5. February, 2016|Blog, Featured Blog Post|Comments Off on Part 1: Building a Strategic Integrated Marketing Program


It’s a joy when we have the opportunity to watch client organizations begin to soar because everyone is pulling in the same direction, telling the same story and living the brand values.

Unfortunately, we regularly see quality organizations operate – and communicate – well below their potential because they have not spent the time to engage in a meaningful process to develop an effective strategic integrated marketing program. Many people today use the term “integrated marketing” to simply mean using all the tools available to tell their story in a coordinated way – simply sharing a consistent message across social media, websites, publications, events, signage, etc.

While it is important to integrate messaging across media, that is merely a surface description of integrated marketing – much like describing a logo as a brand is simply the top-level representation of something much deeper and more significant.

Helping an organization accomplish true strategic integration – then marketing itself effectively – is a systemic, collaborative, disruptive and critical process.

Here are the first five steps to building your own program.

1) Craft Your Vision. You should have a clear mission and core values that drive everything you do; these rarely change. In addition, you need to periodically cast a vision clearly describing where you want to go – by when – and what your organization will look like when you arrive. While not everyone agrees, we have found that the most effective vision statements are longer-range, time-bound and specific.


  • By 2020, ABC University will become a top-20 national research university best known for programs in business and physics
  • By 2025, XYZ Nonprofit will operate at least two neighborhood food pantries in every city in the tri-county BestTown region
  • “We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” – President Kennedy

The vision is typically established and approved by the board of an organization, in partnership with the executive leadership team.

2) Build Your Marketing Team. Once the vision is in place, designate a champion to spearhead the effort to communicate it, to get organization-wide buy-in for it and to track progress toward achieving it. In many institutions, the highest-level marketing leader plays this strategic role. Form a marketing team comprised of energetic, collaborative people who represent key areas that impact every touchpoint of your brand (i.e., athletics, security, special events, customer service, alumni relations, campus store, etc.). The top executive should invite the members to join this important team to give it added credibility and weight.

3) Discover Your Strengths. Through your marketing team, and with input from your organizational community, determine areas where you shine – particular where you shine brighter than your competition. Your strengths may not be single-activity/program strengths – but perhaps are based on your organization’s unique way of putting them together. For example, one of our education clients realized that, across the school and throughout all grade levels, it offered a unique combination of experiences. The school branded the experience and has changed its marketing messaging, campus tours, teacher engagement, staff meetings and even personnel, school activities and some curriculum – all to build on the identified strengths and better delivery on its brand promise.

 4) Create Your Brand Promise. Your brand promise is a succinct, memorable description of what you promise to deliver to your customers or clients. Examples: Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world; Marriott: Quiet luxury. Crafted experiences. Intuitive service.; the NFL: To be the premier sports and entertainment brand that brings people together, connecting them socially and emotionally like no other.

The brand promise should be founded on your mission, vision, values and distinctive strengths and have an aspirational quality that inspires. Nike has probably not yet brought its inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world, for example, but it aspires to do so.

5) Set Strategic Goals. Your mission, vision, values and brand promise should provide the inspiration and direction for your institution’s goals – and the organization’s goals should drive your marketing goals. This seems simplistic, but it is rarely done. Many organizations focus on task-based, incremental annual goals not thoughtfully and consistently connected to the vision and promise. To improve results, require every department and individual to show how their goals directly tie back to larger vision goals. These goals should be SMART: strategic, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. The marketing team should develop the marketing goals together, and assign champions to each goal. Use the marketing team to brainstorm ways to collaborate across departments, to share resources and to stay on point with the vision, brand promise and institutional goals. The marketing communication goals should focus both internally (how can you use your internal communication channels and marketing team champions to connect every person to the vision and promise?) and externally (how can you achieve your organizational results through your targeted marketing efforts?).

Michelle Morris, Ed.D., GideonStone CEO & Managing Partner

Coming next week: Part 2: Building a Strategic Integrated Marketing Program


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