By: Miri Rodriguez, Microsoft Americas
April 26, 2017
A salesperson, a PR manager and a marketer walk into a bar…or so your bottom line wishes.
As organizations finally recognize that social media is beyond just another “do we really need this?” marketing channel and proving to be a true catalyst for transformation, a new set of challenges is arising from (or perhaps made more visible by) the online customer: Just how integrated is the communication between major business functions, if at all?
The reality is that the birth of social media forced organizations to draw up new business strategies to stay competitive in the digital space. And so they did—one department at a time.
Ask a salesperson what their social strategy is, or even what social media means to her profit goals and she will probably give you a completely different answer than the PR or marketing manager within the same organization. Department silos have always existed but are harder to ignore today because the connected customer expects a unified experience and there is no way to successfully deliver that without an integrated team.
So how can you build a truly integrated communications team? By following three simple steps: sharing, strategizing and unifying.
Step one begins with the marketing department generously sharing internal communications with key stakeholders. Because marketing is at the forefront of identifying customers and promoting the brand, marketing can ensure sales and PR are not only aware of social marketing strategies, events and new developments in campaigns and branding, but also are discussing how any of these may impact their goals and ultimately, the customer.
Will this event change customer perspective? How does this social campaign influence a potential sale in a specific region? Does marketing proactively share listening and monitoring reports to turn real-time voice of the customer into actionable items for sales or PR? Internal communications from marketing keep all teams informed and nurture the relationship between important business groups.
The next step in building an integrated communications team is going beyond knowledge-sharing and fostering strategic partnerships between the trifecta of marketing, sales and PR. During this phase, the business groups work closely together for a common goal: to deliver a consistent voice across all channels and throughout each phase of the customer journey.
Successful horizontal integration occurs when all functions sit in a room (or at the local bar) and openly discuss planned actions for each of the groups and how this affects the customer. With each action, it’s important to ask: Are we sending the right message? Is that message clear and unified across all channels? If a customer contacts sales after a successful marketing campaign, and then PR sends out an official statement about the brand, does the customer recognize this as the same brand voice? Does it disrupt the customer experience?
The final step to building a solid integrated communications team is to make certain that every strategy created within the trifecta supports higher-level objectives and overall brand mission.
Of course, each functional team has their own set of commitments and deliverables to execute upon. So, how can they effectively deliver a unified customer experience within their space while staying true to the company’s mission every time? By building brand assets and guidelines and sharing them across the organization, visiting and revisiting the company’s mission during every cross-functional team discussion and holding each other accountable through open and regularly scheduled interactions.
The benefits to building an integrated communications team are many, including competitive advantage, reduced operational and customer efforts, increased customer loyalty and bottom line.
Every brand looking to be a thought-leader in the digital transformation era or even stay competitive in this space, should work at having a unified PR, marketing and sales team as part of their business strategy. So go ahead and invite your new strategic partners to the next happy hour. Your customer and bottom line will both thank you. Bottoms up!
Miri Rodriguez is the senior social media and communities lead for Microsoft Americas, responsible for managing three social care teams responding to thousands of customer inquiries in Global English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Connect with Miri: @MiriRod