From time to time I hear heated debates among entrepreneurs and small business owners about what takes prominence in an organization – marketing or communications. I find that most people use marketing and communications interchangeably. When you throw in Public Relations and graphic design, the plot thickens even further. I’ve seen this happen on every level of business, and in both public and private sector.
The truth is – marketing and communications are two different things, even though they do share some functional areas, like event management and creative design. As a rule, public sector organizations tend to be heavier on communications, while businesses would find it difficult to exist without marketing and its direct contribution to the bottom line. At the same time, no matter what the corporate structure is, marketing cannot exist without sharp communications as content is still the king, even in digital times. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years:
1. Communications is a strategic function. Communications teams are not service providers. Instead, communications should be viewed as a strategic foundation – it all starts with a clear vision, mission, and objectives that convey the benefits that you bring to the table.
2. Communication is not a substitute for poor products. No matter how brilliant your writing style is, if you don’t have a remarkable product to offer, you are going to have to work twice as hard.
3. A graphic designer is not a marketing manager. Sometimes entrepreneurs rely on graphic designers to write and translate copy as well. Not a good idea – graphic designers might not be in sync with your business strategy, and you might not want to give them the ultimate power to invent what needs to be said.
4. Never leave communications out of marketing. Whatever your message is – all your marketing components have to be integrated, and on message – copy, creative, style, and message, all of it. This is not optional. You will never get the business result you want by putting something other than the communication first.
5. If it’s off brand, don’t do it. Don’t create customer solutions without a strong connection with your brand. The benefits and attributes of your brand need to be integrated early on and guide your decision making, otherwise you are risking your reputation.
The bottom line – whether it is communications or marketing, you still should have one basic message that tells the world who you are, but be careful – communications is not a substitute for marketing.