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It’s Time for Marketing Communications to Lead the Strategy Discussion

674 words, 3:22 minutes

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Marketing communications strategy is often driven by business or organizational activities such as product launches or upgrades, new service offerings, mergers or acquisitions, executive hires and other events controlled internally.

But it’s a brave and confusing new communications world out there and now is the time for marketing communications to drive strategy – rather than having strategy dictated to them. The proliferation of online and offline media channels, the challenges of omni-channel communication experiences, the rise of social media, the blurring between B2B and B2C experiences and other factors should put marketing communications squarely in the driver’s seat – if you know what you’re talking about.

It’s the job of marketing communications professionals to bring an understanding of the forces beyond the company’s control, to step back from the daily internal activity and get a handle on the trends that will impact the success of the communications plans.

Convergence of paid, owned, earned media – This trend has been happening for a while and is the result of clever marketers, media companies starved for revenue channels and sophisticated audiences weary of sales pitches (not necessarily in that order). Paid media was pretty straightforward - digital, print, TV, out of home, events or sponsorships, etc. Then social media took a piece of the paid pie with tools such as promoted Facebook posts or Twitter tweets. Other tactics, mentioned below, have made paid media strategies a little more complex today.

Owned media is usually branded by a company or organization. This could be whitepapers, newsletters, blogs, websites, microsites, social media channels and any other format or channel owned by the company. In any case, you usually know who is providing the content.

Earned media includes media relations and tactics such as news articles, features, op-eds and social media posts. User generated distribution through social media, blogs, reviews, comments, survey responses and other tactics could be considered a part of earned media although some marketers call this shared media.

The lines between all three are clearly blurring (pun intended) when you consider tactics such as native advertising, advertorials and sponsored news items. The main consideration for convergence is how removing one media channel negatively impacts the performance of the others. For example, failure to advertise after positive coverage in earned media will result in lost sales.

Rise of purpose-driven content – Content fills the media channels mentioned above. Organizations have been generating content for centuries, but the advent of content marketing is driven by the need for research behind a marketing plan. Defining who you target, how they consume content (paid, owned, earned media), what formats to use (video, infographics, whitepapers, etc.) and when to serve information throughout the conversion funnel is as important as content itself. Content fills the media channels but, more important, content fulfills the need to get people from attention to interest to desire to action in the funnel.

Analytics for MROI – If you’re a marketer with an unlimited protected budget you can skip this section. Also, where do you work?

The rest of us are constantly justifying our budgets, fighting to get more and generally trying to prove our value to our companies through marketing return on investment (MROI). Marketers need a formal, documented measurement framework that ties general business objectives such as increasing revenue to specific metrics such as media placements, website activity and interaction, inbound calls, etc.

Analytics should help marketers get past budget justification and facilitate learning through testing. Measuring can help you fail fast and optimize victories and should cover content, media and timing - analyze what you say and when and where you say it. We tend to associate analytics with online tactics but it’s important to measure both online and offline tactics within a campaign. An example of measuring the impact of offline and online tactics could include targeting certain metro areas with events and media relations while executing advertising and direct response tactics nationwide.

Understanding these major trends will help define the discipline of marketing communications and provide value in the role within your organization.