New & Next

Keep Your MarCom Team Successful in an Age of Convergence 

converging disciplines

It’s no secret that we, as communication professionals, are in the middle of a sea change in how media is delivered, consumed and created. Convergence is the word of the day as digital and traditional marketing and communication approaches speed up, mash up and mix up. Delivering a truly successful “integrated marketing communication” campaign means our marketing communication (marcom) teams must be more than cross-functional—they must be interdisciplinary. If you haven’t already embraced an interdisciplinary marcom department, jump in now, before you are left behind.

Marketing communication functions are converging

Historically, the functional areas of marcom are:

  • Advertising: Paid placement of your message. In advertising, the marketer creates a message and then, using media buying opportunities, pays a publication, website, or news outlet to place that message in front of potential customers. Because the organization creates and pays for the message distribution, this is the least trusted form of the communication mix–and yet it is very effective, and in digital spaces, highly trackable.
  • Public relations: Using media outlets and influencers to “get the word out” about the organization. When others write or talk about an organization, this is seen as much more credible in the eyes of the consumer—but there is very little control over that message, so there is a risk to how it will be received. Event and experiential marketing are key components of this area.
  • Direct marketing: Highly personalized, one-on-one communication with the customer. One of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing communication, direct marketing includes methods such as email and phone calls/texting. It can be highly effective if done right.
  • Sales promotion: Quick incentives to get consumers to buy or convert. Special deals or events designed to get people excited and convert quickly, but not good for long-term customer effectiveness unless tied to customer loyalty promotions.
  • Direct selling: One-to-one sales that are highly personal, often called “personal selling.” This is incredibly effective in B2B marketing and centers on building strong relationships over time.

With the digital innovations of the past few years, we are now seeing how these functions have converged and why we must leverage delivery platforms such as mobile, social media, video/TV, audio/radio, print, and websites to meaningfully engage with our audiences.

A new media landscape

In the recently released “Media Trends and Predictions 2020 Report” from Kantar Research Group, Andy Brown, global CEO and chairman of the media division states, “As we enter 2020, change in the media landscape is accelerating at an unrelenting pace with new technologies, platforms and business models continuing to re-shape our industry.” In the report, the Kantar team identifies 12 major trends that are disrupting media communication, including:

  • Technological innovation, such as 5G.
  • Growth of streaming video and audio platforms.
  • E-commerce and advertising morphing into “shopvertising.”
  • The need for accurate measurement in influencer marketing.
  • Ethics in data gathering and the impact of technical changes in how we are able to gather that data.
  • Brands taking stands on social issues.
  • The changes in organizational structure needed to address these trends.

These are but a few examples of the convergence of media and how it is changing the way we, as marketing communication professionals, must approach our work. Bottom line, the functional areas of marketing communication are no longer separate and can no longer be siloed if teams are to deliver effective campaigns that add value and move our audiences to take action.

No more silos

Are your marcom teams siloed? Have you outsourced your advertising and media buying? Does your team have video, audio and editing skills or do you have to outsource? Are you maximizing your tech stack for overall effectiveness for your marketing automation and tracking? Have you fostered a measurement culture on your team? How are you keeping your social media channels and platforms thriving so you can build online communities?

Today’s marcom team needs to be made up of data-savvy content strategists with strong technical platform skills who bring a creative mindset to your organization.

These are just a few questions you should be asking as you assess your marcom team’s readiness for today’s converged media landscape.

To build an interdisciplinary team, you need to address the organization of your team to break down silos. This process includes encouraging cross-disciplinary cooperation, hiring with an eye toward multidisciplinary skill sets, and ensuring your team has access to educational opportunities to stay current.

Break down silos by encouraging cooperation and cross-disciplinary partnering. Bring together your analytics expert with your creative content person, or your community manager with your advertising team/agency and your email marketing specialist. Encourage your sales team to meet and brainstorm with your marcom team on creative ways to engage and retain customers. Create opportunities for your teams to come together. Then stand back and watch what they can do.

Build an interdisciplinary team

Some marcom practitioners specialize to the point of being pigeonholed in to a specific role, such as “analytics.” However, as we can see from the Kantar report, even our social media influencer teams must know how to measure success and make data-driven decisions. Encouraging all members of your team to be comfortable in data analysis, content development, and strategic thinking, while at the same time honing their strengths in specific technical skill areas, will allow you to build a flexible, powerhouse team that is able to stay current and capitalize on the opportunities a converged media landscape presents.

Today’s marcom team needs to be made up of data-savvy content strategists with strong technical platform skills who bring a creative mindset to your organization.

Hiring is another way to build your team’s skill set so you can better respond to a converged media landscape. Already, blended job descriptions are becoming more common. Companies look for marcom hires who can create powerful written content, have strong project management skills, and can demonstrate technical skills such as UX design, programming, video production and graphic design. If your marcom team is already multidisciplinary, identify those areas where you need more strength and hire that person who can bring a broad knowledge of marketing and communication, along with a deep skillset in a technical area.

Perpetual training

Finally, your team needs to stay current. Communication technologies that continue to evolve, driving the pace of change ever faster. What is true today, changes tomorrow. How will you build in educational opportunities for yourself and your marcom team? Industry standard certifications from major platforms and CRM systems are available, as are conferences and bootcamps. Higher education institutions can also be trusted partners in helping your marcom team build their technical and creative thinking skills through specialized certificates and degrees including associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Be sure to look for marcom programs that demonstrate success and provide ways for you or your team to learn, practice and apply their coursework in the workplace right away. Continuous learning benefits not only the individual in the coursework, but the organization as well.

Convergence isn’t scary: It’s an opportunity

There is no reason to fear our converged media landscape. Embracing the opportunity to more dynamically reach your customers across multiple platforms, structuring your marcom team to be interdisciplinary, and supporting and fostering a culture of continuous learning will ensure that the functional areas of marketing and communication will thrive in your organization for the long haul, no matter what tech innovation is on the horizon.

Elaine Young, Ph.D.

Elaine Young, Ph.D. is the lead faculty for the Champlain College Online undergraduate marketing and communication program, and works with students both online and on the school's Vermont campus. She has been a professor at Champlain since 2000, and teaches courses in a wide range of marketing disciplines, with a focus on digital marketing. Visit the Champlain College Online website to learn more about Dr. Young and the school's online marketing and communication bachelor's degree program.

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