With trying to drive engagement comes a whole range of marketing activity: from developing some projects to better meet this group's needs and create more environmental impact, to coordinating extra staff training, to ensuring all employees are updated on how to communicate the new benefits of volunteering to potential customers. This, as with all marketing activity, depends on strong internal communications just as much as external communication, which can only be achieved through integrated communications. 

What is integrated communication?

As the Chartered Institute of Marketing describes it, integrated marketing communications are 'marketing communications that are co-ordinated and harmonised across channels, territories and over time, to maximise the effectiveness of marketing activities and, therefore, return on investment (ROI)'. It means making sure all external and internal communications are aligned to maximise customer engagement - and that all the necessary internal communications take place to allow this. 

This year's integrated communications assignment

CIM's integrated communications assignment has been especially helpful in planning how to increase customer engagement, particularly for the new target segment. The first section involved understanding how internal communications currently impacts customer engagement and the part that internal resource allocation plays (or could play) in this. The next section involved comparing how your organisation communicates its customer value proposition versus a competitor and thinking about how your branding could help drive customer engagement. The final section involved justifying communication methods to engage customers, analysing the potential effectiveness of online versus offline media and finally, using all of these things together to formulate an integrated marketing communications plan aimed at building customer engagement. 

What helped in preparing for the assignment? 

One of the first things I did was interview employees, senior management and past customers to understand the strengths and weaknesses of customer engagement and try and relate that back to the internal communications taking place. Is was easy to see the link between the two and therefore understand ways to develop internal communication. It was also useful to speak to staff to understand the external communications methods undertaken in the past and what will likely be realistic going forward. A big part of preparation was also building buyer personas of the target segment. Knowing where they go for information and the kind of decision process they go through was crucial.

Finally, the resources provided by CIM and Cambridge Marketing College were invaluable and ranged from templates, such as how to communicate your customer value proposition, to exercises prompting you to think about your product, brand and other elements that can drive engagement. 

What I learnt. 

Above everything, I learnt how to tackle a big challenge like developing a marketing communications plan, by picking apart all the aspects that need to be considered and then putting it all together, something that will be handy for approaching any big marketing challenge!