Should campaigns move from centre stage to a supporting role?

For many years, marketers and communicators segmented projects into campaigns. Contests, sweepstakes, promotions, sampling events – initiatives with a distinct beginning, middle and end.

That's how we organized the world for our clients and they were on board with this process. Years passed and all was good.

That is until social media turned the way businesses deal with their customers on its head. 

Campaigns always had limitations

There's an inherent flaw with campaigns. Their one-off nature is counter to the way business runs. Businesses flow. Campaigns appear in a flash and then, just as quickly, are gone. 'But I thought those sweaters were on sale.' 'Sorry, that's so last week.'

Moving away from a campaign-centric approach

Now I'm I'm not saying we should do away with campaigns entirely. But they should take a back seat to engagement.

Here's how to reorganize your marketing communications and move away from campaign-centric approach: 

  • Establish your brand's voice and personality. Decide if you're going to be informatiive, funny, helpful, entertaining, playful, satiric. That's the foundation. 
  • Ask your staff, customers, suppliers and partners questions about your brand and what it means to them and listen to the answers. This is where your content development starts (and while you're at it, check out Marcus Sheridan's blog, The Sales Lion for some great ideas).
  • Think like a publisher, not a marketer. Create a conversation calendar. Consider milestones, seasonal trends, industry issues and the responses to the questions you asked and plot it out annually (big picture) and then by quarter and month (tactical). Slot in campaigns where they fit into the overal content strategy.
  • Develop a hub and spoke model based on where your customers are. A blog or online newsroom is a good place to start – your online home. Use social channels to connect with folks and promote and amplify your stories.
  • Nurture relationships that lead to two-way engagement and trust – for the long-term. That means interacting and helping people in real time. And I'll say it again – please listen. And when you speak, don't use a megaphone. People can hear you better IF YOU'RE NOT ALWAYS SHOUTING!!
  • Add a touch of showbiz. This is where campaigns come in and something they inherently do very well. Think visually (videos, photos). 
  • Don't be all business all the time. Humanize the organization. We've heard this time and again, but it really is people – whether staff or customers – that matter. 

The world isn't as compartmentalized as marketers would like to believe – never was, really. Campaigns should no longer be the cornerstone of your marketing initiatives. Instead integrate them into your content strategy where they can best create a spark of awareness and some sizzle and excitement too.

What do you think about switching from campaign-led to story driven communications? Do you have any other tips to add?

About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman is a digital, social media and communications strategist, content marketer, social media trainer and instructor and co-founder of three PR agencies. He blogs at myPALETTE and hosts the Inside PR podcast.