Communications is relatively “new” on the scene when compared to marketing as a formal function in an organization. And, although it’s hard to believe, a lot of organizations still need education on the ROI around communications – how communications can support their business and impact their bottom line. Add to that our use of the terms like marketing communications, the use of traditional advertising and social media for communications messaging, and our desire to make our clients happy by “doing it all”, it’s no wonder there’s confusion.
There are a variety of great communications jobs being posted on IABC job boards, but a lot of these jobs include marketing as part of the duties. Do these companies really know what they’re asking for? Ask any communicator and they will tell you that marketing is very different than communications. But how well have we been able to explain this to our clients?
When I decided to move from a marketing path to a communications path in my second year of university, I made the decision based on the fact that I didn’t want to sell a product or a service; I wanted to help tell the story of a business. That’s what communications is to me.
At the core of a communications strategy is the audience – what do they think, know and feel and why do they care. For a company, the communications strategy is based on the business goals and objectives. Everything I do as a communicator has to be in support of this otherwise I am helping a company communicate for the sake of communicating… and what’s the point?
A big part of a communications strategy for me, is really internalizing and externalizing a company’s values: the way a company and its employees act, the messages and stories they provide, and how the audience “experiences” them. This is not only telling audiences about the company and the things it does, but shows and proves what the company stands for. In this way communications supports the company’s brand.
For me, marketing is about communicating the value of a product or service to customers in an effort to persuade a potential or current customer to adopt or change a behaviour. It shapes how a company’s product or service is perceived and also how the brand of a company is perceived. The audience for marketing is customers and potential customers whether they are individuals or other businesses.
Communications sends out information about an organization to create and develop relationships, create a positive image and preserve a positive reputation. It is the voice of the corporation and manages the dialogue and interaction (two way communications) with key stakeholders and audiences. Communications helps to reinforce a company’s brand and shapes the perception of the company. The audience is anyone that could have a direct or indirect impact on and/or interest in the company.