The need for integrated marketing communications in public sector marketing

Here are excerpts from an article I recently wrote for a federal government newsletter called “Within Reach” on the need for Integrated marketing Communications.

The article is entitled “Integrated Marketing Communications: A Holistic Approach to Government Communications”

Over the past few years I have noticed both as a consultant working with government clients and as a professor teaching students who attend our Professional Certificate Programs at Carleton’s Sprott School of Business, that there is an inclination on the part of public sector marketers to separate advertising from other marketing communications tactics. I believe there are a number of reasons for this phenomenon; some are bureaucratic and others can be explained by a lack of knowledge and understanding of marketing communications and advertising.

First, a little history: About twenty years ago, marketing departments created silos for each of the various marketing communications functions; planning and managing them separately with different budgets, views of the target market, goals and objectives. In many cases, there were separate units or divisions within the same organization managing various marketing communications functions.

Then, companies began to change their operations to embrace the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) which involved coordinating the various marketing communications elements along with other marketing activities that were communicating with the organization’s target audience(s).

Experts in the field of marketing communications found that IMC serves to emphasize the benefits of harnessing synergy across the promotional tactics in order to build brand equity of products and services. The central tenet of IMC that distinguishes it from conventional advertising is that each medium enhances the contributions of all other media. In other words, the combined impact of multiple elements (e.g., television, print, radio, Internet, direct response, public relations etc.) can be much greater than the sum total of their individual effects.

As IMC became popular, companies set more strategic objectives with their advertising agencies and their own internal functions to ensure better coordination of the use of a variety of marketing communications tools to achieve their goals rather than relying primarily upon mass media advertising.

In the traditional advertising agency world, many responded by acquiring or setting up public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing, and interactive expertise and touting their capability to meet all of their clients’ IMC needs. In addition, companies began looking beyond one-stop advertising agencies to other types of marketing communications specialists to develop and implement various components of their plans. Today it is not unusual for organizations to outsource their requirements to a number of different types of specialized communication agencies.

So why did organizations, including government most recently, move to the practice of IMC? A key reason for this paradigm shift was that marketers recognized the value of strategically integrating the various communication functions rather than having them operate in silos. The move to IMC also reflects an adaptation by marketers to a changing environment, particularly with respect to demographics, psychographics, lifestyles, and the influx of new media opportunities.

Although it can be said there are a number of reasons for the important shift to integrated marketing communications, the following are some of the major catalysts of note for the public sector:

  • By coordinating marketing communication efforts, organizations can avoid duplication, take advantage of synergy across communication tools, and develop more efficient and effective marketing communication programs.
  • The shift of marketing communication dollars from media advertising to other forms of promotion.
  • The movement away from relying on advertising-focused approaches, which emphasize mass media such as network television and national newspapers and magazines, to solve communication problems.
  • The fragmentation of media markets, which has resulted in less emphasis on mass media and more attention to smaller, targeted media alternatives.
  • The rapid growth and development of database marketing which has prompted many marketers to target consumers through direct mail, direct response advertising etc.
  • The growth of the Internet especially digital/on-line marketing, which has changed the very nature of the way organizations communicate and interact with target audiences.
  • Demands for greater accountability from advertising agencies and changes in the way they are compensated which motivated agencies to consider a variety of marketing communications tools and less expensive alternatives to mass media advertising.
  • Movement to social marketing in the public and non-profit sectors, which requires marketers to exploit all marketing media, channels and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals for a social issue. For more information check out the E-Learning tool at Health Canada or thesocial marketing planning work bookat the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing.

The most successful IMC programs require that an organization find the right combination or “recipe” of promotional vehicles, tools and techniques and coordinate their use. In a public sector organization that has not yet embraced IMC organizationally, it needs to understand that their target audiences do not distinguish between tactics. From their perspective they are receiving a message from the government whether it comes via television, direct mail, the Internet or an exhibit at a major event. Integrated marketing communications calls for a coordinated approach to planning marketing and promotion programs. With IMC, all of an organization’s communications activities should project a consistent, coordinated and unified message to each target market.

So how do you ensure that your communications are consistent and integrated? First, start by developing an integrated communications plan. ( the article describes the key components of the plan) Include all of the marketing communications tactics that you hope to use to reach your audience. This will help you coordinate all of the communications directed at your audience so that they receive a consistent, reinforcing message. There is nothing worse in marketing communications than delivering inconsistent or conflicting messages which tends to happen when you do not use an IMC approach.

If you want a copy of the complete article please contact me at jimmintz@cepsm.ca

 

 

 

About jimmintz

Managing Partner, CEPSM Jim Mintz is a veteran marketing professional with many years of experience as a practioner and academic. He is presently Managing Partner at CEPSM and Program Director of the “Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing” at Sprott School ... Specialty Areas: Social Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications, Public Sector and Non Profit Marketing
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4 Comments

  1. May Tartoussy 23-12-2009

    Dear Jim,

    i think this is one of the rares artciles i came across that was actually straight to the point and useful!

    thank you for sharing your knowledge!
    May

  2. Sundance Ugg Boots 28-09-2011

    I really like this short article a great deal, hope you can come up with even more relating to this.

  3. Solomon barry 05-08-2012

    Critically examine imc as a paradigm shift in marketing

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