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A Guide on Selecting the Right Channels for Your Integrated Marketing Communication Program

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Man on a laptop looking  up at his integrated marketing communication channel options

In the last article, we talked about why you should use integrated marketing communication for your business. 

As I was editing that piece, it dawned on me that it didn’t cover how you make the decision of what channels you should use.  

When it comes down to it, what is right for you might not be right for me, and vice versa.

So, where do you begin to make this type of decision?

You need to research so you can ground yourself in some information that will help you inform your decisions.

It would also be helpful to have some sort of framework to help you think through what’s right for your business. 

I’m going to cover that and more.

To start, I’m going to do a quick review of what integrated marketing communication is.

Then, I will talk about how to create user stories to help you identify what it is you want to accomplish.

Next, I’m going to talk about research. 

Finally, I will talk about a tool that will help you address questions about whether using the channels you are considering are the right move or not.  

What is Integrated Marketing Communication?

Integrated Marketing Communication is the unification of the messaging you do over multiple channels to reach your desired audience.

The channels you can use break into four categories: 

  • Owned Media
  • Earned Media
  • Social Media
  • Paid Media

What makes up these categories? 

Owned media is where you own the channel and the message. This is your website and also includes your email list. 

Earned media, also known as media relations, is when you work with the media to publish a story. This is typically done through public relations.

Social media are the platforms you use to communicate and share information such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, or Mastadon.  

Paid media is ads. Online it would be such things as Google ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, TikTok ads, Snapchat ads, and Bing ads. Offline it would be television ads, radio ads, print ads, and billboards.

When you use channels from these four categories to unify your message, you are practicing integrated marketing communication. 

You can read more about how it is the present and the future here

You have more options than ever, but as I said in the introduction, how do you choose the right channels to use? 

It’s important to understand that you don’t have to be on every channel but you do need to be where your audience is. 

For example, for a company that sells to other businesses (B2B), it likely makes more sense to be on LinkedIn than Pinterest. 

If your company caters to Gen Z, it might make more sense to be on TikTok than Facebook. 

These are just some examples. 

You don’t want to jump into a certain channel just because everybody says you should be there. 

Most of the advice I see is general in nature meaning it may or may not apply to you. To make the right decision you need more information which is why you want to do research. 

Create a User Story to Focus Your Research

Before you get into your research I want you to take a step back because you need to be clear on what information you need.

You don’t want to do research for sake of doing research. 

You are doing it to get information that helps you make decisions.

I’ve worked for companies that made a decision and then went looking for the data to support it and it didn’t end well.

I want you to avoid this issue. 

To help you do this, you will create a user story. Actually, you’re likely going to be creating several user stories. 

This is the first of two tools introduced to me by Katie Robbert. CEO of Trust Insights. The second tool will be the 5Ps which I will talk about later.

A user story looks like this: As a [persona], I [want to], [so that]. 

A “persona” is a person who wants information. In the case of your business, it could be the CEO, the social media manager, or the director of marketing. 

Next is “want to” which is the intent. 

And finally, “so that” is the outcome.

A user story would look something like this: As the vice president of product services, I want to understand which services are driving the most interest so I can determine the best mix of services to offer our clientele. 

Here are some other examples: 

  • As the Sales Manager, I want to understand how many leads have been converted to sales so that I can understand the performance of the sales team
  • As the CEO, I want to know how much revenue and profit are being generated so that I can understand the financial health of the company
  • As the Marketing Manager, I want to know which channels are sending traffic, so that I know where we want to increase our investment

I’m offering this as a tool to help you guide your research but this is not its only application. You could use it in other situations as well.

Now, let’s look at this in a way that applies to what you want to accomplish.

You want to determine which channels you need to use as part of your integrated marketing communication program.

Here are some examples of user stories that target each category. 

First is owned media. We have two channels within this category. A website and email. 

I strongly suggest that every company has its own website but I don’t think every website has to have a blog. That would likely be something that you want to explore as part of this process. 

Your first user story focusing on owned media might look something like this: As the head of marketing, I want to find the pros and cons of creating a newsletter so that I can make a decision about whether we should invest in one. 

The next category is earned media. The question isn’t if you’re going to use this channel but how you should use this channel. 

Not every media source is going to be right or attainable for your company.

If you have a tech company, you’re not going to pitch a publication like Fine Gardening. Getting covered in the Wall Street Journal may do wonders for your business but it’s likely to be unattainable for most companies for a variety of reasons.

What you want are media sources that reach your audience so, a user story might be: As the public relations person, I want to know what media sources reach our audience so that I know who we want to pitch. 

A user story for social media could be: As the social media manager, I want to know where our audience is so I can decide what social media platform(s) we will use. 

Finally, we have paid media: As the head of advertising, I want to know which paid channels would be the best for us to use so that we can create ads that reach our audience.   

Now that you are focused on what you need and why, it’s time to research. 

Do Your Research

Research is the unsung hero of any marketing and communication program. 

Not doing it is like asking Patrick Mahomes or LeBron James to play with a blindfold on. They might get lucky and still make some plays but it’s not a good idea to do this. 

Making good decisions comes from having information and you will not have the information you need if you don’t do research. 

In other words, take the blindfold off.

There are two types of research that you can do. 

The first is quantitative. 

This will give you data that is expressed in a number or quantity. 

It’s how many people visited your website, your most popular pages, how many people clicked through on an ad, how many people engaged with your post, and so on. 

You’re going to get quantitative data from places such as Google Analytics and the social and paid platforms you use.  

Quantitative data is important but it won’t give you the whole picture. 

You need additional information that numbers won’t give you. 

For example, you may see high a number of people navigating to the contact page on your website but then not submitting a contact form. The question you need to solve is why this happening. 

A number won’t answer this question. It simply tells you how many people went to the form and how many contacted you.

This leads to the second type of research which is qualitative research.

It answers questions such as who, what, how, when, where, and why.

It goes deeper than the numbers. 

Think of data as an iceberg. What you see above the water is only the smallest part of the iceberg. Most of it is below the surface. 

Quantitative data is the part above the water. 

Qualitative data is what lies below the surface. 

You get this data through things such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups. 

To really understand what is happening, you need to have both quantitative and qualitative data. 

Here’s another way to think about it. If I walked into your office and presented you with a bunch of numbers, you’d ask me what it all meant.

If I can’t address this question, you’re not likely going to take any suggestions I have because you don’t have an understanding of what the data means. 

The only way to answer your question is through qualitative data. 

Make sure you are doing both quantitative and qualitative research so you can have a complete picture.

Apply the 5Ps

When deciding which channels you are going to use, it’s important to answer questions such as who, why, how, and what. 

The 5Ps can be very helpful in this case and they are:  

  • Purpose
  • People
  • Process
  • Platform
  • Performance

The first P is purpose. It answers the question why.

Why are you doing this?

Are you trying to gain more awareness, build your brand, or be seen as a thought leader?

The purpose is really important. If you’re not sure why you are doing something, you will get mixed to poor results from it. 

The second P is people. This is all about identifying who needs to be involved.

Let’s say you’ve decided to make videos to post to YouTube. Who needs to be involved to get this done? 

You have to identify who is going to shoot it, who is going to edit it, and who is going to upload it. 

The third P is process. This identifies how you are going to get things done. 

Let’s go back to the YouTube example. How are you going to shoot the videos? Where are they going to be shot? Is there a script that needs to be written? Is there a certain lighting or type of microphone that you need? How is it going to be edited? Where is it going to be uploaded? 

The fourth P is platform. This focuses on determining what tools you need. 

If you’re shooting a video, what do you need? Are you going to use your phone or a camera? What software do you need to edit it? Where is it going to be hosted?

And finally, the last P is performance. You are taking action, how are you going to measure success? 

Maybe there is a certain number of views you want or you want to use it to refer traffic to your website. How do measure those things? 

Here’s an example so you can see how this comes together. 

I decided this year that I was going to do more with video. I went through the 5Ps and this is the result:

  1. Purpose: To build brand awareness and increase referrals to the website 
  2. People: Shane
  3. Process: Create a script. Shoot on my iPhone at my desk. Edit on my computer and then export to a file that I upload to YouTube. 
  4. Platform: iPhone to shoot. Blue Yeti microphone to capture audio. Ring light for lighting. Camtasia on the iMac to edit the video. YouTube to upload the video to my channel. 
  5. Performance: 15% increase in branded searches. 10% increase in referrals from YouTube. 

Don’t overcomplicate this exercise. You don’t have to write 200 words for each section. You just need to address each of the 5Ps and be specific.

You want to go through this for each channel that you are considering. In the end, you’re going to find one of three things. 

One, you’ve got everything covered within your company. 

Two, you need some help from outside of your company. 

Three, you might need to postpone something until you can get whatever help you need internally or externally.

The beauty of this process is you understand where you need to be and why plus how you are going to do it.

There isn’t any guessing and you’re not relying on hope.

Now, it’s your turn. Get to work.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation on Twitter.

Image by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Shane Carpenter
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