Integrated Comms: More than the odd social post

Mary Paslawski

19 Aug 2020

Around 10-15 years ago, digital news was finally well and truly embedded. We were hearing all over the industry that journalism “wasn’t like it used to be”. What began as a whisper and shrug of the shoulders in the pub gained momentum and suddenly every comms industry event was spouting the wisdom of ‘integrated communications’ as the way of the future. It was adapt or die. Clients would need an agency to be able to offer the full package of marketing and PR.

Now, PR is still very much alive and well. Journalism and the ways of working with the comms industry adapted to fit the needs of a digital newsroom – and it’s been doing just fine on its own. However, that whisper struck a nerve in the industry and it came from the right place.

It’s no secret that budgets are always at risk and clients always need to take that into consideration when choosing what campaign route to go down or where to invest more. It’s simply good business sense to think about using a full-service agency instead of splitting budgets between separate marketing and PR agencies which incurs account management fees twice and loses process efficiency.

But what does it mean?

The question remains about what constitutes an ‘integrated communications agency’. Back when it was the hot new term, it seemed everyone offered integrated comms.

The definition was stretched to mean everything from having a full creative studio, planning, client services, and press office capabilities, to running a PR programme with suggested social posts and a lonely freelance designer on the books.

Luckily, we seem to have tightened up as an industry with the pretenders quickly washing out of conversations that require a genuine full-service agency. But we’re still not there yet – Googling “integrated communications agencies in London” quickly tries to redirect you to “PR agencies in London”.

It’s so worth it

It still reeks of being a buzzword, but a truly integrated communications approach can make all the difference. Clients increasingly need an agency who can plug and play anything from a creative platform, to a sales enablement toolkit, to an editorial programme, to targeted strategic media one-to-ones.

As silos break down, an integrated go-to-market approach is what will really move the needle. And it’s not just about PR and marketing, smaller comms teams have always had hybrid roles. Sales, digital, customer experience and so on need to work more closely together.

This was never so apparent to us as when we worked on Cisco’s 5G RuralFirst project. It was created to demonstrate the game-changing potential of 5G in delivering connectivity to the UK’s rural businesses and communities. So, the project needed to bring the world beyond the city to life.

We explored every avenue to get the world’s attention:

  • Animated explainer videos shining light on how 5G technology works.
  • The world’s first 5G-enabled app that allowed 12k+ people to get to know their own IoT connected cow.
  • Bringing together 200 mobile network, technology providers, government reps and rural business owners at an industry event to see the real results of what rural 5G could accomplish.

Using 5G to stream the sounds of Orkney to a London studio and create a beautiful piece of music that featured on BBC Radio 6 Music.

The result was summed up by Mansoor Hanif, CTO of Ofcom: “5G RuralFirst has changed the direction of 5G in the UK.”

Sounds like an endorsement for truly integrated comms if ever I heard one…