Last night Beth Harte (@bethharte) and I launched #IMCChat, a chat focused on integrated marketing communications (IMC), and we were absolutely astonished by the amount of amazing people who contributed to this chat. Earlier this year Beth and I met and talked about IMC, the challenges, our battle wounds, and what a beautiful thing it is when all the pieces of IMC (Traditional, Digital and Social media) all work together to talk to the world – all publics including stakeholders, customers, and employees. It isn’t surprising that we became instant friends, not just because we are marketing geeks, but we both have old school roots in work and life. The topic of IMC has consistently resonated with us. We are passionate about it so it was only natural to start talking to the world about it and find out what everyone else thinks or if it’s just us. We are happy to report it’s not, phew! Turns out IMC sparks lively conversations with a lot of people, whether they’ve practiced all marketing disciplines or just one.
Because IMC is all I know. I love it, but it does have its challenges. Here are my confessions as an IMC marketer.
1. I didn’t sign up for this. It chose me.
Sixteen years ago, I began my career for two conglomerates; one was Allied-Signal and the other a UK-based company called Cookson. There is where I got my education in structure, policy, bureaucracy, and the common feeling with some of these large organizations that you are one small fish in the sea. I must confess that there are both plusses and minuses with this. I appreciated the structure and policies & procedures because they created purpose, accountability, and accomplishment. Being noticed for your contributions, however, took hard work. My background at these companies included customer support, finance, sales; and then I landed in marketing and pretty much stayed there until today.
2. I was a start-up junkie and still love the challenge.
The 90’s were the dot com boom (later known as dot bomb). Again there were plusses and minuses, but I fell in love with start-ups. Here is where I developed my career in integrated marketing communications. The energy and freedom of a start-up is amazing. There is freedom to take a position and run with it, make it your own, and learn a tremendous deal from it. I landed in marketing communications and became the whole department. This basically meant I was responsible for all marketing. Back then it was traditional marketing – PR, Advertising, Events – and of course, lots of Sales support. The internet was fairly new and digital was just over the horizon. With start-up’s come big risks that can shut companies down like running out of VC funding (they were throwing money at companies back then like confetti), missing a key product launch in a competitive market and other detrimental things that can make or break a young company. This happened to a couple of companies I worked for and what didn’t break me made me stronger.
3. I work too damn hard. (Not that no one else does, but if you’re an IMC marketer, you know what I mean)
IMC requires much education, hard work and buy-in challenges. You are faced with learning all marketing disciplines, being accountable for everything if you are the marketing department, constantly justifying budgets, being asked for metrics, and building so many cases. I accepted that challenge and soon I began to really like it. Sure there were (and still are) late nights, but I wouldn’t trade the education I’ve gained to this day for anything.
4. The big picture will always be ingrained in my brain (but the focus has significantly shifted)
Having learned to be a strategic thinker is a huge benefit, but sometimes we have to break the big picture into bite-size pieces to really understand not so much what we have to accomplish but how we are going to accomplish it. With the emergence of social media, companies are more transparent to everyone outside the corporate walls. For large companies who still possess “we rule the world” mentalities, social media is flashing a huge spotlight on them, and if they aren’t making the effort to engage with customers, it’s noticed. Really noticed. People talk about it out in the open, and everyone else can see what they’re saying. It will take some time for companies to admit it; admit they no longer have full control of their message, and to admit that it’s OK. For that reason, my big picture focus is more from the customer’s shoes than ever. Believe me, we have huge clients with this mentality, but we are working on them.
5. I think about all marketing channels/tools as means to an end. Can’t help it.
Being both in corporate and start-up environments has enabled me to learn and use all marketing channels – traditional, digital, social media. Goals are established, objectives are developed, tactics are created marketing channels are chosen, and metrics are assigned to each. That’s my world. Some companies are really good at this. Some, not so much. Some companies have teams to execute; others only one person. I’ve been on both sides and I must admit, I’m glad because it wouldn’t have made me as open-minded as I am today.
Are the above confessions good or bad? I have days I say yes and others I say no, but one thing remains constant, and that’s my passion for marketing and the amazing ways it can transform organizations, people, and the world.
What are your confessions? Were they blessings in disguise? Would love to hear your point of view.