Social media and integration – go beyond buzz words

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media on June 3, 2010 at 7:01 am

Any communicator worth his or her salt knows to throw the word “integration” into every conversation, presentation, planning meeting or performance review. Even if you’re certain the person on the other side of the conversation has no idea what the word means, you know you have to use it once or twice or risk seeming out of touch and behind the times.

 Social media has only sharpened this truth. As more and more communicators accept the fact that social media is here to stay, they’ve also accepted the fact that, even if they’ve never so much as Twirped or posted an update on Facespace, they have to claim to be integrating social media into every strategy.

 On second thought, a lot of communicators seem to think integration is a strategy.

 So, let’s back up for a minute and look at the notion of integration. What does it mean?

 At the obvious, literal level, integration means bringing various elements together to create a whole. In communications, we’ve come to think of it as weaving together various communications tools, tactics and strategies in pursuit of a single objective.

 Fair enough. But what does this mean on a practical level? Well, a lot of things.

 In social media, for example, it means pulling together all the useful tools – using Twitter to promote a blog, or using Facebook to push people to a YouTube site, or something along those lines.  In the more traditional world of communications, it can mean using media relations to support an advertising campaign, or using a letter-writing campaign to encourage participation in an event. And in the holistic, bring-it-all-together world communicators should live in, it means blending social media with old media, new tools with time-tested tools, and outrageous ideas with tried-and-true approaches.

 In other words, it means using whatever you’ve got in whatever combination necessary to achieve your goals.

 But here’s the sneaky truth: Integration isn’t an option. Maybe once upon a time, you could truly rely on only one medium or tool to get a job done, but I doubt it.

Christianity? To get its start, it integrated the written word with direct communications, developed a network of buzz agents and used miraculous and powerful events to make its point.

Democracy? Again, a lot of the written word, media relations, a speakers bureau, pyrotechnics, customer evangelists, and so forth.

Disco? Radio, events, street teams, movies, print, aftershave commercials, whatever.

OK: Silly examples, perhaps, but a hard truth: Integration is neither a new idea nor an option. It’s imperative. But that doesn’t mean you can use Twitter to promote your CEO’s blog and declare your organization integrated while, down the hall, your media relations team is sending out its own messages and your marketing folks are branding the firm in a vacuum. Your whole communications program has to be working together, in sync, in alignment with your brand and your organization’s central, core message.

Otherwise, you’ll not only fail to integrate, you’ll fail to succeed. And no buzz word in the world is going to change that.


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