Integration is key to success of digital and social media efforts

For marketers and PR pros, the recent influx of new communication channels can be both exhilarating and overwhelming, but for consumers, it's just plain fun.

For marketers and PR pros, the recent influx of new communication channels can be both exhilarating and overwhelming, but for consumers, it's just plain fun. It is incredible to be part of the emergence of so many new ways to connect with consumers through digital media, but it's not always obvious how to use the channel.

I recently took part in a panel discussion hosted by the Financial Communications Society at which I joined industry colleagues to talk about digital media strategies. I related my own experiences to one of my most memorable childhood birthday gifts - a kid-sized screwdriver. I wanted to use my new tool everywhere, until one day my parents found me under the dining room table with the tabletop precariously balancing over my head. New digital communications tools can be similar, as practitioners are eager to try them out, regardless of familiarity.

Traditional media is still vital to the communications mix and new digital channels should be part of an integrated strategy. In other words, digital should be part of a surround-sound effort that includes traditional mass media, direct response communications, live interactions, PR, and so on. Digital media is a "toolbox" that encompasses what I call "traditional digital," such as websites, display, search advertising, and social tools that help individuals connect and share.

Social and digital media are not interchangeable. In fact, if the goal is to share engaging messages that inspire chatter, all media can be deemed social. That said, digital tools make it easier and more entertaining for people to connect and influence their personal and professional networks.

As with any new tool, we may not always hit the nail on the head, but sharing successes in forums such as the Financial Communications Society is a great way to gain insights. Key lessons include the importance of interaction and the power of integration across both traditional and emerging channels. Organizations must offer consumers engaging news across all media while leveraging new digital channels to provide a more interactive canvas that facilitates sharing. Integration sounds basic, but it takes diligence and focus. The true benefit comes with integration across all brand touch points. As communicators, it becomes our opportunity and challenge to tap into the power of these new tools as part of our integrated efforts.

Larisa Drake is VP of brand communications at Discover.

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