Better Stories: Five secrets to impactful integrated marketing & comms

For many CMO’s, the term ‘integrated’ in context to the brands marketing output, has long been the holy grail. The notion of a utopian world whereby marketing and communications activities work cohesively and in concert has long been aspired to but typically has been difficult to realise.

But why? In an era whereby as individuals we are continually consuming marketing messages through multiple-contextual channels, why as marketeers and communications professionals do we struggle to plan our marque activities?

Speaking with some of our client CMO’s we hear repeatable themes that emerge to offer an explanation; from complexity across large matrix organizations, the siloed working practices of some leaders to budget based politics.

However, there are winners and we’re very fortunate to work with several of them, putting into practice our philosophy of delivering a Better Story and Bigger Impact, through integrated marketing and comms.

Better Stories Bigger Impact In Action

First, let’s start with a case study – a typical example of how a campaign idea which can be born out of a single channel, can snow ball into much more for great effect.

We recently had an impromptu call from a client marketing director who was grappling with an awareness challenge. At the same time, they told us ‘my team has been seeing an influx of users proactively tweeting us and posting on our community forum, that our product is better than the competition; they’ve used both, or have to use both in their day-to-day, but our product is by far superior’.

The question to us was, ‘So what do I do with this testimony for best effect?’

We took a step back and recommended a strategy which placed the un-edited customer voice at the heart of the messaging architecture; driving credibility and authenticity through original customer feedback.

We then built a creative concept that elegantly framed the narratives, and executed them across a series of programmatic digital channels, targeting their pipeline opportunity. This both raised visibility, but in a targeted manner, positively supporting the sales organization.

To extend the impact into earned media, we developed bigger and deeper customer stories with a small handful of users and pitched them to key media.

The net result has been a unified program which spans earned, owned and paid channels and a straight-line uplift in un-aided brand awareness.

Sarah Scales, Brands2Life Co-Founder comments, “The campaign’s success is based on two fundamental elements that are key parts of the methodology.

“It’s an honest campaign based on authentic insights with a creative platform that holds a truth. Secondly, each communications platform was chosen for its engagement and real ROI potential,” she says, adding,

“A story that people believe in is always going to have the best impact.”

Building a narrative is crucial. Scales continues, “There are five component parts that elevate a standard story into a winning, memorable narrative.

“First, direct relevance to the customer – the narrative and insight are the jumping off point to influence and convince. Second, strong credibility; a brand can’t suddenly change the essence of what it is,” says Sarah.

“Third, you must strive for differentiation by being distinctive. Fourth, it has to reflect the aspiration of the business – the leadership team has to be dialled in absolutely to the future state that the campaign aims to deliver.”

“And finally, you need a holistic approach, ensuring the narrative, message, and creative are the same across all channels, or it dilutes the impact.”

Five secrets of success

There are five messages and themes that have emerged from every conversation we’ve had with our client CMOs on the topic of nailing integrated comms and marketing:

1. Mindset

Having a genuine interest and hunger to collaborate across the organization – to understand what your cross-functional colleagues are trying to achieve and to find common ground in objectives and KPIs. Simply put, you’ve got to want the same thing to make integration work.

2. Fanatical about the funnel

It doesn’t matter if your role orbits only one stage of the funnel – everyone involved in the integrated project team need to be fanatical about positively influencing every stage of the purchasing funnel. Being able to playback internally the quantifiable impact that a campaign has had at each stage of the funnel, provides a strong case against a common question of ‘what did it deliver.’

Measure everything – even the anecdotal. The little things matter.

3. Join the dots

It’s natural that we all get wrapped up in the day job and our own world. But often, small successes can be achieved by thinking laterally about where your program / campaign / content, supports another initiative within the business. A great thought-leadership report can positively support the ABM team, as much as it can the brand team.

4. Sweat your assets

Simply put, ask yourself this question – could this content live in another form, and be used for another means? Can you turn a marquee research report into a webinar or a LinkedIn Live or Podcast? Can you slice and dice the story and messaging and feed it to sales teams, for them to proactively engage prospects? This questioning and challenging of the great content you’ve invested in, is key to making it pervasive across your marketing org.

5. Be Brave

It’s common to feel that the task of delivering an integrated program is daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. At the heart of success is bravery; challenging the status quo, challenging yourself to be a better marketing and communications professional, challenging others to deliver the best work of their careers. The results will speak for themselves.

In summary, the opportunity that integration delivers is well documented. It can make a transformative impact on your business and your career, but it takes bravery and a steely focus on wanting to achieve a better story and bigger impact.

Written by Sarah Scales, Brands2Life Co-Founder.

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Emily Reid