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Harris Diamond on what true integration looks like

Effective integration today is about the power of addition rather than consolidation or coordination.

Harris Diamond, McCann Worldgroup

There may be no topic more important but less understood in our industry than integrated marketing communications. The term “integration” has too often become a proxy for negatives such as “consolidation” or “efficiency,” a mask for jack-of-all-trades, or a reference to an outdated past practice when agencies were anxious to avoid being labeled as traditional and needed to project that they were embracing digital and total communications.

Today, however, the true integration of marketing and communications is not what it was or even pretended to be 20, 10, or even five years ago. It has been fast evolving. Long gone are the days when, for example, a PR firm was called in by an advertising agency to serve in a secondary role just to give some more legs to an ad campaign.

Instead what we see today is an expansion, even a transformation, in how brands need to engage with consumers across a full array of multiplatform connection opportunities. Brand marketers are facing a host of competitive and growth challenges that require a wider spectrum of approaches to effectively win over and keep customers.

It’s not just about better coordination or the spirit of collaboration, both of which are just the price of entry. Each specialized communication discipline has been advancing individually in scope and methods, even to the point of developing overlapping expertise with other disciplines. Whether it’s PR, relationship marketing, experiential marketing, or advertising, each is no longer limited to a narrowly defined role, but becomes part of a more powerful solutions-focused offering drawing on a wider team of experts.

Therefore, effective integration today is about the power of addition rather than consolidation or coordination. It is built on the premise that each participating agency, or individual practitioner, needs to be the best in its own sector as well as — and even as a prerequisite for — delivering the best integrated solutions for clients. It’s about achieving seamless integration not through coordinated surface activities, but through different core approaches to working, organizing, and functioning on a day-to-day basis all in ways that influence how strategy and creativity are developed.

This approach to integrating communications and marketing addresses the expanded challenges that clients are themselves facing in today’s multiplatform environment. They too need to focus on the power of addition as it affects their own businesses. Clients need and want counsel on brand strategy as well as effective communications platforms. They require high-impact creative ideas that resonate in the culture at large, but also through leading-edge data and analytics. They need the ability to engage people in live events and experiences while also delivering systems-grade partnerships with the major technology platforms.

Consequently, while the challenges are bigger, one thing that has not changed over the years with regards to integration is that clients are not really interested in the process as much as the outcome. The goal of true integration today is not integration in and of itself. That’s merely the means to an end. The goal of thinking and working holistically is foundationally about how to solve the biggest problems that brand marketers have through the power of all resources, capabilities, and expertise.

But being able to deliver that range of capabilities does require new ways of working together that bring to the task the best in talent and resources within any specialized sector combined with the skills, experience, and perspective to construct larger marketing and communications solutions.

Harris Diamond is chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup. In 2018, PRWeek named Diamond, formerly the CEO of Weber Shandwick, one of the “20 most influential communicators” of the past two decades. That same year, he was inducted into PRWeek’s Hall of Fame.

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