One of the most surprising findings centered on the definition of integrated communications itself. And this raises a question: is something as ill-defined as integrated communications preferable or even valuable for companies? Is there a benefit to bringing together communications functions of two distinct practices (marketing and PR) that can barely agree on each other's applicability or raison d'être?
The answer is a resounding YES, and for two main reasons;
1) Despite the disconnect between marketing and PR professionals regarding the philosophy and aim of communications, these are viewed and consumed by outside entities (consumers, in the case of B2C companies, businesses for B2B) in the same way. That is to say, various communications are inherently linked, and so they must be developed and disseminated in an integrated way.
2) Integrated communications leverages the power of both PR and marketing to achieve unified aims. Rather than a mash-up of at-odds tactics and strategies (as does exist with separate PR and marketing entities), the sum of techniques used in a robust and integrated communications program becomes so much greater than its individual parts.
We All Own It
While the Vocus survey stops short of making a pronouncement on the value of integrated communications, integrating our efforts (yes, I'm talking to you, Marketing Department) is the only way to effectively engage and manage the diverse communications channels available today. Just as the survey finds that both PR ad marketing practitioners perceive social media outreach as being part of their scope (43% of PR professionals feel they should "own" social media, while 34% of marketers make the same claim), an integrated approach is really the only way to maximize the benefits of this still-growing medium. It's impossible to be effective in a vacuum.
Talking of Social Media
Social media is a great example to support the above statements - that both the PR and marketing aspects of corporate communications are linked. Facebook pages or Twitter feeds function equally as awareness drivers and marketing vehicles. The commonality here is brand engagement, and that is neither a strictly marketing nor a strictly PR function. It is a function of integrated communications, period.
That said, social media demonstrates that it's often necessary to use different tactics to achieve different results. Even as social media resists easy tagging as a 'PR' or 'marketing' medium, it produces different end results if traditionally marketing-related or traditionally PR-related techniques are used to activate it. And users of social media can usually tell the difference between sales and outreach efforts, and each may be relevant under different circumstances. But to make this resolve, and to reap the most rewards from communication in this channel, everyone has to be on the same page.
Integrate Baby, Integrate
One aspect not covered by the Vocus survey is the benefit integrated communications delivers to outside marketing and PR firms (it focused on only PR and marketing departments within companies, and assumes that respondents' businesses have both PR and marketing capabilities). But for companies providing these service to other companies on a contractual or outsourced basis, the value of integrated communications increases exponentially. The value of a one-stop-shop has long been recognized by some agencies and firms, and those PR or marketing shops that put an emphasis on integrated communications put themselves in a stronger position to capture more business from their clients than those that specialize too narrowly.
Common communications strategies are the new reality for businesses and brands and this trend will continue as they discover that integrated communications are the best avenue toward achieving specific business goals, and as standalone marketing and PR companies realize that integrated communications are the key to developing deeper, longer relationships with clients.
Simply, the value of a unified, undisrupted message is invading the prevailing wisdom of businesses everywhere.
And because the Vocus survey didn't say it, I will: That's a great thing.