There’s substantial scholarship in the area of integrated communications, both against it and for it. The thrust of the argument is whether all communication functions are aiming toward an eventual marketing outcome — driving sales. I’ve frequently said that all marketing is communication but not all communication is marketing, but that could be a style preference: for too many marketers, all stakeholders look like customers, and all channels look like megaphones — I don’t want to “sell” to employees, community leaders, governmental officials, et. al., nor do they want to be “sold” to.
I fully recognize the elegance of a unified approach to communication strategy. We heartily recommend just that, so that even if we’re not all in the same department, at least we can have common objectives.
There are many benefits to integrating communications, but actually pulling everyone into the same department can be challenging, and we have to guard against efficiency getting the best of tailoring messages and methods to our audiences (stakeholders) and business objectives. So how do we realize the benefits of integration without necessarily integrating?
I’ve got a process: The 3 C’s — Communication, Coordination and Collaboration. I want to give each of these the appropriate amount of attention, especially regarding how you measure, so I’ll tackle the first in this post, then write some more on the others.
Communication seems so easy and basic, but it isn’t. I’m aware of two organizations – large, global, complex — where you learn very quickly that the various communication functions aren’t talking to each other very much at all. In particular, matters of budget, strategy and tactics take place in isolation, siloed-off from the beady eyes at “corporate.”
In short order, that leads to inconsistency in go-to-market (we can be consistent and still have appropriate tailoring), and lack of appropriate visibility and strategic alignment. At National City Corporation, a regional bank now part of PNC, we were in the thick of the financial crisis. The communication team was distributed — a relatively small corporate department, with the business units (Private Bank, Corporate Bank, Retail and Operations) hosting their own departments.
Given the crisis circumstances (anyone remember 2008? Me too), we needed to speak with one voice, to provide leadership and strategic understanding, to know what employees and customers were talking about. So, we instituted a daily conference call for communication leads across the company. We started discussing these matters — not with an eye to seize the conversation and dictate strategy, but to better understand the situation and provide guidance.
Within five meetings, our working relationships improved. Within a month, we agreed to meet in person and work through a strategic process to better align our groups. Three months in, we were able to cut the meetings to weekly, because we’d started cooperating on many communication opportunities.
Communication opens doors — but only when it’s done with a heart for authentic improvement and understanding, not power grabs and dictates. More on the rest of the 3 C’s in later posts.