By Published on .

M ost marketers strongly endorse the integrated marketing communications (IMC) concept, yet few companies practice it. The reason? They can't figure out the process .|.|. how to do it.

The IMC Audit, developed by the University of Colorado's IMC graduate program, is the first management tool of its kind that enables a company to see what it has to do to truly integrate its marketing communications and benefit from the synergies offered by IMC.

There are two ways to manage or control most operations-"output" controls and "process" controls. "Output" controls evaluate the result of programs. In marketing communications, output controls are awareness studies, tracking studies and sales. "Process" controls evaluate how programs are developed. Financial audits, time and motion studies and corporate communication audits are examples. Up to now, however, process controls have seldom been used in managing marketing communications.

The IMC Audit focuses on the "process." It includes: a) an analysis of the communication network used to develop marketing communication programs; b) identification and prioritization of key stakeholder groups; c) evaluation of the company's customer databases; d) a content analysis of all messages (ads, PR releases, packaging, video news releases, signage, sale promotion pieces, direct response mail- ings, etc.) used within the last year; and e) an assessment of marketing mangers', top man agement's, and key agency managers' knowledge of, and attitude toward, IMC.

One company that was au dited felt it was already mak ing full use of IMC. However, the IMC Audit findings proved otherwise. Most com panies, it was found, had a va riety of barriers to IMC.

At an international package goods company, all marketing and marketing communication managers working on a particular brand were interviewed. Although 93% recognized the benefits of IMC, when asked to rate their brand's current level of marketing communications integration, the average response was only 2.5 (1="not integrated," 5="totally integrated"). "Turf battles" and/or "isolation" were cited by nearly half of the managers as barriers to being more involved in strategic planning, the first step in integration.

When asked what were the brand's marketing communication objectives, there were 10 different answers, with 26% responding "don't know." It is obviously difficult to have a focused communications program when people are working towards different goals.

Over half of the managers said strategic planning meetings including all marketing communication departments had little awareness of the major communication projects being developed in other departments.

Managers also reported that they received "enough information from other departments to perform their job effectively" less than 50% of the time. A content analysis of all advertising, sales promotion and merchandising materials found that less than 20% were on strategy.

One of the most important benefits of the IMC Audit is providing management with objective information on which to provide more effective leadership in overall corporate communications. It also alerts employees to a broader perspective of marketing communications and gives them an opportunity to think about what they are doing and why they're doing it (or not doing it).

The fact that a company has invested in an IMC Audit sends a message to its marketing communications staff and outside agencies that their jobs are important. It also sends the message that the company believes in, and wants, an integrated marketing communications process for building stronger brands and customer relationships.M

Mr. Duncan is director of the IMC graduate program at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Most Popular
In this article: