The glorious birth of integrated marketing and comms. Finally.

People have talked about integrated comms for decades. It’s become a tried throwaway line behind which strategies more holey than holy reside.

Enter social media and an Australian public that leads the world in its uptake. Once you placed an Ad, sent out a brochure and maybe rang the press, now you need to do all of that as well as have an impressive web presence and conversations with multiple audiences online. The scope of activity has got much larger  and more complex but automation has kept step so it doesn’t mean a swelling marketing team. You need to be much smarter, employ the best tools available and have effective measurement systems in place.

Faced with this rapidly evolving communications environment, we’re observing a significant shift in how companies communicate and make decisions.

Despite the pervasive sense of potential, getting active on the web is a challenging concept for most organisations. On social media, the fall-back position is often ‘it’s the domain of the young’. Not true of course. Those who have read the writing on the wall are not talking ‘should we’, but ‘how’.

We’ve been beefing up our research capacity for the past 12 months for this very reason: Dave Carroll and Dawn Nguyen are PHD level statisticians and survey designers with significant experience.

Smart managers want recommendations based on hard facts; conversations on the web alter daily so insight has to be fresh and recurring. This focus on intelligence is a refreshing evolution – cost effective, easily accessible, online research is transforming the way businesses think, taking the risk out of decision-making. And when you’re talking about a marketing and communication plan that has to be splintered online and offline across multiple channels, it makes damn good sense to get the ratios right.

Against the grain of older marketing strategy development models, we’ve created the IDEA methodology which means we Investigate to provide recommendations, we Develop the necessary strategic, online and traditional tools, we Engage markets with our clients ensuring full support during implementation and, using a range of metrics, we Account for the investment that has been made.

The models we’re developing right now for leading organisations such as Arcare and Peninsula Health are transforming the way they link marketing and communications across their businesses: from the flow of information to the resources mobilised.

So, as we approach the end of 2010, we welcome the collaborative approach our clients are taking with us, and we herald the glorious birth of integrated marketing and comms. Finally!

There are plenty of social media catch phrases already looking frayed at the edges but everything is evolving so rapidly new ones will arrive before we tire of the old. Here’s one we’re comfortable using: ‘engagement’.

A few battle hardened clients still wince when we give the word voice but, secretly, we think they like it.

So why engagement? Because marketing and communication is not about offline versus online, it’s about the people with whom you’re building a bond of trust, and a commitment to continuing conversation.