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The Future of Communications is Integration

Diploma in Integrated Communications Management

Steve Dunne is one of the PRCA’s top trainers and leads the PRCA Diploma in Integrated Communications Management with the PR Academy.

When I first entered the PR industry, the world was a far simpler place.

For PR and communications professionals, it was mainly about print and broadcast and the coverage we could obtain for our clients or brand.

But today, in 2021, the PR and communications practitioner needs to have a much broader, and much deeper, knowledge of many other communications channels then they needed in the past.

The various disciplines of marketing communications and corporate communications have been merging for a while now. The lines between the disciplines of advertising, search, social media, and media relations is no longer clearly defined

Increasingly, a PR and communications professional is just as likely to be managing a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or TikTok campaign, be advising on pay per click strategies, ambient advertising tactics or editing a podcast recording as they are pitching stories to the media, drafting a news release, or editing a customer newsletter.

The future of communications is beyond doubt. It is about integration.

The target audience, be they B2C or B2B, is increasingly seeking inspiration, advice and reassurance about their products and services, their choices, and purchases in a way that we may have not seen before.

They will seek inspiration & advice from several sources. They will cross reference information & insights with their communities; with the opinion formers & opinion leaders that matter to them. Trusted sources will be their priority.

They will seek & experience communications in a sort of halo effect, merging information and stimulus from different channels; buying goods that matches other priorities in their lives – be it sustainability, luxury, wellbeing and more.

The communications specialist will need to be different too – a specialist in many comms disciplines to match the consumers consumption of content.

So, with audiences increasingly fluid in how, and where, they consume their communications and messages, and with the growth of fake news and the general lack of trust in some media channels, often demanding cross referencing with other communications channels, every PR practitioner will need to be knowledgeable about how to integrate the various channels to present an engaging and cohesive integrated communications campaign.

And all this is down to something known as the halo effect.

People, be they consumers or a b2b audience, do not live their lives in silos. Their communications comes from a range of different sources – newspapers, social media sites, advertisements, influencers, and search to name just a few. Each channel reinforces and endorses others.

And, with attention spans in decline; the platforms to consume content now being mobile and with small screens, more of us are taking on messages through visuals, video, or sound.

And the halo effect is making other demands more prominent for the communicator. Audiences now see themselves represented by a range of brands rather than just one and this has seen the growth of affinity marketing, where brands work with other brands to a common cause.

Likewise for cause related marketing where brands, to position themselves as good corporate citizens, embark on a programme of corporate social responsibility working with not-for-profit movements or charities to promote sales and secure brand loyalty.

Clients and employers are now demanding that their communications professionals and advisors’ approach to communicating with target audiences is truly integrated.

The PESO model that takes in the paid, earned, shared, and owned channels of communications is increasingly being used and referenced for planning campaigns.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each channel; when to deploy each tactic and how it works with every other channel and knowing how to measure and evaluate its effect will now be the crucial skill set to have for any communicator.

The future for communications is brighter than ever, but that future will be integrated and the communications specialist who embraces that will be streets ahead of their peers and competition.