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Important Knowledge, Skills and Abilities for a Career in Integrated Marketing Communications

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) professionals are known for their broad knowledge base, commitment to accountability, proactive attitudes and their ability to “play well with others” across an organization. These are all important Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) that form the foundation of an effective IMC professional.

No longer are successful companies developing marketing communications strategies within silos of “just advertising.” Similar to corporate America’s push toward vertical integration, a winning integrated strategy manages all tools, rather than only public relations or advertising. All internal and external touch points must be considered and leveraged to be successful at IMC and build deeper and more mutually beneficial relationships with important stakeholders.

Here are five other KSAs that are important for successful IMC professionals:

  1. Alignment of Organizational Goals: History has given us many examples of organizations that fail to communicate internally and then stall out externally. When goals are set within an organization without communicating them to other teams, everyone takes a very narrow view of their contribution to the overall success of the business. Taking a more integrated approach to internal and external communications promotes consistency, information/resource sharing and shared accountability for results. Today’s internal communications tools —email, social channels, collaborative software platforms, e-newsletters, etc. — can go a long way in focusing an organization on achieving the overall goals.
                                   
  2. Setting Measurable Objectives… at Each Step: There is always a lot at stake with an IMC plan. Regardless of how creative or “strategic” an IMC campaign is, a plan is only successful if it meets its objectives. And when you bring together the elements of public relations, advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion, etc. into one plan, writing measureable objectives for not only the overall campaign but also for each functional area becomes even more critical. What sets IMC professionals apart is a commitment to accountability and continuous measurement and evaluation. Make sure that each objective is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.
                                                                  
  3. High Level Thinking: IMC planning takes a top-down approach to communications, but it is not the “top down” most of us first think of. An IMC professional puts the customer or stakeholder at the top of the planning process.  It is with this audience in mind that the objectives, strategies, tactics and measurement and evaluation sections of a plan are developed. An IMC approach then challenges marcom professionals to align many functions of an organization to ensure consistency. This high-level view works to give executives a better understanding of their marketing communications efforts as a whole. From planning to execution to end results, they are then able to see precisely where their investment is going and why.
                                                                     
  4. Marcom Maestro: IMC professionals work to bring all functions of marketing and communication together and leverage the strengths of each. The approach is similar to conducting a complex piece of music. While every instrument has a specific task, the goal is to have them come together in a way that produces beautiful music. It is the same in IMC, where advertising might be your violin, social media your piano, public relations your trumpet and so on.
                                                                                                                                          
  5. Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of All: IMC professionals have a distinct challenge. To produce that “beautiful music”, they must have a working knowledge of all paid, earned and owned MC functions — creative, advertising, direct marketing, public relations and sales promotion. They must know how these functions can work together to complement each other and how best to utilize them and produce the greatest ROI. With new tools being added every day, the challenge is ours to keep up with the latest trends and theories of all of these functions. The reward is great when it all comes together.

Rebecca Andersen, APR, M.S. IMC (Alexandria, Va.) and Matthew Cummings, M.S. IMC (Erie, Pa.) are instructors for West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program. To learn more about the program, please visit imc.wvu.edu