Society for New Communications Research Blog


Marketing & Corporate Communications: The Case for Bridges, Not Walls

By Christine Bailey

Social media has knocked down the barriers that separate corporate reputation, brand, and marketing. But organizational structures are still stuck in the dark ages—with separate functions for corporate communications and marketing. That needs to change, and fast.

Why?  According to a new report from The Conference Board, Unlocking Value from Integrated Corporate Communications and Marketing, a combined marketing and corporate communications function has the potential to change the face of business around the world by driving digital transformation. The Conference Board asked me to share my perspective on the report findings in a recent webcast.

Here’s my take on the need for integrated marketing and corporate communications in a social world—and the big benefits a combined function can help companies achieve.

Social media is not a broadcast mechanism—it’s an incredibly valuable source of customer data  
Marketers understand this better than anyone. They’ve become experts at tracking the customer journey on social media—capturing the data, analyzing it, and translating it into customer insight.  By integrating marketing and corporate communications, companies can leverage this rich and powerful customer insight to inform and refine business strategy across the enterprise.

Social media myths—like “maybe your customers are social, but mine aren’t”—are made to be busted
While we’re dispelling that fallacy, let’s also get rid of two of its cousins: “I know my customers personally better than you know them online” and “social media is just for kids.”

The reality is your customers are using social and digital channels—and they’re vocal and candid about your company and its products and services. Plus, the technologies that make us privy to what customers are saying online are becoming more sophisticated by the day. That means there’s never been a better way to keep your finger on the customer pulse than through social listening.

Using social listening tools and techniques, integrated marketing and communications teams can keep their ear to what customers are saying and use this “voice of the customer” to inform all market-facing activities—including branding, media and employee relations, and sales and marketing.

But truly customer-centric companies don’t just listen—they respond. Actively engaging in social media conversations with customers helps customer-centric companies spot market transitions and potential trouble spots as well as uncover ideas for new products and services.

So who’s having these conversations with customers?  Everyone.

In the social world, everyone has the microphone—so your messages better be cohesive

Remember when the corporate communications team set and controlled all the messages coming from the company? Those days are long gone. Today, nearly everyone in your organization can speak directly to consumers—whether it’s through a customer service chat, a Twitter interaction, a workplace review on Glassdoor, or a sales call.

That makes consistent messaging more important than ever. Having an integrated marketing and corporate communications function lets companies build a connected and cohesive narrative that can be used across all functions—including internal communications.

Internal communications are essential—because your employees are a tremendous social asset 
Customer sentiments have shifted—and consumers are now more likely to trust the advice of your employees over your party line. Employee advocacy programs are an excellent opportunity to scale your brand and marketing messages—and these programs are most successful when they’re driven by a combined marketing and corporate communications function.

Corporate communications folks are very skilled at crafting messages, while marketing people are good at building relationships and with engaging with customers. By fusing these disciplines, you can create messages, roll them out to the organization, and teach employee brand champions how to drive customer conversations and share content through employee-owned social channels.

In the end, the benefit of social media comes down to three letters:  ROI
Senior executives don’t care about likes and shares—they care about cold, hard business benefits.   For integrated marketing and communications to succeed, you must speak C-suite—talk about how you’re going to manage risks, show benchmark statistics,  and demonstrate how social media can increase revenue, help attract and retain talent, drive innovation, and increase competitive advantage.

In the social world, it’s important to have a strategy and storyline that runs from the brand promise through to products and solutions.  Few companies are set up that way today, for legacy reasons.

To make that change, marketing and corporate communications must team up to gain a mutual understanding of each other’s strengths and agree on a social media game plan, rules of engagement, and measures of success.

Co-operation, communication, and collaboration.  That’s how you build bridges – and transform businesses.

This piece was originally published by Digital Leadership Associates.

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