Corporate Communications, Marketing, IMC, PR and Advertising. What’s the difference?

When we talk about these separate communication disciplines are we comparing apples to apples or apples to oranges, grapes, pears and peaches? First, lets start with some definitions:

Corporate Communication: Activities involved in managing all internal and external communications aimed at corporate stakeholders.

Marketing Communications: Coordinated promotional messages delivered through channels like print, radio, television and personal selling.

Public Relations: Creating/maintaining goodwill of various publics (customers, employees, investors, etc.) through non-paid forms of communication.

Advertising: The activity or profession of producing information for promoting the sale of commercial products or services.

Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC): A synergistic approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign, through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods.

So what is the difference and how are they all connected? In general Corporate Communication focuses on the company/enterprise in dealing with issue management, mergers and litigation. Marketing Communications deals with the products/services and with creating demand or positioning.

Its easy to see how PR can be used for both Corporate and Marketing Communication. From crisis management to media outreach, PR is very effective at helping to meet corporate and marketing goals. But advertising can be used for both as well. Many times I have created a public billboard or national print ad for a target audience of one – an important corporate stakeholder. Trends also indicate that consumers now look at the companies behind brands with corporate responsibility and sustainability becoming a part of their purchase decision. A Cone report found that 79% of adults would be likely switch from one brand to another after hearing about a corporate-charitable partnership.

What about Corporate Branding TV that isn’t really selling a product, but promoting the corporation? Following the BP Oil Spill Corporate Communication used Public Relations for Crisis Management and one of their strategies was Corporate TV that told stakeholders and consumers everything BP was doing to clean up. That leads us to one more concept :

Internal Marketing: This management philosophy promotes the firm and its policies to employees as if they are the (internal) customers of the firm.

Wasn’t the BP spot also aimed at BP employees? I am sure internal communication was a big part of their integrated communications effort – which brings me to Integrated Marketing Communication. IMC may only apply to synergistic efforts to meet marketing goals, but as you can see with the BP example it is possible to create a larger integrated plan that uses advertising, PR and internal efforts to meet both Corporate and Marketing Communication goals.

I do value the importance of maintaining separate specializations. We need experts in all fields, but I do think there is room to come together and create the big ideas that move consumers and stakeholders. Rather than comparing apples to oranges, I would rather make fruit salad.