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Marketing communication has the potential to be, at least partially, an application of effective issues management. This is essentially because marketing communication is a proactive, ‘friendly’ mode of communication and may not necessarily raise suspicious hackles from stakeholders.

Certainly, the marketing communication dimension of business communication, in the context of issues management, may have been glossed over quite significantly.

Marketing communication is friendly communication

Marketing communication is an unusual discipline, if indeed it is a discipline. I tend to think of it as a set of tactical mechanisms that fall under both marketing and public relations.

From a practical perspective, I suspect marketing communication tactics are traditionally and generally implemented by the marketing team, but based on the strategic remit of public relations, these tactics are equally useful for public relations. This has been proven time and again by organisations that have a corporate communication function, but not a discrete marketing one (not unusual for government organisations in Australia).

Some marketing communication tactics include:

  • brochures and flyers
  • direct mail and email
  • social media marketing, including Facebook, Twitter and blogs
  • events, launches and stunts
  • branding.

Marketing should think like public relations

Marketing in all of its guises should be cognisant of the broader remit in which its activities occur. In essence, marketing needs to think like more public relations. Questions marketers need to ask include:

  • what are the ways in which this product or service could enhance or damage the relationship my organisation has with its stakeholders?
  • what are the different perceptions that varying stakeholders could have of this product or service and what are the ways in which we can optimise the experience of our stakeholders in regard to the product or service?
  • will making money off this product or service compromise the capability of my organisation’s other products or services to make money?
  • if this product or service doesn’t deliver according to its objectives, what do we do?
  • what is the history of producing products or services such as these and have there been issues in regard to them that could compromise outcomes such as profit, organisational reputation and stakeholder relationships?

Characteristics of the product or service that need to be considered in this thinking include:

  • What is it designed to achieve?
  • What is it made of?
  • How is it manufactured and delivered?
  • How much are workers in the production and supply chain paid and what are the conditions under which they work?

Marketing as broadcast; PR as interactive

Despite its many claims to the counter, marketing is essentially about selling, so it would do well to consider the broader strategic remit of public relations, which is also about selling but, more importantly, the long term reputation of an organisation and the relationships it has with all its stakeholders, not just its customers.

Marketing communication elements offer an opportunity to listen, engage and evolve, but so does their generally non-confrontational nature provide an excellent means to build relationships and reputation.

As marcomms is generally driven by marketing strategy, this strategy should situate itself in a broader context than profit and loss, thus providing room for marketing communication tactics to apply approaches that can enhance the organisation’s positioning and reputation.

The challenge is doing this in a way that doesn’t cloud the positioning of the product, service or initiative the marcomms is promoting. But it is possible. And doing so effectively will build the stakeholder ‘relationship bank account’.

What are examples of where marcomms can be used to build an organisation’s reputation you can tell us about? Does marketing miss the bigger picture of organisational reputation, focusing too much on profit & loss, in your opinion? Does marketing have a conversation with stakeholders for any other reason than to make more money and, if so, is this fair enough?

PS. This blog has just been named as one of Australia’s 25 best business blogs. Some great company I’m keeping if you care to check the other 24.