«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»
intended benefit for the organization. “Strategic” is defined by respondents as “supporting the corporate brand” and “putting a consistent face forward.” This theme resonated through interviews, documents, and participant observation. A network publicity director explained that everything “has to be strategic in terms of all the communications teams working together so that we’re promoting our brands separately but also strategically together at the same time.” Message Unity Consistent messaging may be the common denominator in consideration of integration at Adventure Communications. During interviews, participants commonly referred to integration as coordinating messages between websites and communication material. One respondent said that being “completely integrated” involves putting out a press release and making sure employees get the same message. One network manager said success comes when “the communications message, the marketing message and the sales message are all in harmony and are not conflicting, that’s how you know you’ve succeeded.” RQ 2: How is integration implemented at an organization with a high level of integrated communication?
Integrated communication at Adventure is based on the intersection of management priorities and an organizational culture that values transparency and teamwork. Integration is implemented both externally and internally.
External Integration Adventure Communications’ integration efforts seek consistency in messaging, media channels, and across stakeholder groups. Efforts toward internetwork consistency are also evident.
Messaging. Adventure communicators use a concept referred to as “message sharing,” in which, according to a publicity manager, communicators “share the same assets to enable as consistent and joint a message as we can.” Message sharing involves using a unified message across media and promotional materials, ensuring that different messages are not at odds with each other.
Message sharing also requires employees to be on the same page. “We train ourselves and make sure that we’re on message when we talk to people,” said one network general manager. Communicators ensure all employees are “on message” by working in tandem with human resources to create and distribute messaging to employees through the company’s internal employee website. Managers also encourage message sharing informally. One network general manager said, “If I notice that in the course of meetings and day-to-day work, people are missing one another and are not speaking the same message, then I’ll encourage them to get together and do that.” Message sharing allows room for differences in semantics or word choice, as a corporate vice president explained: “It’s not that the lines have to be the same…it’s the essence that has to be the same.” This “essence” is managed through a company editorial filter. “An Adventure show has to be immersive, engaging and informative at the same time,” said one network manager. “That brand filter is a way of helping us remember how to frame our projection of ourselves so that when I’m talking to a reporter, I’ll have a lexicon of words that I can pull from.” Through message sharing, taglines and semantics may differ, but themes are consistent.
This was evident in communication material and interviews.
Media. Adventure Communications synchronizes media outlets for a comprehensive reach of target publics by balancing earned and paid-for media, as well as print and online channels. Integrating across media channels entails earning as much media coverage as possible for targeted stakeholder groups and often involves close coordination between marketing and 726 communications on scheduling media releases and launches. Adventure communicators often work with a magazine that the ad sales department is also targeting to “double down” and “own” a particular media outlet. This was evident in my experiences working with the company on a promotional event, as event organizers indicated their desire to own the online space regarding their event’s subject.
Several respondents reported putting more emphasis on social media, like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, because of their viewers’ social media attention. In fact, many reported that digital and online media are changing the way they integrate channels because “some people want to do everything online.” Respondents discussed the difficulty coordinating across online media because of the lack of message control in online forums and messaging environments.
Stakeholder integration. “I think what drives integration is what the audience wants,” said a brand director. “A lot of bloggers, for example, don’t want a press release, they want a message that’s customized to them…but maybe there’s another message that’s more important for certain audiences.” Stakeholder integration involves having “the same audience in mind, and the same brand promise in mind,” when targeting stakeholders, and may involve “coming at the same pitch from five different angles.” In this way, the underlying message may be the same, but way the message is presented differs according to audience. For example, one network general manager divides target audiences into four groups—viewers, trade reporters, consumer reporters, and advertisers—considering a different message for each group. “You are speaking to different audiences but you want them to be in harmony,” he said.
For many, stakeholder integration is facilitated by online technology, as practitioners try to capitalize on direct to consumer media channels. “People are out there listening to us, and it’s good to get it directly from the network, not necessarily from a reporter.” This was also evident in my participant observation experiences, as the network sought to capitalize on direct connections to bloggers.
Integrating networks. One of the principle areas for integration at Adventure is ensuring that networks are in sync with the corporate brand and in sync with each other. This is done through a coordinated set of priorities—network priorities are on promoting programming and corporate priorities are on promoting each network. This puts the bulk of integration efforts on the network level to represent Adventure Communications appropriately, and networks keep headquarters “in the loop” on activities through weekly integrated meetings. Network general managers also supervise network integration efforts, serving as “the ultimate style guide,” as one general manager said, ensuring that networks are aligned with the corporate brand.
On the network level, marketing and communication maintain fluid levels of integration, based on a recognition that “we’re both stronger for doing that,” as one respondent said. For example, in a DVD launch of a network series, communication supported marketing and sales by creating promotional activities and setting up talk show interviews. The two functions begin projects separately, and then come together prior to a campaign to synchronize efforts. “I’ll watch the show and I’ll put together my own messages,” one publicity manager said. “But at some point, I’m going to sit down with marketing and marketing will have done the same thing…and I might decide at that point that I really like some of their things.” Another
“We approach every show together. So, as marketing is building their media bios and we [communication] are pitching, we’ll look and figure out where we have crossover, or if marketing is buying media that will help us. For example, does marketing not need to buy 727 a certain publication because we have a feature coming out, so they can put money somewhere else?” Networks also use “share messaging” to “tag along with a bigger corporate story” or work in unison with other networks. Through share messaging, communication teams “work together to promote [network] brands separately, but also strategically together at the same time,” as one respondent explained. Network websites confirm this strategic connection, as network websites are sub-domains of the broader corporate site—that is, each network is an “.adventure.com” site—and each site maintains the same framework as the corporate site.
Internal Integration Communication strategy starts at network levels, where managers set up teams to brainstorm and develop strategy, and then report to the network vice-president who approves the strategy. Strategy creation ultimately relies on the communication team, as vice presidents tend to trust the team’s direction and may only offer minor changes. This puts the onus on network and corporate teams, which demonstrate high levels of cross-functional collaboration and interaction.
Cross-functional collaboration. Teamwork and cross-functional collaboration are endemic to the Adventure culture, a trait commonly lauded in interviews. The company hosts a weekly coordination meeting, referred to as “the main meeting of the week” in which network communicators and corporate communicators meet to discuss initiatives, programs, and activities going on for the week. During meetings “priorities are set with everyone’s feedback” as participants decide on processes to put in place.
Communication and marketing initiatives also emphasize cross-functional knowledge sharing and teamwork. For one, executives give employees experience in several different roles.
One network executive said she likes to “push people in the direction they haven’t been before…and keep things fresh.” She explained: “We might switch it up and put a whole new group on [a network show]. It’s a chance to just breakout into something new.” This gives employees valued experience to work cohesively with across units and functions. One network executive said, “Anyone that works on my team is exposed to all of the things that relate to [the network]. There isn’t anyone on my team that just does program publicity, or that just writes. We do all of it.” Adventure professionals also gain cross-functional experience by serving as interdepartment liaisons, splitting time between marketing and communication teams to “be that much more collaborative and in sync, and know what’s going on,” as one publicity manager said.
Employees rely on each other for their expertise and the assets they bring to a team. One network GM said, “The guy in the communications department is aware of the ingredients of a marketing campaign and the marketing department is aware of the ingredients of a communications campaign. We are all sharing the same assets.” Executives also facilitate cross-functional coordination. One network communicator commented, “I think communication really works well because the leadership has made us feel
very connected to one another in a tuned way.” One executive explained his role in crossfunctional collaboration in this way:
“I always encourage people to communicate with one another. It’s my job to say, ‘Go see how [one person] does this or see what [another person] in marketing says about what you’re thinking, and get some input, because it’s valuable.’” Culture of Collaboration. At Adventure Communications, collaboration appears to be a natural occurrence or “something that people do on their own,” as one communicator explained.
728 A network vice president said, “If something works well, it works organically—something that naturally occurs when you’re working on something.” This natural integration may be attributed to a company culture “based on communication among every department, every team. Not just department but outside of communication…and all over the place” and which “doesn’t have a great level of tolerance for people who are obstructionist.” Adventure’s culture emphasizes transparency and teamwork, “so that nobody feels walled off from information” said one respondent. Corporate headquarters routinely brings everyone together for big events and to celebrate network successes. A brand director added that collaboration “has something to do with the corporate culture…when there’s a priority, there’s definitely a do-whatever-we-can-do-to-make-sure-it-happens attitude.” This undercurrent of team spirit was evident in my experience helping one network assess an upcoming promotional event—even as an outsider, I was invited to contribute to the brainstorming process. One executive explained, “It’s not that often that something just happens and it’s one person that has worked on it, there have been lots of hands in it, lots of cooks in the kitchen and if it’s a win from this person over here, it’s really a win for all of us.” Employees at Adventure also maintain ongoing relationships as several respondents pointed to the tendency to reach out to each other to “keep in mind what teammates are doing” so they can “percolate ideas together” and can avoid “stepping on each other’s toes.” One professional called it “a collaborative partnership.” A communication director illustrated it in this way: “It’s one of those things where you could just walk down the hall and say, ‘Hey! What do you think about this?’ We are all on one team.” Intra-Company Competition. Though collaborative, the company is not immune to competition. In particular, some interviewees revealed undercurrents of animosity between networks, which are separate and responsible for meeting viewership goals, but are also tasked with being aligned together. It is apparent that priorities skew toward larger networks, which at least one respondent noticed: “Larger networks have the bigger priorities, so if [a larger network] is coming out with this huge promotable, we’re all supposed to back down for the greater good of the company.” This competition is also evident in the company’s press database, which houses media contacts, dates of interaction, and feedback for the entire company. Though this database is
designed to keep everyone on the same page, one respondent revealed: