behalf of the company. Everyone benefits from this unified approach.
Joint Planning on Long-Term Initiatives
When planning long-term initiatives, clients benefit the most when they loop in communications during the earliest stage possible—ideally at brainstorming. The earlier the agency is brought in on the concept, the more a brand can maximize dollars invested in a campaign or idea. PR can provide counsel on timing, approach, reasoning, and expected ROI; the communications team will ensure that overall messaging is woven thoroughly into all activities; SEO can advise on searchability; the social and media buying teams can play off earned media headlines or targets, etc.
For example, a marketing-led initiative could use the lens of a PR expert to develop richer content through typical earned media questions. Is there a way to tell the deeper brand narrative? Does this story have a more robust community tie? Is there a time of the year when it would resonate more soundly? When company news organically fits within a timeframe, the story becomes more natural to tell. Yet, there are countless times when brands miss an opportunity to align with ideal timing.
Once dates and strategies have been set, tactics and execution can always benefit from a cross-discipline approach.
Consider that smart marketing and branding initiatives don’t always resonate the same through earned media. If planning gets too far without the experts of each discipline examining the campaign’s “stickiness” and tailoring it to work with their mediums and audiences, it could fall flat. For example, marketing-developed content and narratives can quickly become less of an earned media story and more suited for owned and paid channels. For some programs, this is fine. But running a truly integrated communications effort does a much better job of maximizing a company’s overall marketing ROI.
More than ever, it’s imperative that messaging and strategy is uniform across all channels and marketing efforts. A siloed approach serves no one well and can even work against brands.
Several times, we’ve seen companies that have recognized the value in aligning all disciplines together. In each instance, incredible interagency teamwork was fostered. It varied from regular in-person meetings to yearly all-agency teamwork sessions to even working out of one another’s offices semi-regularly. All were fantastic ways to ensure everyone was fully participating in the brand creation and story elements.
The client who works to achieve this will have a winning program. The comradery built typically leads to agency partners feeling like a true extension of the client while collaboration amps up creative ideation.
In the end, by working as a cohesive team, clients and all their agencies create stronger, more integrated communications plans and more amazing, ROI-positive work.