’Tis the season for integrated marketing communications planning, the annual must-do for CMOs who want to secure budget.

What exactly is this plan? Whether you call it an IMC plan, an engagement plan or simply a marketing plan, it’s the formal document that justifies and guides the marketing investment. It also helps to establish the key strategic initiatives for recommended programs, campaigns and tactics that are expected to deliver against business objectives.

Some CMOs approach the plan from the bottom up, starting with product campaigns (particularly if they’re focused on demand-generation tactics); other CMOs who want to create a more holistic brand focus start from the top, with umbrella brand communications, and then cascade down to product-level campaign plans. Either way, IMC planning is an important process, as the results of a study by Avi Dan prove: “Integrated marketing communications has turned into the area of greatest importance for CMOs, who desperately seek a holistic approach to engage consumers.”

In fact, when asked what’s the most important thing they want from an agency, 68 percent of CMOs put IMC ahead of “effective advertising.”

While IMC planning at the tactical level has naturally evolved over the years, late last year we saw signs of a larger strategic shift emerging—one in which content was placed at the core of integrated plan development.

Surprisingly, though, little has been published on the growing role content marketing plays in IMC planning. So far, it seems, the worlds of traditional advertising, marketing communications planning and content marketing haven’t clearly established their relationship. An article titled “What Content Marketing Needs to Rule in the Post-Advertising Age” advocates that “the content marketing business has yet to seize—or even squarely face—the future of advertising.” It goes on to say:

“In a digital world where anyone can ignore anything, advertising must be as valuable to an audience as a good book, movie or news story. It must simultaneously and unambiguously embody the brand that paid for it and measurably advance the brand’s business goals, including getting more people to buy and buy again. … By all rights, content marketing should be the clear solution to this new set of needs. But the truth is that neither the traditional agencies nor the upstart content marketers can provide a unified advertising solution that meets the demands of the digital-first world. … None of these content experts has engaged with branding and brand management, media planning, research and strategy, or, ultimately, producing the sales results that brands demand.”

As marketers begin to reframe their B2B marketing approach to that of business-to-buyer, it’s clear that a relevant and compelling brand/audience conversation is now essential to strategy. And marketers are beginning to catch on:

  • 70 percent of marketers say content marketing has increased their company’s brand awareness.
  • 78 percent of CMOs believe custom content will drive their future marketing mix.

A carefully orchestrated, well-planned content marketing strategy can and should become the central organizing principle that guides integrated plan development and messaging across channels and across marketing disciplines.

Is content guiding your integrated communications plans?

Learn more about content’s role in IMC planning. Register for the October 21st gyro webinar, “The Next-Generation Plan Model,” to learn why and how marketing leaders are melding content and brand strategies into one.