Marketing and Communications Basics

Marketing and communications comprises all of the various activities you use to reach your target audience — advertising, public relations, direct marketing, branding, social media, public presentations, online marketing, printed collateral and other initiatives.

There are now so many different tentacles of marketing and communications that it’s important to tie them together in a way that makes sense for your organization. An integrated marketing and communications plan can help you work more effectively to promote your brand or organization and tell your story.

Here are a few ground rules that can help you be successful:

Commit time, resources and attention

  1. Set some goals that are clear – this will require a conversation with the people in your organization, especially those in charge of communications
  2. Know your audience — this will require a bit of research
  3. Understand what you want to convey – both the content itself and the tone or voice.
  4. Who is responsible for which pieces – do you have a workflow?


Part of navigating the various marketing and communications channels comes down to honestly assessing your resources. Determine how much time, money and personnel you can commit and decide where your resources will be put to the best use. For example, if you have more people and time than money, put more emphasis on public relations and social media efforts and less emphasis on paid advertising. Be realistic. You can’t do it all.

Setting goals and objectives

Developing a strategic communications plan (see below) will help you to be successful. It’s more than a matter of writing down your aims and ambitions. Developing a plan involves significant research, assessment and asking questions – both within your organization and outside your organization. Ultimately, it will help you determine where you are and where you are going with your efforts.

Know your audience

Determining your intended audience is a key step in any communications planning. You might feel like you already have a good general sense of your audience, but it’s helpful to zero in and find out as much as you can about the people you’re trying to reach. How old are they? What do they read to stay up to date? What are their goals and ambitions? What are they looking for? What are they lacking? Talk directly to your audience. Have conversations. If necessary, conduct a digital survey of their needs.

Use online tools such as SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics to survey your audience. This will help to determine their needs and how best to reach them.

Determining content

Just as you aim to understand your target audience before launching into a campaign, it’s important that you understand yourself. Laying out what your organization stands for and what you hope to convey will help determine the content that you intend to provide. As you go through the process of organizational soul searching, make note of some of the issues that come up — it may serve as valuable fodder for ideas later (e.g., blog posts, topics for presentations, etc.)

Who’s responsible

Just as important as having a plan is having the people to carry it out. Assign roles and responsibilities at the outset to make sure that tasks are getting completed. Meet regularly to assess your efforts and, if necessary, make changes to your assignments.