When I tell new friends I write for a marketing communications agency they sometimes say, “Oh, an ad agency?”, and I wonder how to best describe the scope of an integrated marketing communications agency in a few words. I say, “Full service: advertising, PR, digital, direct, promotions, branding, design – integrated communications.”
While most agencies specialize in one discipline such as advertising, public relations, or direct marketing, a full-service integrated communications agency is just that: full service. It offers a clear advantage by providing a much wider scope of services, designed to work synergistically together to meet clients’ objectives, and reach targets at every conceivable interface.
Most of my experience as a copywriter has been writing integrated marketing communications. In a nutshell — my roots were in tech journalism, followed by a year as an analyst, and then more time as a freelance writer, analyst, and copywriter. After that, and through most of my career, I’ve been a Senior Copywriter for B2B integrated marketing communications agencies.
Writing for any type of agency involves both sides of the brain, because logic and expert puzzle solving – developing solutions to any creative challenge that meet all parameters outlined in a brief, is just as important as being able to write the most fluid, creative and compelling copy.
Conceptual development is an intensely creative, yet complex process. Every fresh new idea that may seem brilliant at first must pass through a detailed checklist of the parameters that must be met — from key and secondary messages and other precise targeting guidelines, as outlined in the brief, to more subtle shadings in tone, emotional or intellectual appeal, uniqueness, and the most important requirement to meet the overall objective. Some skills and talents are basic requirements when writing for any type of agency including: excellent conceptual, writing, grammar and research skills, and strong analytical and creative thinking. Writing for an integrated marketing communications agency however, requires some of these skills to be heightened. For example…
Collaboration – In a marketing communications agency, where many projects depend on multiple elements, everyone has to be on the same page—working seamlessly and in synch, to reach a shared objective.
Speed – Related to above is the understanding that on a multi-channel project there are often several different team members working with tight timelines. Others are depending on concepts and copy before the work can be produced. And of course, the ability to manage multiple deadlines is a basic requirement for any marcom writer.
Research – Research is important to gain a better understanding of each client, their markets, technologies, products or services.
Brevity – While writing for an integrated marketing communications agency involves both long and short-form copy, in the world of the 140-character tweet — when everyone is hit by thousands of marketing messages in a day, messaging needs to be succinct.
Consistency – For any multi-channel, integrated project, it’s very important to develop clear, consistent messaging across all marketing mediums, from social media to signage. For some campaigns there will be multiple targets, and often they must be reached by the same communications or when required, through separate targeted versions.
Agility – I really enjoy the variety of short and long-form copy assignments. A naming project might be followed by concept development, or work on a microsite. Of course there are differences in writing for each format, but in an integrated marketing communications agency, a different type of agility is needed when shifting from writing marketing copy to writing for PR.
Writing for PR involves a very different thought process. An obvious difference is when writing a case study or any other PR materials, adherence to either Canadian Press-style or Associated Press-style – depending on whether the communication is written for a Canadian or American target — is imperative – but of course there are other differences. Marketing and PR both typically promote a company and/or product(s) to a specific target group or groups. Marketing communications, particularly advertising, will utilize more descriptive adjectives and exclamatory commentary. PR writing is far more factual, less embellished or emotive and less editorial. When given a PR assignment, I work closely with the PR team to ensure I’m meeting the different requirements of that form of writing.
There has been a lot of change in our industry in the last 10 years. Social media has added a whole new dimension to the effectiveness of integrated marketing communications. There is still a strong focus on direct marketing, perhaps even stronger with the recent growth in areas like branded content. The most obvious shift is the move from offline communications with some digital elements, to a much greater focus on digital communications with some more traditional elements in the mix. Targets must be reached wherever they are – and today, that means on their phones and tablets. While it’s important to understand how to write well for each marketing channel — traditional or digital, it all comes down to good writing.