What is Integrated Marketing Communications? 1

integrated marketing communicationIntegrated marketing is a management concept designed to make all aspects of marketing communications (such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing) work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation.

The concept of integrated marketing only came into practice within the last 20 years, so if you were stumped by the term, have no worries! With so many definitions, books, courses and articles about integrated marketing communications (IMC) it is hard to stick with just one perspective and since it’s still developing, it is mainly defined by the organization that practices it.

Researching the core principles of integrated marketing is the best way to gain a better understanding of what IMC is. If you can identify what concepts and tools best relate to your professional experience, you will be able to understand what areas of IMC require additional expertise and what areas belong to a young professional with your skill sets. Keep in mind that IMC is a mixture of marketing, public relations, advertising and other fields, so you may find that understanding integrated marketing will give you a leg up in your field.

Since integrated marketing is a blend of departments, companies that use it intend to get the most out of their marketing communications campaigns. By strategically identifying the target audience’s needs, wants, interests, and expectations, an IMC team can incorporate the best tools and concepts from each area in its communicate plan.

Understanding IMC Skills & Tools

Your brand is the perception you want your target audience to form from their own experiences as well as the information they receive about your company or its products. This can be achieved through the following marketing communication channels, tools and fields:

  • Advertising: Can successfully reach a large number of consumers, but can come with an expensive price tag radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, Internet, and billboards.
  • Direct Marketing: Used to encourage direct responses to radio and TV, in order to reach targeted audiences to increase sales and test new products and alternate marketing tactics. The main tools of direct marketing are email marketing, direct mailings, and catalogs.
  • Public Relations: Builds trust by presenting the product, company or person in a positive light. PR professionals utilize public appearances, news/press releases, press kits, social media or event sponsorships and work with the media to drive brand messages to and from target audiences.
  • Sales & Promotion: Used to boost sales, by building brand awareness and encouraging repeat buying; this is only a short-term impact. Think of coupons, contests, samples, premiums, demonstrations, displays or incentives.

There are many ways to excel in the field of IMC, but first you need to educate yourself. Become acquainted with successful and unsuccessful integrated marketing communications campaigns and strategies. If you are a public relations or marketing major looking to enter a company with an IMC department, be sure to learn and understand how public relations and marketing are different, how they overlap, and most importantly how they compliment one another.

Many companies are still adjusting to the field and may not have a position for an integrated marketing specialist available, but many expect their departments to come together and implement integrated strategies. So, if becoming informed means taking an additional course in public relations or marketing—do it!

I have a bachelor’s degree in public relations, so marketing strategy is not something that I am an expert on, and when I attempted to learn about integrated marketing communications in the classroom, I found that my textbooks contained literally two pages on IMC. I learned about IMC through internships and my own research, which made up for the lack of information available during my undergrad years. Without internships, I would not have been able to see how integrated marketing programs can be used to benefit a campaign.

That being said, I’d be interested in hearing how other young professionals were introduced to integrated marketing communications. Did your university offer a major or minor, or did you learn it via an internship?

Share your experience and how it helped you better understand the concept of integrated marketing communications by leaving a comment below.

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About La-Quinta Munford

Creative, spontaneous and full of laughter, are three things that describe La-Quinta! A self-described PR junkie, small business owner and mother of two wonderful boys, she obtained her bachelor's degree in communications and public relations from Montclair State University. La-Quinta's areas of expertise are public relations, event planning and community activism.

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