24/05/2012 12:19 BST | Updated 24/07/2012 06:12 BST

Why an Integrated Digital Marketing and PR Strategy is Important

Although strategy is probably the most ridiculed business marketing terms at the moment courtesy of The Apprentice, to not see merit in creating and implementing it effectively could be at the determent of a business.

Although strategy is probably the most ridiculed business marketing terms at the moment courtesy of The Apprentice, to not see merit in creating and implementing it effectively could be at the determent of a business. When a customer thinks of a company, they don't think of them as separate offline / online entities and they don't think of brands. In that same vein, a digital marketing (incorporating social media) and PR plan should be developed around the customer, not the different mediums and tactics used to achieve the same end goal/s.

If the communication strategy isn't integrated across all of those areas, then any activity is likely to be disjointed, more costly and have less impact than it otherwise could. By integrating all of the marketing and communications efforts into one overriding strategy (incorporating mobile, social media, content, sales, advertising, direct marketing, search [paid and organic], email and digital marketing), not only does every department have a better understanding of what other departments are doing, but also the end goals are unified and not conflicted.

Sharing departmental knowledge

Departments and the activity each undertakes shouldn't operate in isolation. If something piques a person's interest on one channel and they want to find out more, then no matter which brand touch point they turn to they should find it with little effort. Similarly, customers shouldn't be reading about a new product, service and/or initiative in a newspaper - then months later hearing the same thing (with no added value) a month later on Facebook.

Brands can maximize their efforts, better position the brand, overall goals and provide the customer with the best possible experience by singing from the same hymn sheet. With the plethora of digital channels and media available to brands, it can be identify which are likely to be the most successful for individual campaigns, audience segmentations and the brand overall. Not having a clear understanding of the bigger picture (the business objectives) with a detailed yet flexible plan for getting there and how to bring customers along for the ride is just setting the brand up for a fall.

Flexible and adaptable strategies

The strategy should focus on identifying the customer needs, how these align with yearly, six monthly and quarterly objectives and clear identification of which channels will be the most effective to engage with - marketing channels are parts of a much bigger wheel. One of the keys to a successful integrated digital marketing and PR strategy is a long-term view, that factors in continual research, planning, measurement and monitoring. Digital marketing is not an answer to anything and PR does, and will always take time to build awareness and reputations (and mostly always has).

When managed effectively, an integrated strategy will give brands a competitor advantage, boost sales and create valuable, long-term relationships with customers.

Top marketing and PR strategy tips

Top tips for creating an integrated digital marketing and PR strategy (note, it's not an exhaustive list):

  1. Get cross departmental buy-in from the outset and have all parties contribute to the strategy (especially legal)
  2. Define the overall objectives, and break these down to quarterly targets
  3. Ensure the strategy is flexible - media and customer needs change, so brands need to be ready to adapt and evolve their approach
  4. What does success look like and how are the key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned?
  5. Segment the audience (offline or online), media and social media channels they use
  6. Define the channels and media within the strategy so that all parties are clear having a good understanding of what is required and when
  7. Assign ownership of different elements of the strategy to an individual and/or team to lessen the risk of things being overlooked as well as minimizing potential red-tape
  8. Place content at the heart of the strategy and ensure that all activity is focused on adding value to the customer
  9. Take a long term view and don't expect overnight results; a drip, drip approach can be the best way to build long term awareness and relationships
  10. Undertake regular reviews of the brand and competitors (SWOT analysis)

(Image credit: Photo of Apprentice candidate Azhar Siddque courtesy of The BBC)