Problem: Integrated communication strategies in name only
Case Study: Kimberly-Clark
To overcome the inherent limitations of a siloed communications function and achieve the benefits of integrated communications, Kimberly-Clark reorganizes its centralized communications group into cross-channel teams that bring together communications experts to serve the needs of specific brands.
Although tasked with creating and executing integrated communications strategies, Kimberly-Clark’s cross-channel team members were unable to risk above the individual channel biases to collaborate as an effective, unified team. Specifically, four obstacles to integrated communications were:
- Underleveraged Expertise – Brand managers retain power over budgeting and decision making, constraining the cross-channel teams to an advisory role with no real authority. As such, their ability to affect significant change in the marketing mix remains unchanged.
- Biased Decision Making – Channel experts retain their inherit biases, reverting to uncooperative behavior even within the context of the team. With no systematic way of approaching the communications mix and no incentives to coordinate their efforts, these experts continue to rely on what they are most familiar with – a siloed approach to the communications mix in which channel experts advocate for their own, limited perspective.
- Unrealized Synergies – Because they lack an objective means of analyzing the potential benefits of channel interactions, team members miss opportunities to leverage synergies across the mix. Looking only at the returns of each channel in isolation, the cross-functional team lacks the holistic approach required for integrated communication.
- Process Inefficiencies – Without a formal process driving consensus around plan objectives, strategies, and expected outcomes, brand teams and other stakeholders often second guess communications plans, creating significant delays and, more often than not, costly rework.
The Solution – Aligning Accountability with Capability
Unsatisfied with the move from siloed, centralized groups of communications experts to cross-channel communications teams, Kimberly-Clark formed integration teams – cross-channel groups vested with the authority and accountability they require to deliver integrated strategies. The roles and responsibilities of the integration teams are different-in-kind from the previous communication teams in 3 crucial ways:
- Communications Plan Development – Whereas in the past, brand managers consulted with channel experts in communications planning but retained the ultimate decision-making authority, the integration teams now assume the responsibility and accountability for plan development,work with brand managers to drive consensus around the plan. This affords the integration teams a much greater role in communications planning and frees up brand managers to focus on long-term growth, innnovation, nd relevant marketplace issues, aligning accountability with capability across the enterprise.
- Budget Allocation – In sharp contrast to the channel-specific budgets the communications groups received from brand managers in the past, the integration teams now receive lump sum budgets for each initative, granting them flexibility in determining the most advantageous use of those budgets across the channel mix. An additional, potentially high-impact benefit of this “portfolio” approach to budget allocation is an increased willingness to experiment with the communications mix: as the risk exposure of the overall mix is considerably less than that faced by a single channel experiment, the integration teams should be more willing to experiment than individual channel experts.
- Team Leadership – Providing the integration teams with the authority to choose their own leadership empowers them and motivates them to function better as a team. By rotating leadership among the team members, furthermore, the individual team members are more motivated to cooperate with one another and to support each other in developing a deeper understanding of the role each channel can play in the mix.
With the motivation and authority to take a more holistic approach to communications planning, the integration teams are well positioned to drive communications integration.