Using the article below explain why IMC is important and useful for Public Relations and in general. a b s t r a c t Integrated Marketing...
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Using the article below explain why IMC is important and useful for Public Relations and in general.

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Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) has been regarded primarily as a marketing concept. However, as an ever more dominant context for communication management, IMC presents opportunities for public relations scholarship's contributions to the discipline, in spite of IMC's recognized threats. This article, which outlines the state of the fields of IMC and public relations literature, proposes the way public relations roles in relationship cultivation and organizational behavior uniquely contribute to IMC, and, at the same time, establish management roles for public relations. This article also addresses three challenges facing public relations research in integration by providing a better definition of IMC, establishing relationship cultivation as a critical point in the theoretical convergence of public relations and IMC, and providing a framework through which to conceptualize communication structures.


In today's ever-evolving communication environment, the walls have been taken down. The structural shift to integrate communications under the paradigm referred to as Integrated Marketing Communication or IMC has blurred the functional lines between public relations and marketing. So far, the leading voice on IMC has come from marketing. As public relations scholars, we have yet to establish a voice on IMC, or at least one as strong as marketing. Up until this point, public relations scholarship has only begun to touch on the subject of IMC, some of which (including Smith, 2012b,c) builds on core considerations established by Caywood (1997), Hallahan (2007), and Hutton (2010). In spite of these efforts, the topic remains underdeveloped, and in some cases, continues to be derided as a threat to public relations (as was originally reported by Hallahan (2007)). Without a public relations-based research agenda in IMC, the roles of public relations may be left to marketing to define them. Perhaps for this reason Hutton (2010) observed: "The marketing field is reinventing itself to include or subsume much or all of public relations" (p. 509). The purpose of this paper is to open the discussion of IMC as a legitimate context within which to study the practice of public relations. In doing so, this paper argues that public relations may contribute in three key areas, including practitioner acumen in advisory and counsel, the concept of stakes and stakeholders, and public relations' differentiating approach to relationships. Based on early research identifying public relations as the most appropriate function to lead IMC because of its emphasis on relationships between an organization and all of its stakeholders (Caywood, 1997), it behooves public relations scholars to develop IMC from the domain of public relations. Following an introductory section outlining the concept of IMC, as defined in marketing scholarship, this paper suggests challenges and opportunities for public relations to contribute to the growing body of IMC research.


1. IMC a marketing dominant concept The basis for the limited discussion of IMC in the public relations domain may be that IMC is a marketing concept. The concept of IMC as we know it today developed in the 1990s when marketing values transitioned from a product focus to a customer relationship focus (Luck & Moffatt, 2009; Mihart, 2012). Marketers in the 1990s began to focus on maximizing profit with customers through loyalty programs, leading to investment in direct response marketing mix elements (i.e. promotion, sales, and direct marketing), culminating in advertising agencies buying public relations agencies to meet the broad spectrum of client customer needs (Arens, Weigold, & Arens, 2013; Groom, 2011; Schultz & Patti, 2009). Originally defined as a concept of "marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value in a program that integrates a variety of strategic disciplines. . .[for] maximum communication impact" (Kerr, Schultz, Patti, & Kim, 2008, p. 515), the terminology suggests the role of the marketer is to "blend the ingredients of the mix into an integrated marketing programme" (Luck & Moffatt, 2009; p. 312), rendering IMC the integration of marketing mix 4Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) among the marketing communications, which include advertising, direct marketing, direct selling, and promotion (Kitchen & De Pelsmacker, 2004).


2. The IMC process As a process, IMC comprises the integration of marketing content across media channels around stakeholder needs for measurable results. Through IMC, messages are strategically developed to create "linkages in a receiver's mind as a result of messages that connect" (Moriarty, 1996, p. 333). These messages include: (a) planned messages about a product or service, (b) messages that emanate from the performance of a product or service, and (c) unplanned messages from an audience about the company, product or service (Duncan & Moriarty, 1997 cited in Arens et al., 2013). The central point of IMC content is the brand (Kliatchko, 2008), which is considered "integrating factor around which all marketing and communication should be built" (Luck & Moffatt, 2009, p. 318). As such, IMC literature emphasizes the value of every department "speaking the brand language" (Kitchen, Spickett-Jones, & Grimes, 2007, p. 154), across a coordinated set of media channels, based on customer preference for each channel (Kliatchko, 2008), in an effort to expand integrated "into every possible situation where a receiver might have contact with a message from a company" (Moriarty, 1996, p. 333). In this way, marketers hope to influence measurable customer decision-making in both high involvement and low involvement purchasing contexts (Mihart, 2012).


3. The integrated mindset Up until this point, IMC has been defined as a process. However, integration may be more than a process, but a mindset or orientation. Schultz (2007) said the primary difference between IMC and other marketing paradigms is the emphasis on the stakeholder-first outside-in orientation to marketing. IMC is a product of an organization's culture, as integration develops through the internal interactions between marketers, public relations practitioners, and other communicators. The spirit or orientation to collaboration between organizational members drives integration (Smith, 2012b,c), rendering IMC a "culturally-based and culturally-biased" concept (Schultz & Patti, 2009, p. 82). Christensen, Firat, and Torp (2008) argued thatIMC operates based on flexible organizational boundaries in which members can interact and share experiences in a way that enables "the spirit of integration to be effectively disseminated" (Christensen et al., 2008). Torp (2009) has characterized this spirit of integration as internal consistency that permeates every level of the organization. Because integration requires "harmony between the individual's, the organization's and society's aspirations and interests" (Torp, 2009; p. 200), it is most appropriately considered a mindset rather than just a process.


4. Public relations concerns: IMC and the "marketing takeover" Because of marketing themes in the concept and process of IMC, public relations scholar concerns about marketing domination and hesitation to validate IMC as a paradigm in public relations research may be natural. For example, concerns that IMC may heighten territorial disputes between marketing and public relations have been well-documented (Hallahan, 2007; Hutton, 2010). However, the argument that IMC is a marketing takeover of the public relations domain may be unfounded, particularly because the argument rests on the assumption that marketing can fulfill public relations responsibilities. Public relations and marketing are both necessary and fundamentally different organizational roles. That one (marketing) may take over the duties of another (public relations) overlooks the critical differences in purpose and approach to communication of each. As Grunig and Grunig argued, the difference is in each function's role in the organizational mission. Both processes begin with the mission of the organization. The role of public relations is to identify the consequences of the mission on people outside the decision structure. Marketing. . .selects the segment of the environment that will make it possible to implement its mission. . .Without public relations, organizations will be diverted form their missions. Without marketing, they would miss an essential mechanism for implementing their missions. Both functions are essential to an organization. (cited in Hallahan, 2007, p. 303; italics in original).


Marketing scholars similarly recognize a fundamental difference between public relations and marketing. Early on, Kitchen and Papasolomou (1999) admitted, "non-marketing problems cannot be solved by marketing" (p. 344), signaling the unique value contribution of the public relations function to the integrated mix and the inability of the marketing approach to be all-encompassing. Add to this, there is simply no evidence of public relations sublimation to marketing in IMC. Rather, multiple case studies have shown managerial responsibilities for public relations in IMC because of practitioners' unique interpersonal, bidirectional approach to communicating with stakeholders (Smith & Place, 2013). Another argument against the integration of public relations and marketing may be the nature of messaging that in an IMC structure, the difference between public relations and marketing messages may lead to confusion for message receivers. This concern is also unproven. On the contrary, research has shown that messaging featuring both public relations and marketing agenda (a.k.a hybrid messaging) reduce tension between stakeholders regarding a message because of the use of ambiguity, allowing stakeholders to assign multiple meanings to a message (Dickinson-Delaporte, Beverland, & Lindgreen, 2010). Hybrid messaging allows organizations to "balance commitments to product/service performance and wider moral norms to allow different stakeholders to identify with the firm and its goals" (Dickinson-Delaporte et al., 2010, p. 1857). Examining the differences in priorities and messaging between public relations and marketing in IMC signals the major point of difference between the two functions: stakeholder orientation. Though marketers have broadened their targets beyond consumers to stakeholders—marketers argue a customer may also be a stakeholder and vice versa (Gronstedt, 1996), and they increasingly use activities that resemble public relations (i.e. social marketing and content marketing)—the marketing orientation to stakeholders continues to be unidirectional and sales-focused. The public relations priority on bidirectional, non-sales-based messaging with stakeholders is not only unique to public relations, but is a critical need in IMC research and practice. Early on, Thorson and Moore (1996) suggested that among consumers and non-consumers the latter was under-recognized in IMC. This lack of attention continues today—marketers continue to prioritize consumers, customers, and vendors in IMC (Arens et al., 2013; Luck & Moffatt, 2009). As Torp (2009) has argued, the scope of integration needs to be broadened to include "everyone who is affected by the organization's activities" (pp. 190-191). Stakeholders, then, may be the critical contribution for public relations in IMC. Stakeholders legitimize an organization (Post, Preston, & Sachs, 2002), and stakeholder relations are "one of the most important core competencies of public relations" (de Bussy, 2010, p. 127). Stakeholders are the basis for "organizational wealth" (Post et al., 2002), and stakeholder wealth creating capacity lies in public relations priorities on stakeholder-organization relations and mediation (Grunig, 2006b; Plowman, 2007). Marketing priorities on sales may not be appropriate for stakeholder relationship-cultivation.


5. The case for public relations' contributions to IMC Ironically, by ignoring IMC, we as public relations scholars have left the door open for marketing to dominate the conversation—up until this point, public relations has been featured as media relations, promotion, and publicity in IMC research (Kerr et al., 2008; Kitchen, Brignell, Li, & Spickett, 2004; Lawler & Tourelle, 2002; Stammerjohan, Wood, Chang, & Thorson, 2005). The unique public relations approach to communication management has been overlooked and unrecognized. This relegation of public relations to promotion in IMC research may be corrected with a dedicated emphasis on the unique strategic contributions of public relations to IMC, which, I argue include (a) organizational advisory, (b) stakeholder advocacy, and (c) relationship management.


5.1. Public relations as IMC advisor Organizations rely on public relations as the corporate conscience (Bowen, 2008), and practitioner advisory covers areas including "ethical and savvy management. . . [and]. . .the need for organizations to be good citizens" (Heath, 2007, p. 42). Public relations advisory may be categorized into two areas—communication and behavior. Caywood (2012) argued that public relations offer an organization the greatest communicative strength because of its "experience and skill in the use of various communications-based strategies and tactics" (Caywood, 2012; p. 6). Practitioners enable firms to communicate properly among the broad array of stakeholder groups critical for organizational legitimacy. Heath (2007) argued that public relations helps firms "add value to the ideas in communities where they work" as firms engage in the marketplace of ideas and fulfill roles as community citizens (p. 42). As public relations advises firms on messaging as a community citizen, practitioners promote stakeholder interests in messaging, including ways product propaganda may be at odds with stakeholder needs for non-product messages. This role relates directly to the IMC mandate that communication proceed from stakeholder interests (Schultz, 2005). Public relations also fulfills advisory needs in IMC to ensure organizational behaviors (i.e. decisions and activities) match organizational messages in fulfilling stakeholder needs. For IMC to work, planned communication messages (i.e. promotional messages) must match product and service messages (i.e. product performance), which in turn must be confirmed by stakeholder endorsement (Duncan & Moriarty, 1997 cited in Arens et al., 2013). Integration fails to work when planned messages are not confirmed, which may be a result of faulty execution on stakeholder needs or expectations. Communication and behavior are interconnected—as Grunig and Hung (2002) argued: "what an organization does (more than what it says) has a strong influence on what people think and say about it and the relationship they have with that organization" (p. 14). Public relations helps organizations balance stakeholder public needs and serves as a mediator between the two (Grunig, 2006a; Plowman, 2007). As such, public relations plays a critical role in the triangle model of IMC messaging proposed by 510 B.G. Smith / Public Relations Review 39 (2013) 507-513 Duncan and Moriarty (1997), advising on the effects and consistency of planned messages, product and service messages, and unplanned messages (or the stakeholder response). 


5.2. Public relations as advocate of integrated stakeholder needs One of dominant themes in public relations research is practitioner advocacy of stakeholder needs (Vardeman-Winter & Tindall, 2010), a role that has gone under-recognized in IMC scholarship despite IMC's stated focus on serving all stakeholders, not just customers (Duncan, 2002; Schultz, 2005). Stakeholder insight and fulfilling stakeholder needs are critical for developing high levels of IMC (Caywood, 1997; Duncan & Caywood, 1996). In fact, Duncan and Caywood (1996) argued early on that the transition from introductory efforts to synchronize the look and feel of messaging to advanced levels of IMC requires an integration of the gamut of stakeholder needs. As such, integration depends on public relations' acumen in identifying the needs of the broad array of a firm's stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, government and non-government officials, regulators, news media personnel, social media content generators, and even customers and retail marketers (Caywood, 2012; pp. 4-5). Public relations roles in boundary spanning and environmental scanning enable the practitioners to anticipate societal pressures and assess risk, which Caywood (2012) has argued is critical to integrate and "operate in a complex social setting" (Caywood, 2012; p. 8). In doing so, practitioners identify the stakeholder needs that are critical for an organization's operations.


5.3. Public relations as relationship manager in IMC IMC is a relationship concept. Some argue that IMC proceeded from the relationship marketing paradigm of the 1990s (Blakeman, 2009). Yet, relationship management remains underdeveloped in IMC research and practice. Kitchen et al.(2007) pointed toward a need to improve relationship management capacities in integration because few integrated structures account for the vast network of relationships necessary to make integration work. Schultz (2005) argued for the need to "focus on identifying the interactions that IMC creates" (p. 7). Public relations' contribution, then, may comprise the function's unique approach to building relationships with the gamut of stakeholders critical to an organization's legitimacy. Grunig (2006a) has argued as much: Public relations scholars can make an important contribution to marketing if we move beyond the messaging, publicity, and asymmetrical communication common in marketing communication and use our theories to develop symmetrical principles of cultivating relationships with consumers" (p. 170). Though both marketing and public relations emphasize trust, commitment, and satisfaction as key components of the organization-stakeholder relationship (Grunig & Huang, 2000; Morgan & Hunt, 1994), the public relations approach prioritizes stakeholders (and stakeholder needs) that fall outside of the purview of marketing and expand IMC from a consumer-focus to a complete stakeholder-focus characteristic of advanced levels of integration (Caywood, 1997, 2012). To argue that marketing relationships focus solely on the consumer would be shortsighted. Rather, marketing relationships focus on consumerism. The heart of the marketing relationship is the exchange—the relationship begins with a customer's first contact with the product or service offering as the prospect moves up the loyalty ladder from customer to business partner for improved product and service offerings (Kitchen & De Pelsmacker, 2004). As such, the marketing exchange relationship is based on the monetary transaction between consumer and company (Zahay, Peltier, Schultz, & Griffin, 2004), and comprises the groups that make the exchange possible including manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. The aims of the marketing relationship are to build an active customer base of brand advocates (Keller, 2008) by bringing "customer service and marketing into close alignment" (De Pelsmacker, Geuens, & Van den Bergh, 2001, p. 340). Marketing's focus on consumer loyalty may not fulfill relationship management needs in IMC. Marketing scholars recognize as much. Kerr et al. (2008) discovered through an analysis of university courses that adequate relationship-building is not taught in IMC programs, and suggested students should seek appropriate relationship management principles in public relations curriculum. Similarly, Kliatchko (2008) argued that the transaction-based relationship in marketing lacks public relations' long-term orientation to relationships. The problem with the marketing approach to relationships in IMC is that it treats stakeholders as customers. Hutton (2010) reported "strong public resistance" from stakeholders to the idea of being treated like customers (p. 519). For these reasons, Caywood (2012), Hallahan (2007), and Hutton (2010) all argued that the public relations managerial role in integration is stakeholder relationships. The public relations contribution to relationships in IMC centers on the discipline's concept of exchange and communal relationships. First, public relations scholars can lead IMC scholarship in the discussion of the exchange concept beyond the purchase-based transaction (or market-based approach). With the IMC focus squarely on stakeholders (Duncan, 2002), the central point of interest becomes the exchange of interests between stakeholders and the organization, otherwise known as stakes (Heath, 1994). Stakes are resources that a party desires and can be either tangible (favors, promotions, etc.) or intangible (agreement, understanding, etc.) (Heath, 1994, p. 147, 149). In a relationship, stakes are exchanged around the common point of interest between organization and stakeholder (Smith, 2012a) making the exchange of stakes a public relations departure from the monetary transaction typical of marketing exchange relationships. Stakes that relate specifically to public relations include corporate credibility, stakeholder need fulfillment, power, trust, third-party endorsement, and B.G. Smith / Public Relations Review 39 (2013) 507-513 511 social capital, among others. The nature of stakes as "multifaceted and inherently connected to each other" (Freeman, Harrison, & Wicks, 2010, p. 27) renders the discussion of competing stakes a relevant one for public relations scholars in IMC. The public relations concept of the communal relationship is also critical for IMC. Listed by Hon and Grunig (1999) as one of the outcomes of a symmetrical relationship, communal relationships are the "extent to which parties in a relationship benefit from each other due to a shared concern for the other" (Lee & Park, 2013, p. 192). The basis of the communal relationship is good will and public welfare, separating public relations from the "cost-benefit marketing orientation" of transaction-based exchange relationships (Hon & Grunig cited in Lee & Park, 2013, p. 192). Up until this point, relationships based on shared concern have been altogether undiscussed in IMC, and communal relationships may be an entry point for the conversation of social media-based relationships in IMC, where publics discuss organizations as human entities and the relationship borders the interpersonal (Smith, 2010). Under the communal relationship, public relations relational strategies including positivity, openness, assurances of legitimacy, networking and shared tasks (Grunig & Huang, 2000, p. 37) may have particular application in IMC. The mutual concern of a communal relationship moves the IMC relationship orientation from transaction and exchange to partnership, a concept that calls upon public relations priorities in symmetrical communication.


6. Solidifying public relations' future in IMC: where we go from here Up until this point, we as public relations scholars have left the door open to marketing to define and direct the development of IMC, limiting discussion of public relations to promotional roles. In doing so, we have left unfulfilled fruitful research discussions on stakeholder relationships in an integrated structure. It is time to enter the IMC discussion. We can best contribute to the development of IMC in the areas of IMC advisory, stakeholder needs, and the unique public relations approach to relationships (including considerations on exchange and communal relationships). As a part of the public relations domain, then, research and practical considerations for development of IMC should include the following:


6.1. Revised terminology Early definitional debates saw two different ways to refer to integration: integrated marketing communication and integrated communication. As research and practice expanded, some references to integration began to drop the "m" in favor of the term integrated communication to refer to the expanded understanding that integration should comprise all communication tools (Caywood, 1997; Gronstedt, 1996; Vos & Schoemaker, 2001). Some prematurely proclaimed the concept of integrated marketing communication was dead (Grunig, Grunig, & Dozier, 2002). However, IMC remains the accepted way to refer to the concept of integration (Caywood, 2012). The problem with the term IMC is it primarily refers to the integration of the marketing communication mix, including advertising, direct marketing, personal sales, and promotion (Arens et al., 2013), rendering public relations a promotional tool, as has been argued. The term 'integrated communication' or iComm has been used sparingly, but appropriately reflects the inclusion of all communication roles in integration efforts.


6.2. Application of IMC to public relations cases Traditional IMC studies focus on proactive and strategically planned promotional efforts. Few studies have considered public relations-oriented scenarios. Hendrix (2004) considered an insurance's integrated response in a disaster area in an effort to service all stakeholders affected, but little else has been done in areas like issues management, crises, internal relations, or community relations and corporate social responsibility. Case studies on integrated approaches to these areas would invigorate IMC research with new topical areas and a representative domain for exploring all communication functions.


6.3. IMC as internal relations With IMC's focus on a wide-variety of stakeholders, and public relations' unique responsibilities vis-à-vis marketing in internal relations, the opportunity to consider IMC from the inside out may be uniquely a public relations issue. Though integration may be commonly considered as an external process, it begins internally. One emerging area of consideration is the notion that pieces of the IMC puzzle, the communication functions, fit together naturally. This concept, which can be termed "organic integration", recognizes what Duncan and Caywood (1996) considered as the greatest degree of integration, and which "emerges from the cooperative efforts of traditionally separate fields" and which is marked by "the elements working together" as "integration is mastered and accepted" (p. 23, 29). Some research has ventured into this evaluation of spontaneous, natural, and organic process underlying communication integration (Christensen et al., 2008; Gurau, 2008; Smith, 2012c), but the topic remains under-developed.


6.4. IMC in public relations education

For too long public relations education has been separate from marketing, to the detriment of both domains. Business school marketing graduates emerge with little knowledge of public relations beyond its promotional capacities, and 512 B.G. Smith / Public Relations Review 39 (2013) 507-513 mass communication school public relations graduates emerge with an equally misinformed perspective of marketing. IMC perspectives expressing the opportunity for didactic development of IMC in public relations, particularly around strategic relationship management, but those perspectives also make it clear that marketing scholars are uninformed on didactic direction in public relations. IMC is often relegated to light discussion in public relations texts (i.e. Broom, 2009; Smith, 2013), lumped with a generic description of marketing communications and marketing roles, leaving the text devoid of the full weight of the integrated context in which students may operate and develop a management role following graduation.


6.5. Developing practitioner considerations

Limitations on the IMC concept may also be tied to practitioner-perspectives. In various research studies conducted by this researcher, the common way practitioners consider IMC when discussing it is "making sure our messages are consistent". Prodding these practitioners for further insights reveals that they may primarily consider public relations' contribution to IMC as publicity and media relations. In fact, those who express this opinion also tend to report high-levels of IMC at their organization, when, in fact, research-based models like those of Duncan and Caywood (1996) would assess their IMC efforts as basic and in need of development. It is possible that IMC research insights may not reach practice, and instruction on public relations management roles, their application to IMC, and IMC as a behavioral concept may be critical areas for practitioner instruction.


7. Conclusion

It is time for public relations scholars to enter the IMC debate, and not as opponents to its existence, but as partners in its development. In detailing the landscape of IMC and public relations, this article has sought to provide context for discussion, and initiate public relations-based scholarship in the field of IMC.

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