Type into Google ‘integrated communications planning’ and you’ll be amazed at the amount of PDFs and papers which exist to promote the benefits of integration. What the vast majority fail to answer is how to deliver integrated planning. For many organisations integration can become the ‘Eldorado’ of strategy and implementation. Many organisations make a number of big mistakes from failure to define integrated planning to not clearly articulating the benefits of integration.
Below are some tips which can help make integrated planning a reality.
■Don’t just involve strategic thinkers. Failing to engage those with more implementational skills or ‘completer/finisher’ behaviours risks integration always remaining a theoretical discussion.
■Define what integrated planning actually means. What does it look like? What current problems will it eradicate and what benefits will it deliver? Write it up like a business case. Make sure everyone involved agrees with the definition and understands what it means. Those in brand might have a very different perspective from colleagues in sales. Keep the definition simple, maybe in bullet point or in the form of outcome statements.
■Do some maturity modelling. Outline what the end goal looks like and then write down where you are now. You can use this to help map out what needs to change and how. Other useful tools could be transformation mapping or project allocator (both in the tools section of this blog).
■Outline the evidence case for change. Telling people it’s important is easy, but showing why in numbers is harder. It’s vital to do this so that senior level buy-in is secured and resources are allocated. Speak to stakeholders to build examples of where not being integrated has caused problems. Building a financial case is even better. Remember that there are internal costs in everything you do, so evidence of internal financial waste is just as important.
■Don’t jump straight to developing tools. It’s easy to start building overview communication plans and processes without first standing back to scope how integrated planning might work for your organisation.
■Involve every aspect of the business. Don’t just integrate across marketing. Widen stakeholder involvement to make sure there are no silos remaining.
■Roles and responsibilities. Put someone in charge of delivering integrated planning. Build a core team who will scope, develop and implement tools, processes and new ways of working. Sharing overall responsibility will only lead to confusion and a failure to move beyond theory.
■Speak to peers. Do some benchmarking work and ask other big organisations how they’ve managed it. Ask your business suppliers if they can help. They’re likely to have experience of this themselves.
■Define a timetable which includes a time when integrated planning is ‘business as normal’. Put a date in the diary and use this to maintain momentum. Without this you could find yourself in the scoping phase for 6 months.
p.s. I couldn’t resist the definition we have just developed for my previous employer.
Customers will understand what we do and how we can help them find the solution that is right for them. They will experience engaging messages which are consistent, coordinated and clear. They receive these messages at the right time and via their preferred channel. Every communication will have the right of reply through easy and convenient channels. Integration will help align customer expectation against business objectives and priorities. Integration will amplify our brand message, maximise our overall impact whilst driving cost efficiencies. Integrated planning is realised within a framework of governance, processes, tools, resources and ways of working.