Let’s imagine we’re planning a potluck dinner. We have a vision. A delicious meal of appetizers, a main entree, side dishes, and dessert. (Stay with us for a minute and we’ll tell you what this has to do with integrated marketing communications!)
We get to the night of, set the table, our guests arrive—and then we sit down to a meal of only appetizers. And, what’s worse, none of them go together! Looks like we all forgot to coordinate with each other.
What does this have to do with nonprofit marketing and communications? Well, like most organizations, nonprofits have a lot of moving parts. And when different parts are siloed off from each other, the results can be double the work but still end up inconsistent and directionless. Like our hypothetical potluck.
That’s where integrated marketing communications (“IMC” for short) comes in.
But first—what is integrated marketing communications?
IMC brings together all your marketing and all your communications. This includes your earned media, paid advertising, social media, broadcast, newsletter, website… everything. We see it this way: it’s all content. No matter what form it takes, it all needs to make sense together.
Think about how many ways people find out about things. Whether it’s in the news, during a commercial break, popping up on social media feeds, or coming up in Google searches, it’s still about communicating to an audience.
IMC ensures that all these efforts are working together. There’s a common goal, the messaging is the same, and the brand and voice are consistent. Plus, we’re taking advantage of every opportunity to get in front of our target audience.
Depending on the organization, some parts of the overall marketing and communications efforts may be managed by in-house staff and others by external partners. When guided by IMC, though, we all need to know what the others are doing. Nothing stands alone.
“If your digital agency is reaching out to publications that you’re pitching to—and you don’t know what they’re doing, and they don’t know what you’re doing—it doesn’t make sense,” says Norma Kelly, our Senior Media Relations Strategist. “You benefit each other by knowing. If they’re maybe paying for space for ads in a newspaper, whatever it may be. We need to know what we’re all working on.”
Why should nonprofits use integrated marketing communications?
Here’s why we believe nonprofits benefit from adopting an IMC approach.
- Create consistency: Nonprofits can ensure their messaging, branding, and voice are consistent across all channels. Consistency builds trust with stakeholders and improves memorability. Each strategy reinforces the others.
- Get a wider reach: By getting out through a variety of channels, nonprofits can reach different segments of their target audiences.
- Target audiences more effectively: Everyone has preferred means of receiving information. We can tailor strategies to the preferences of the audience segment for each format.
- Maximize resources: With an IMC-based approach, in-house teams and outside agencies aren’t doing the same work twice. Instead, they can take the same piece and adapt it for each channel, letting resources go further.
- Maintain momentum: Because strategies amplify each other, nonprofits get multiple opportunities to reach their audiences. Thought leadership in a news outlet, for example, can get shared through social media or an email newsletter—continuously building momentum.
So how do we use integrated marketing communications?
We’ve talked before about how it’s our practice to integrate ourselves as true partners for the organizations we work with. When we do this, we collaborate with everyone responsible for the organization’s marketing and communications, whether that’s internal marketing teams or outside agencies.
We make sure that everyone works together to create a unified, memorable experience for our target audiences.
In our work with the United Way of the National Capital Area, for example, we coordinate with their internal marketing team and their digital agency. On the other hand, we handle many different aspects of marketing and communications for the DC Chamber of Commerce. Regardless, though, we keep every piece working together so that our partners benefit from our integrated approach.
For organizations that wish to make the most of integrated marketing communications, we recommend this: it’s essential to have a strong internal marketing team member who can champion the approach. In our experience, this is invaluable.
Nonprofit organizations are always looking for ways to maximize their resources and get their messages across to their target audiences.
IMC does that. The coordinated approach lets nonprofits achieve greater impact, maximize their time and effort, and build stronger relationships with their audiences. Everyone gets on the same page, and all the parts come together to work in the same direction. As you can tell, it’s the way we like to work at JR Communications.
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