Be Wary of Integrated Bias.
Most companies of size believe integrated communications is the path to building brands, launching products, capturing market share. Some will even refer to it as 360 brand marketing. We would agree on both fronts. Integrated is the path to success in this accelerated era of digital consumption. 360 is the ideal way to approach it.
Of course, we’re not here to simply be agreeable. We’re also not here to disagree for conflict’s sake. We genuinely believe two things. It’s not integrated because a company has hired a marketing agency, a digital firm and a PR firm. Certainly, sometimes that mix is defined as an ad agency, a web/content firm and a pr agency. Nonetheless, it’s multiple entities that rarely come together to “integrate” for one of two reasons, the corporate leads are not incentivized to collaborate and two, agencies today all overlap which means compete in too many areas.
That’s one of the reasons we have thoughtfully and patiently reached beyond public relations and social media, first into creative services and then into digital marketing and eventually a broader marketing discipline. The difference with that approach is that we don’t play favorites. We lead with the discipline that makes the most sense. Ask an ad agency if they would ever lead with reputation? Challenge a digital marketing firm with the importance of integrating reputation-based content vs creative content into their paid media strategy. The reality is, there’s bias in integrated marketing today. Some of that bias is based on where you have your strongest resources. We were guilty of just that. Before we felt comfortable with our integrated resources, we led with public relations. The difference is, we knew we need to level our own playing field … to eliminate bias. The other driver, profit. Some disciplines yield greater profit. Public relations is not one of them. Ad spend offers such opportunity.
So what’s our advice. One, if you believe in integrated, either find a firm that can genuinely handle integrated or a consortium that was formed for that very reason. Believe it or not, consortiums often play better than multi-discipline, multi-office umbrella brands. Two, determine if there’s bias towards a particular discipline or if in fact there’s impartial thinking without financial motivation.