Six Ways To Silo-Bust Your Communications

We’re into “2010 prediction season, and there are plenty of social media buzzwords being thrown around.” “Real-time,” “location-based,” “convergence” and “augmented reality” are a few that stand out for me.

No silos

I’m going to throw a new one into the mix; one that has been my mantra for a while, and which (I think) should frame your communications strategies for 2010 – if it doesn’t already:

Integration.

Silos suck

If I’ve learned anything from the social media work we’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this year, it’s that siloed communications strategies rarely work. What good is a Twitter account if no-one knows it’s there? What good are user-generated videos if no-one can share them? If a news release falls in the forest, does anyone hear?

As communicators, we know that message repetition is key to message retention. When it comes to social media – a long-term, relationship-based channel – you have a great opportunity to reach people repeatedly with whatever messages you’re sharing. That goes whether you’re trying to offer a new customer service channel, develop long-term loyalty, gain product feedback, promote new services or whatever your goal is.

Your life as a communicator becomes a lot easier when the public-facing elements of your organization – the public relations, marketing, advertising, IT (where IT handles the website), customer service and (perhaps) social media functions – are pointing in the same direction.

Reality kicks in

It makes intuitive sense, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Almost daily, you can see important campaigns launched without support from other functions and all sorts of similar fragmentation of strategies and tactics which undermine the success of the sizable investment made in them.

It’s not always as easy as it sounds to break out of communications silos. Regardless of the size of your organization (or the nature of the agency relationship) there are likely politics and turf involved. Organizational silos layer on top of the communication silos. In an agency, it can be particularly hard to coordinate with other agencies who, frankly, may wish they were executing some of the work you’re doing. Still, you can be the player that takes the high road and makes the first move to reach out. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Here are six simple things you can do to begin to integrate your communications and bust out of your silos:

  • Where possible, invite people from other communications functions to be in the room when planning your year’s activities. At a minimum, ensure the different functions’ plans are shared.
  • Plan to coordinate your activities with those of other functions. If there’s a big ad push in Q1, for example, consider whether other functions should push hard then, too. If not, consider how you’ll try to compensate for the lower advertising activity at other times in the year.
  • Ensure you integrate your messaging with other functions. If there’s an ad campaign focused on a new product feature, it makes sense to use other channels too, rather than focusing on something else, right? Remember – repetition begets retention, and retention leads to results.
  • Schedule regular update meetings with your colleagues in other departments. If you’re on the agency side, try to meet or talk regularly with other agencies working with your clients. You’ll probably need client buy-in (or even pressure) to make this happen, but it’s worth it.
  • Next time you launch a contest, product feature or web property, consider well ahead of time whether it could be featured in email blasts, direct mail pieces, advertising creative, news release, speeches etc. Lobby the appropriate people to update your company’s website with links to all of your web properties, and ensure your websites and social media properties link back.
  • Do what you can to integrate measurement with other functions. If you’re driving traffic to your website, don’t measure click-throughs; measure conversions. If you’re trying to drive foot traffic to stores, see if you can measure that. Don’t limit your measurement to the first level of proxies on the way to your goal.

These are just six simple ways to begin to break out of silos in your communications. There are plenty more out there – what would you add to the list?