How integration can create success

Last night at 8 pm, anywhere in America, you could have turned on the TV and found 300 advertisements coming at you from just as many channels - at just this one point in time. How can any company expect a single message to break through that much clutter? The answer lies in one small word fraught with so much apprehension: Integration.

Last night at 8 pm, anywhere in America, you could have turned on the TV and found 300 advertisements coming at you from just as many channels - at just this one point in time. How can any company expect a single message to break through that much clutter? The answer lies in one small word fraught with so much apprehension: Integration.

New media, new channels, new tactics, and emerging disciplines are creating tremendous opportunities for PR agencies, yet they are also creating some wariness regarding who owns the channel and who should lead the effort.

If the concept isn't specifically advertising, direct marketing, or PR, who owns it?

The truth is that integration is usually an afterthought. And even when it isn't, the various players partaking don't always know how to work together.

So how do we come together from our various disciplines and begin to piece together the integration puzzle? Every situation is, of course, different, but here are four places to jump in:

Understand what the other guy does. Building an understanding among all the marketing disciplines is a critical first step before you can even think about integration. When I worked for a global PR firm owned by an ad agency some years ago, the two organizations launched an employee "exchange program" - an ad agency employee was embedded in an office of the PR firm for six months, and the reverse took place with the PR employee. We quickly busted the stereotype about ad people taking three-hour lunches and PR agencies doing little more than planning parties.

Play nice in the sandbox. If you're the lead, invite all partners to the starting line. Make sure everyone has the same information at the same time, and is working toward the same objective. About 10 years ago, one of our clients was a telecom company that genuinely re-thought the way its marketing organization worked. As a result, before any major product was introduced, all marketing disciplines met together. And because everyone's information was cohesive, we were able to be much more productive.

Offer more than media relations. We've all heard someone say it - "good ideas can come from anywhere." So let the idea drive the program, not the discipline or tactic. Too often, PR firms shoot either too low or too high - with media relations on the one end, and strategic consulting on the other end. The better place to start is outside the agency - with the customer. How do we reach the right person in the right place at the right time with the exact message that will make them take notice? If we can answer that question - agnostic of the tactic - our clients win.

Don't be a revenue hog. The agency with the most money at the end wins - right? If you've been in the agency world for any length of time, then at some point you've played this game. But who really wins? If it's not the client, then we're playing the game wrong.

If an actor-turned-President can get the Berlin Wall torn down in one night, then certainly a group of professional marketers can tear down a few internal walls in the name of collaboration. With true integration, the prosperities grow for everyone.

Larry Meltzer is founding partner and Chief Imagination Officer for BlueCurrent Public Relations, an Omnicom Group company.

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