The Importance of Integrated Culture to Modern Marketing
Apr 16, 2019 Tiffany Darmetko
We live in an age of negative news, information overload, short attention spans and lack of brand loyalty. These factors create opportunity – and responsibility – for public relations to fuse connections rather than to strike fear, as InkHouse CEO Beth Monaghan discusses here.
Against this backdrop, let’s talk about two types of connections that demand attention from marketing and communications leaders, along with a modernized approach to their craft:
- The connection between brands and buyers. Today the buyer’s journey looks much more like a constellation than a traditional sales funnel, as explained in detail here. This reality requires tightly integrated marketing and communications efforts to meet the challenge of reaching prospective customers at the right time and place with the right message to connect, inform, and move them to action.
- The connection between brands and their PR agency partners. Modern marketers understand certain cultural adjustments may be necessary for integrated marketing programs to thrive. One such shift is the changing way marketers perceive PR, not as a top-of-funnel only function, but rather as a force for reaching prospects wherever they sit in the constellation with an integrated service offering, as outlined here.
In parallel with strategies and services, we at InkHouse can’t overstate the importance of creating an integrated culture that:
- Starts with clear alignment between our clients and their InkHouse teams on the KPIs that matter most and how PR will best feed into them
- Involves CMOs bringing us into the fold early in the planning stages for the year/quarter/specific campaigns so we can integrate more deeply. It means not just that the scope of our work expands beyond traditional media relations capabilities, but from a culture standpoint, it also allows us to operate as one cohesive team
- Gives prospective buyers a better, more unified experience to interact with the brand
Others beyond the InkHouse walls share our thinking as well. In particular, we asked two admired marketers – Raevyn West, Director of Demand Generation at ENGIE Insight, and Paul Whitelam, SVP of Global Marketing at ClickSoftware – about their views on the importance of culture and human connection in the context of integrated marketing. Here’s what we learned.
Does integrated marketing require a cultural shift within the marketing organization?
Paul Whitelam: Integrated marketing certainly needs a well-coordinated approach that may require a different way of working across the marketing team. The focus on the customer’s perspective isn’t particularly novel, but the synchronization of different teams (such as PR, field marketing, digital…) together with the content creation components can become tricky with multiple simultaneous, overlapping campaigns. We’ve found that more focus on the campaign ownership – who is calling the shots – and rigor around the project management aspects of the integrated campaigns has been a key to success, especially when you layer in the complexity of geographic and industry segmentation.
Raevyn West: Absolutely, to achieve disruptive, innovative marketing you first have to build a culture of innovation and testing. The team you assemble has to 1) be marketers at heart, passionate about the field and continuously learning and staying up-to-date on trends, and 2) fearless. While all testing should be grounded and supported with data, you also have to have a healthy dose of bravery to try something new, go big on something to see true results. The team has to feel safe in the work environment to get to this level of innovation. Leadership needs to be open to hearing ideas and helping build upon them (does not mean you do everything or every idea), but you keep it constantly top of mind. For us, this is a constant topic and theme within our marketing organization – what are the coolest things people have seen lately, where are we underperforming or stagnating and really diving deep, and also allowing people to ideate beyond their role – marketing operations can provide a unique perspective to digital marketing, etc.
For the company overall, I think it really looks at the impact marketing can have against the organizations top challenges, for example, if the company is struggling with retention, how can marketing jump in and help cultivate value-add programs to articulate and remind our clients of what we do for them or really push on how we can bring more value through things like market insights. We go through this exercise 2-3x per year, our VP of Marketing will bring the top organizational challenges to the team and we brainstorm on how marketing can support or make a positive impact. I have seen this exercise make a big impact on how the team views marketing as a whole (this was profound for me personally to really see breadth of impact the function of marketing can have on an organization), and has surfaced ideas and programs that extend beyond what we typically see as marketing to get us all thinking more critically about how our daily work could and should impact across the organization.
Does your integrated approach to marketing change the nature of your relationship with your PR agency team?
Paul Whitelam: Integrated marketing requires more alignment than ever, and so it’s vital to communicate the goals of specific campaigns and how they may interact, overlap and potentially build on each other. The PR team is well-placed to be able to reach multiple audiences at different stages of the buying cycle, and it’s important to understand the priority and interplay of messages and audiences. This can be best achieved by more regular communication about goals and objectives of each campaign – not rocket science but a necessary step that can often be overlooked in the busy day-to-day.
Raevyn West: Yes, you cannot have a comprehensive marketing strategy without a killer external communications program. With integrated marketing, everything is connected and PR is a major component to that, leading the charge with thought leadership to seed the market before major announcements or campaigns and providing external validation to the messages marketing teams are trying to push. To fully integrate PR you have to 1) have a close connection with your agency so they feel as close and connected to your marketing strategy and vision as your FTE’s do, but 2) also push on your internal teams to leverage PR efforts to support across all the other marketing channels. For example, articles should be featured in lead nurture and client engagement programs, social media should go hand-in-hand, and market intelligence with pitching and trend tracking should be shared to support greater company strategy and intel. I think PR efforts also can make a big impact with employee engagement, providing a third party validation of what we are telling our teams and the market of who we are. When we saw our CEO talking to Cheddar on the NY Stock Exchange about sustainability, that made our company transition from bill pay to sustainability real, visible and undeniable for many employees – so when thinking about integrated marketing, you really can’t forget about employee engagement as a critical component to that (which speaks to what I mentioned above about new marketing supported unexpected areas of the business – like employee engagement and retention).
Thank you, Raevyn and Paul, for sharing these powerful insights with us. When we listen and convene points of view, clearer pathways emerge that lead to connections. It’s through this lens of building connections that we approach PR. And as we develop integrated strategies to help brands fuse stronger bonds with their audiences, and our clients with their InkHouse PR teams, we recognize that culture acts as a powerful glue.