The age of integrated communications and thinking differently.

Johnny McGinley argues that for brands, not for profits and the corporate world truly successful communication is not just about what they say and do. Rather it is first and foremost about a way of thinking. Thinking in a clinical, strategic and increasingly creative way is the foundation stone that will make your communications as a business or brand sustainable, authentic and determine the strength of your reputation.

In the PR world we can sometimes easily make the mistake of focusing on the communication channel rather than the actual communication mix itself. As an example the focus at the minute is very much on digital, social media and mobile communications. Digital and social are important do not get me wrong. They are only going to grow so businesses and organisations need to “do digital” to remain competitive. But ask a business owner why they are doing digital and social media and one of the common responses today is “because everybody is doing it and we need to be there too”

Do you see what the problem with that is? The problem with it is as humans we can have a tendency to follow the crowd. If a competitor is doing something businesses often naturally feel at a subconscious level that they should be doing it too. But the problem with following the crowd is that you can risk losing your own brand authenticity.

This is because you can fall into the trap of doing something because it is trendy or because everybody else is doing it without really knowing why you are doing it. And when you are in that boat you weaken your brand through reducing brand authenticity. To make your brand communications stand out in a world of mass communications thinking differently about brand communications is increasingly becoming the critical success factor.

We are now in the social media, digital and mobile era. But, I believe, a new age in brand communications is starting to emerge now. That is the age of integrated communications. As social media, digital and mobile communication technologies and channels grow in number (due to communications technology constantly evolving and advancing), integrating digital, mobile and traditional media communications in a uniquely strategic mix for a brand to gain distinctive competitive advantage through its communications efforts will become increasingly important.

Rather than focus solely on digital, social media or mobile communications because it is “the in thing at the moment” I argue that we need to move more now to focusing on integrated communications. We need to integrate traditional media and digital media together in a unique way that will be different for each brand or business in order to deliver competitive advantage for a brand. And integrated communications will achieve that through brand communications which are increasingly distinctive and authentic.

But the age of integrated communications will, I believe, not just be about integrating social and traditional media. For us as PR professionals I believe going forward we will increasingly see a growing focus on the integration of PR disciplines. In PR there can be a significant degree specialisation. Some PR practitioners specialise in media relations. Some specialise in social and digital. Some specialise in internal communications. Others specialise in public affairs and lobbying. And others still specialise in crisis communications and reputation management. A successful brand and corporate communications strategy is one that integrates all these disciplines together at the right time to deliver a truly effective communications campaign that will add value over competitors.

In the age of integrated communications the focus will be on integrating communication technologies, communication channels and PR communication techniques in an increasingly unique way to deliver competitive advantage rather the “next big thing” in digital or communications technology development. As social media, digital and mobile communication technologies and channels grow in number and evolve (due to communications technology constantly evolving and advancing), integrating digital communications will become increasingly brand critical to stand out from the crowd.