Marketing vs Comms

Photo of Paul Seven Lewis

I’ve never worked in a business large enough to separate marketing and communications. Even at the largest organisation where I was an employee, I was responsible for both. So what is the difference?

As the head of the department, I concentrated on the marketing while carrying out some of the communications. So I was the person who determined the marketing strategy and plan. To grossly oversimplify, I worked out what story we had to tell and to whom we should be telling it.

Communications is about telling the story. Because my team was small and I had certain skills, I continued to oversee brochure production and wrote copy. Others dealt with the practicalities of communications through advertising, social media, PR, the website and mailings.

So how do you plan your communications?

  1. Consult the marketing plan. As an expert in communications, you should be talking to the Marketing Manager to make sure you fully understand who you need to communicate with (clients, customers, funders) and what you are expected to achieve.
  2. Set targets in a time frame.
  3. Carry out an inventory of your resources, both human and physical. Human resources could be a press officer, a digital marketer, an advertising agency etc. Physical resources would be a website, social media, print media, email list etc.
  4. Allocate the resources, single or mixed, that will best deliver each target.
  5. If you have been given a budget, allocate it to the resources that will achieve the best return. Otherwise, work out the budget you will need and negotiate your final spending allowance with the management.
  6. Create the stories in images and words that are appropriate for each medium. I’ve said it before but I can’t stress enough that it is never the case that one piece of copy fits all: an email will be personal while a press release will be quite neutral; a tweet will be snappy while flier copy will go into detail. On the other hand, the ‘voice’ and branding should be consistent.
  7. Test and monitor, adapting as you go.

The above is about external communications. An internal communications plan will be similar but will not take its lead from a marketing plan. Instead it will involve researching the stakeholders and understanding how best to communicate with them- most likely emails, postal mailings, social media groups, presentations and digital forums.

Paul Seven Lewis is the owner of the marketing & website design company Seven Experience Limited and presents the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews. He was formerly Head Of Marketing at The Mayflower Southampton and Marketing Manager at Theatre Royal Winchester.

The 3 Essentials Of Marketing

Someone said to me last week, ‘Sum up the basics of marketing in less than thirty words.’ Well, I always say if you can’t explain something simply, you probably don’t understand it, so I had a go:

Find out who you are selling to, work out how to target them cost effectively, then tell them a story about the benefits of your product.

Easier said than done of course but the principles are important. A lot of time and money is wasted if you cast your net too wide when trying to promote your product or service. So the first step is always working out who is buying or likely to buy. For an established product, your best customer is your existing customer followed by others similar to them. This cannot be a guess.

Having established that, how do you reach them? It will nearly always be a marketing mix that varies on each occasion. Direct marketing is usually the best for targeting and value. If you have someone’s email address, mobile numbers for texts or postal address, you can communicate directly with them. You can also monitor their responses and their purchase history. For a small business, the MailChimp service is excellent for handling an email list and telling you who is opening your emails and who is ignoring them.

Costly as it is, print is still effective at attracting attention and persuading. Use it sparingly but mail it to your keen followers and make it available where your target market hangs out.

Social media tends to take up a lot of time for the return on investment but bear in mind that, if you have genuine followers on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, they should be among the best people to spread the word.

It is a problem if you don’t have data on your customers or you want to reach new ones. Media advertising is an expensive and scattergun way to reach them, even AdWords. One of my first steps towards achieving record sales at The Mayflower was to switch the emphasis from newspaper advertising to direct marketing.

And so to the message. Find out- don’t assume or guess- why people need your product. Remember, as Clay Christensen put it, people don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole. It takes years to learn to right selling copy but the starting point is to tell the customer a story of how they will benefit from your product. Like all stories, it will grab their attention and make the recipient read on or look in more detail.

An effective marketing campaign is a mighty edifice but it will be built on these foundations.
This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn

4 Ways To Make Your Website More User Friendly

‘Keep it simple, stupid’ is old advice but it never dates. Here are four pieces of research that show the importance of keeping your website simple. Consider them when you’re designing a website or checking the quality of a website designer.

‘Keep it simple, stupid’ is old advice but it never dates. Here are four pieces of research that show the importance of keeping your website simple. Consider them when you’re designing a website or checking the quality of a website designer.

  1. The Norman Nielsen Group, who know more abour website usability than anybody on the planet, have found that 79% of users scan an unfamiliar page. Therefore the key elements of the site and the reasons to stay must be instantly obvious. It must conform to design conventions as many users will not take the time to try to understand an innovative design.
  2. Specifically on the text, the Norman Nielsen Group found that the use of bullets, subheadings and highlighted words to break up the text led to a 47% increase in usability, because it made the text easier to scan. So, whatever you do, avoid avoid large blocks of text.
  3. Staying with the words, write your copy in a neutral manner. There’s a 27% increase in usability if objective rather than promotional sales language is used. So avoid offputting words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘wonderful’ and stick to the facts.
  4. People are spending more time accessing the internet on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets than on desktops and laptops. According to OfCom research earlier this year, 57% of people in the UK use one to access internet. Research by Nielsen in the USA supports this. They found adults spend 34 hours per month accessing internet on smartphone as opposed to 27 hours on pc. The lesson is that your site must be responsive to different devices. More than that, you should actually start with the smartphone and tablet designs and work your way up to the PC version. A lot of designers won’t like this because they love creating a design on their big Apple Mac screens. It’s no bad thing that the use of mobile devices is driving us to make websites simpler and easier to use.



Be Careful Before You Discount

A CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) report  at the end of July took Tesco to task for advertising a discount on some beer of a price that had been temporarily raised. This means you mustn’t claim you are discounting unless you genuinely are. I’m a big fan of dynamic pricing which can mean a price goes up for a while then goes down again and that could be perceived as breaching the CAP rules but only if you deliberately set a high price then tell people you’ve cut it. That’s not dynamic pricing, that’s conning people.
If you set a high price but offer a lower price for early sales or a discount for last minute purchases, that should be okay because the standard/full price is genuinely offered for a prolonged period of time. This is honest and transparent and shouldn’t upset the CAP.
If you have a set number of prices which you apply to seats in varying numbers according to demand, which is a crude form of dynamic pricing, that would seem to be within the CAP rules because you are not claiming to be offering money off.
However if you change the actual prices according to demand, which is true dynamic pricing, then you mustn’t claim that there is a full price which you are discounting because the truth is, there isn’t. Look to the airlines, the supreme dynamic pricers. Do any of us know what the price of a plane seat is? If we buy when there are lots of seats available, we expect to get a lower price; if we buy when there is a lot of demand, we accept that we will pay a higher price.
I think the problem will be for the many theatres in the UK who are stuck on giving all the seat prices in their print. I prefer to get people to want to see a show and then tell them the choice of prices. If this is too drastic for you, then only give ‘Prices from’ information. This approach is essential if you are practising true dynamic pricing.

To Click Or Not To Click

As a marketer I am delighted that I no longer have to push messages at unwilling recipients but the choices the internet has given us extend well beyond shopping and media. We are responsible for our own moral choices.

The hacking and publishing on the internet of a number of celebrities’ private photos has revealed more than these stars’ naughty bits. The incident has brought into the open the truth about modern

Finger on key
To Click Or Not To Click


Where once laws, censorship and peer pressure helped us keep our baser impulses in check, these days we’re on our own. Social network managers and even the FBI may try to control our access to these stolen pictures but the fact is, if we want to, we can find them.

In the modern world, we don’t even expect to tell other people what to do. Complaining about strong language or sex or violence in a TV programme seems almost quaint in a time when you can watch what you want when you want- or not.

If You Want It, You Can Have It

Looked at positively, we have become a more tolerant society, letting almost everything pass us by as long it doesn’t interfere with our own life. Looked at negatively, those who remain intolerant of different taste or behaviour can now be express themselves in the most foul way. Previously they held insulting remarks in check because they would have to be expressed face to face or in green ink in a letter that needed posting. Now someone can use a social network to anonymously threaten to rape an MP because she supports having Jane Austen on a banknote.

Just as there are caveman parts of our brain that haven’t caught up with our civilised life, we have 20th century habits that haven’t caught up with the internet age. For the last few generations, we have been a consumer society. We have been taught that if we want something, we can have it. But those things were what manufacturers pushed at us. The internet changed that.

As a marketer I am delighted that I no longer have to push messages at unwilling recipients. I can offer my wares and let people ‘pull’ out what they were interested in. Truly targeted interactive marketing builds up good relationships between consumer and supplier.

Some marketers haven’t learnt yet. I was fascinated to see that the Sky News iPhone app which used to be so popular now has the lowest possible rating because so many users hate the amount of ads it pushes at them. And of course they can choose to delete the app which many are.

It’s Your Moral Choice

The choices the internet has given us extend well beyond shopping and media. You are responsible for your own moral choices.

‘Pulling’ things into our lives that we know are wrong used to be quite difficult, now it can done in secret without moving from our computer. All that stops us now is our own self censorship.

It’s easy to click the button that brings nude celebrity photos to our screen but it’s our choice. There is no person, agency or God stopping us. Just as when we see an empty car with the engine running, we don’t have to drive it away.

You might even kid yourself that they’re celebrities and that these attention hungry women are getting what they deserve. You might say it wasn’t you that hacked the photos. But, if you know it’s wrong, are you any better than the thieves who stole them in the first place?

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn. A version appeared on the Daily Echo website.