Q: What do your customers want?
A: Customers want an integrated seamless customer experience.
It might seem like a simple task, but the majority of organizations are either unable or ill equipped to answer the demands of their customers. This is a problem.
In a June 2014 article appearing on Forbes.com, Steve Olenski stated, “65% Of Marketers Are Not Giving Consumers What They Want (Olenski, 2014).” As a marketer you have a mandate to deliver what your customers want. If you fail to listen to your customers you add noise to an already over saturated market. The first step to providing clarity for your customers is to learn everything you can about the field of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC).
IMC by abbreviation is an academic term grounded in a planning process that helps marketers create and produce an integrated seamless customer experience.
According to the WVU Reed College of Media, “Five major shifts in the worlds of advertising, marketing and media have caused an increased interest in (and need for) IMC.
These shifts are forcing organizations to look at the whole marketing picture, re-aligning their communications and seeing things the way the consumer sees them – as a constant flow of information from indistinguishable sources. Those who practice IMC are avoiding duplicate messages, capitalizing on the synergy among promotional tools, creating more effective marketing programs and maximizing ROI.” (Reed, 2014)
IMC components include:
- Public Relations
- Direct Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Market Research
- Media Planning
- Strategic Planning
- Interactive Media
- Sales Promotion
- Crisis Communications
This past May, I attended a conference that showcased how NASCAR brought Integrated Marketing Communications to their organization through their Industry Action Plan.
Each May over 200 attendees, hailing from 22 different US states, descend upon Morgantown, West Virginia to attend the INTEGRATE conference. The West Virginia University Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Graduate Program hosts their annual conference, dedicated to the education and advancement of future integrated marketing thought leaders.
As a current graduate student of the program, INTEGRATE is the conference I look forward to attending each year. The breakout sessions and industry recognized keynote speakers at the event this year were the best to date. Past speakers have included Mark Schaefer, Pam Didner, Jason Falls, Scott Cuppari, and Fred Cook.
Unlike attending lavish impersonal staged conferences, INTEGRATE offers attendees the 1:1 accessibility that only an academic setting could provide. You can rub elbows with the speakers, forge lasting professional connections, and take selfies with the one and only WVU Mountaineer Mascot. All of this and more is possible on the campus of WVU. Steamfeed’s very own Gettsyburg Gerry and I made sure to take selfies with INTEGRATE 2014 keynote speakers, Gini Dietrich and Lee Odden.
Steamfeed not only sponsors INTEGRATE, but also partners with the IMC graduate program on a variety of initiatives throughout the year including mentorship of student authors. Fellow Steamfeed author, Kat Shanahan, and I have greatly benefited from this partnership.
During INTEGRATE 2014, David Higdon, Managing Director, Integrated Marketing Communications @NASCAR, kicked the conference into high gear with his presentation on “Igniting Communications through Fan and Media Engagement.”
Upon reading further you will learn:
- NASCAR’s approach to Integrated Marketing Communications
- Mandatories needed to establish an IMC Center
- Key skills of an IMC communications professional
- NASCAR’s four areas of focus for their social media monitoring center
Establishing an Integrated Marketing Communication Plan
If you were in the position to market for a brand that moves NASCAR fast, how would you do it? For David Higdon and the team at NASCAR, an integrated marketing communication model has become their key to reach fans, media, stakeholders, and influencers.
NASCAR recognized and adapted to the changes in their own sport and across the ever-changing media landscape. Following an 18-month review, the public relations department was overhauled. The sanctioning body at NASCAR responded by drafting and adopting what is referred to as the “Industry Action Plan (IAP).”
In the Newton Daily News, Iowa, David Higdon stated, “The IAP was the product of several working groups, each comprised of individuals from a wide array of disciplines. In the end, it focuses on these key elements of the sport:
- utilizing digital and social media,
- harnessing its star power,
- building up the relevance of its product,
- improving overall event experiences, and
- attracting and engaging with the next generation of fans.”
It is important to note that the shift to their Industry Action Plan did not happen overnight. It required a three-year build out plan.
How could you convince leaders within your organization to adopt and IMC mindset?
Planning Your Mandatories
Recognizing the value in establishing an integrated marketing plan is an important first step towards holistically aligning all produced communications. The next step is recognizing that team members will have to adapt and grow their skills sets accordingly. To realize the plan from both a business and personnel perspective, a specific set of mandatories will need to be addressed.
David Higdon described the following mandatories as being critical to any integrated marketing plan:
- Versatile Roster of Talent –Hire people who balance your existing team’s strengths and weaknesses. Look for specialists who want to be generalists… and generalists who can develop a strong specialty. Make diversity a priority within your company; your communications team should reflect the audience of your consumer targets
- Consumer Insights Fuelling Strategy –Do not rely solely on your “gut” when making decisions, particularly strategic ones. Lean on your Market & Media Research teams, and “adopt” them as members of your team
- Integrated Planning –A truly integrated marketing communications professional must be part of the planning process of the company’s business units.
- Focus on Objectives, Measurements, Results –Think like a business person, not like a “PR professional.” It’s about ROI… and profits… and other measurable factors.
- Reputation Management –Influence the “Influencers.” It’s important to establish your reputation with those who have the biggest impact on it.
- Qualitative Approach to Media –The days of counting clips are over. Quality over quantity now applies more than ever to media coverage of your product
What mandatories should be included in your IMC action plan?
Before his presentation at INTEGRATE, David graciously answered two questions for me in regards to breaking into the field and subsequently establishing an IMC center within an organization.
Long: How can graduate students break into the IMC field?
Higdon: “Breaking into the IMC field requires a cross-function of skill sets. A different way of thinking and a range of requirements as opposed to specific expertise.”
Long: How can IMC practitioners establish IMC centers within their organizations?
Higdon: “You have to break through the perception that PR is just about clips, coverage, numbers and more about strategy and planning. The bigger picture is how to approach strategy as opposed to tactics. Trying to get people off the treadmill and think about what equals success. All of our work needs to ladder up to our overall business objectives. PR and IMC objectives should be viewed as revenue generating and not cost centers.”
Winning With IMC
When IMC is implemented correctly, as in the case of NASCAR, the organization will most likely see valuable returns. To denote successes of NASCAR’s Industry Action Plan, David used the phrase “Winning with IMC” throughout his presentation. IMC wins could include:
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Consistent brand messaging
- Design consistency
- Increased sales
In what ways could your organization win with IMC?
Monitoring the Market
Many brands, including NASCAR, utilize social media monitoring centers to check on the pulse of the community. NASCAR’s monitoring center is staffed for live events, seven days a week.
NASCAR’s social media monitoring center focuses on:
- Primary Research
- Sponsor Renewals
- Fan Interactions
- Issues Management
What small scale efforts could you implement within your organization to begin to monitor the market?
If you would like to view past INTEGRATE lectures about mobile marketing, public relations, healthcare marketing, social media marketing, branding and much more, visit the WVU IMC Knowledge Base.
Registration is now open for INTEGRATE 2015 — May 29-30, 2015! SteamFeed subscribers will receive $25 dollars off a full conference pass valid until December 31, 2014. A two-day, full professional conference pass will only cost $175 dollars! Use the coupon code SteamFeed at checkout.
The lineup this year already includes speakers from: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, SeaWorld, and HGTV.
Eschliman, B. (2014, February 22). NASCAR’s Industry Action Plan: ‘We live and breathe it’ | Newton Daily News. Retrieved from http://www3.newtondailynews.com/2014/02/17/nascars-industry-action-plan-we-live-and-breathe-it/aclkfk1/?page=1
Integrated Marketing Communications | What is IMC? | West Virginia University. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://imc.wvu.edu/about/what_is_imc
65% Of Marketers Are Not Giving Consumers What They Want – Forbes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveolenski/2014/06/10/sixty-five-percent-of-marketers-are-not-giving-the-consumer-want-they-want/