More companies today are seeing greater efficiency and benefit in operating marketing and communications as a single function, according to report released by The Conference Board, the global business research and membership organization.
The report analyzes this trend toward integration, and is based on interviews with nearly 25 corporate practitioners from leading companies, including senior marketing and communications executives, as well as other experts in the field. Case studies featured in the report include Southwest Airlines, MasterCard, Coca-Cola Asia Pacific, SAP, Cisco, Target, HP and others.
As companies grapple with digital transformation, which presents a new set of challenges to traditional approaches, an integrated communications/marketing function can help elevate the importance of data collection, sharing and analysis, such that it transforms business strategy. Both the communications and marketing functions have extensive experience with technologies that deliver data, such as social media, and with interpreting that data and translating it into critical insights.
“When integrated, the two functions are better positioned to make the case to the C-suite for a digital, data-driven approach to business strategy, drawing on the technologies and tools that have typically fallen under their areas,” says Alex Parkinson, a senior researcher at The Conference Board, and author of the report. Parkinson is also Associate Director of the Society for New Communications Research, a leading research and education institution dedicated to the advanced study of how new and emerging communications tools and technologies are affecting business, media, health, law, culture and society.
Other key findings from the report:
- Integrated corporate communications and marketing can create a customer-centric culture. In many ways, integrated corporate communications and marketing is about asking customers their preferences: when and how to communicate with them. By having the two functions work together, companies can glean better insights from long-term engagement on social media, feed that information back into other parts of the company, such as product and service innovation, and respond with meaningful content that sparks interest and continues engagement.
- Integrated corporate communications and marketing can create an employee-centric culture. Turning employees from “informed” or “engaged” to “advocate” is the “holy grail” for companies, according to one executive interviewed for the study. The potential for employee advocacy to contribute to company growth is huge because stakeholders trust messages that come from employees more than messages that come from companies.
- As defenders of corporate reputation, integrated corporate communicators and marketers have an important role in building trust by helping infuse the business with purpose. Companies exhibit transparency and authenticity by, among other things, striving to foster a positive relationship with the environment, their communities and their stakeholders. Corporate social responsibility initiatives have often fallen under the auspices of corporate communications. But, as companies increasingly see the benefits of underpinning business strategy with purpose, corporate communications and marketing have begun to work together to ensure that company brands, strategies, operations and messages are synonymous with ethical business. This in turn can accelerate growth in an era in which customers and employees reward responsible companies.
- Integrated corporate communications and marketing improves agility and efficiency. Integration can lay a foundation for greater agility because it helps companies find and solve problems faster by removing barriers to information flows and decision making. Showcasing this potential then puts the company on a path to digital transformation, where this speed and efficiency can be magnified.
- Integrated corporate communications and marketing creates a consistent message. According to a report by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, “the best run brands in the world behave in a consistent way; they stand for one thing or a few things and consistently communicate that globally.”
- Creating and unleashing better stories can be a powerful benefit of integration. Today, companies are not only selling a product or service, but a brand that is underpinned by its values—values that are more effectively disseminated by stories. Storytelling can engage customers, employees and other stakeholders with content that sends a uniform message tailored to specific audiences.
Integrated corporate communications and marketing helps companies align goals, metrics and budgets. If one consistent strategy for corporate communications and marketing is coming from one leader at the top, the two functions share goals and understand how to deploy resources to reach their audience, as well as to establish the right metrics to measure progress.
Source: Unlocking Value from Integrated Corporate Communications and Marketing
The Conference Board / September 2016
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