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The future of communications is integrated

Hotwire Global

By Jaime Nelson and Mylan Vu

Whether it’s preparing for an IPO, message differentiation, or a product launch, there’s a common thread that’s emerging when it comes to what marketers really need.

Integrated communications services are set to become the North Star of today’s marketer. What used to be a multi-agency model encompassing public relations, experiential marketing, influencer, branding, and digital counterparts is now for many businesses an unsustainable and expensive endeavour.

This siloed approach is fraught with the need to brief, manage, and contract multiple different teams, with the danger of misalignment always looming in the background.

But how have we come to this?

A lot of it’s to do with the shifting expectations of some of marketing’s core functions.

The public relations industry, for example, is facing an inflection point. Previously the yin to PR’s yang, journalists are sadly undergoing a professional identity crisis, with the rise of user-generated content and social media seeing traditional news outlets significantly wind down, or cease operations altogether. It’s shocking to think some 3,000 journalists have lost their jobs since 2010 in Australia, according to the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

One by-product is public relations companies having to skill up on and re-emphasise the importance of content marketing, knowing that it’s increasingly less likely a message will reach an audience via a journalist, or that a message will reach a consumer at all in the way it used to. So new strategies focused on everything from big, bold activations to niche demand generation campaigns.

Similarly, the marketing industry is having a tumultuous time of it, mostly due to the rapidly changing marketing technology stack. Not only have marketers had to learn how to balance and master the tech, but they are expected to deliver measurable results with it.

There is increasing integration between departments, with IT collaborating with marketing to recognise the power of the tech available, and sales and marketing tasked with syncing on their campaigns and strategies. On top of this, the C-Suite is demanding marketers do more with less, while driving stronger ROI.

The future of marketing is integrated. Agencies should be pivoting to offer integrated brand experiences, seeding the original creative thinking associated with PR into new visual identity, live experiences, and content pieces. These can be so deftly complimented with traditional marketing like OOH and digital.

It’s this multi-skilled approach that will ultimately separate the effective marketers from the merely overwhelmed. The answer is to look to integrated communications strategies and partners.

Through the looking glass—the marketer of tomorrow

The future of our industry looks vastly different from what it did even five years ago. And it’s still changing. We can no longer risk a ‘spray and pray’ approach hallmarked by a press list of hundreds of journalists. Nor can we rely on generic content repurposed in the same manner, hoping to achieve different results.

Indeed, it’s this type of thoughtless communications strategy which is ultimately damaging to brands.

Couple this with the fact the journalism industry continues to be dealt blows to its core offering, the increasing influence of AI in storytelling, and a steep decline in trust in traditional advertising, we’re staring down a vortex of untethered marketing strategies, many of which will end with a whimper rather than a bang.

A 360-degree marketer likely doesn’t want to spend their time managing dozens of agencies: they want to be crafting compelling strategies and campaigns to demonstrate the return on their investments and engage their customers in new and exciting ways.

All aspects of a marketer’s world must be in sync to ensure consistency in voice, message, outcomes, and measurement. If the event strategy isn’t talking to the social media strategy, or the press relations strategy isn’t talking to the content marketing strategy, the result is a natural disconnect, and ROI becomes progressively more difficult to pinpoint.

Effective integrated communications hinges on asking the right questions

Day by day, the function of public relations bleeds into its sister disciplines—and rightly so. Marketers are asking themselves valid questions, which, if the industry were to remain stagnant, we may have few measurable ways of answering.

These questions include: why create great content marketing that isn’t optimised? Why share a press release that falls on deaf ears? Why host an event that doesn’t maximise on opportunities to amplify many other content types at the same time? Where can we search for tentpole moments for people to connect and experience a brand together in a new, personalised way?

For a field that wears so many different hats, these questions represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the opportunities to cross-pollinate content, PR, or social media.