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Back to Basics: What is Marketing Communications?

Part 1 of a Multi-Part Series on Marketing Communications Basics

Let's start at the very beginning—it works for mastering the art of singing. It's also a good place to embark upon learning about marketing communications. Ok, let's dig in and see what marcom is. We'll also touch on some resources.

Marketing communications is all over, all the time!
Marketing communications is all over, all the time!

Marcom Housekeeping

First things first:

  1. "Marcom" is short for "marketing communications" and the terms can be used interchangeably.

  2. Marcom is sort of an umbrella term that covers a variety of "stuff." And different people may have a different concept of what marketing communications is and what's covered by that canopy.

  3. This is a BIG topic. So this is the first installment in a multi-part series about marketing communications. Stay tuned for future posts! (Topics will include How To Do Marcom, Why Do Marcom, etc.)

Joseph's technicolor marcombrella?
Joseph's technicolor marcombrella?

Marketing Communications Defined

That said, here's my definition of marcom:

Marketing communications is a business function charged with connecting to stakeholder audiences and conveying specific messaging with the goal of mobilizing those audience members into a specific desired action.

Ok, so what—exactly—does that mean? I know, it sounds a bit like word stew. Let's tease it apart a bit and look at each piece.

Breaking It Down

It helps to define some of the terms I used above:

  • Business function: This is a specific and relatively narrow role or task that is done to help move a business toward its overarching goals (e.g., sales or growth targets). Businesses generally have many functional groups—like Finance, Customer Service, Quality Control—that work together.

  • Connecting: This is the act of finding, contacting and engaging with people, prospects, customers, etc.

  • Stakeholder: This is a person or entity (e.g., company, governmental body, community) that has some sort of vested interest in a company and its products and services.

  • Audience: These are your people! This is the group of folks you're targeting with your marcom efforts. They are the ones that will hopefully be engaging with your biz and enabling you to meet those company goals.

  • Conveying: This is the act of actually sharing or spreading content. It can be done via a number of media and methods.

  • Message: This is more than just the vocabulary you use. On a surface level, it's also the voice and tone of those words. It's the colors, imagery, and branding. It's the platforms, channels, and media you leverage. On a different level, it's the actual product, services, information, content, values, personality, etc. themselves that you're putting out into the world.

  • Mobilizing: This is the act of getting someone to actually do something. It's driving them from thinking to performing.

  • Action: This is the thing you want your audience member to do. It could be to sign up for your email list, purchase a product, call for more info, back your campaign, etc. When this action is taken, it moves your business toward accomplishing its goals.

See? It's clearer already! That strange sensation you may be experiencing is demystification.

Marcom is the face and mouthpiece of a company.
Marcom's not only the face and mouthpiece of a company, it's also the ears!

What Marcom Isn't

Just a quick, clarifying note. Yah, it's a small detour, but I promise we'll get back to the main route asap.

Marketing communications isn't Sales. It isn't Biz Dev. It isn't Account Management, Customer Success, Training & Development.

These are other departments and functions. A quality marcom team works closely with these other functions (and others) to be effective, though. Synergy!

Marcom may or may not include Creative or Interactive teams—there are infinite ways for a company to organize itself, yah?

It's important to understand that marketing communications is not an exact discipline; it's an ever-wavering mix of art and science.

The Marcom Mix

At a High Level

Marketing communications isn't a single, homogeneous blob of a thing. It's like an orchestra: a bunch of different players, instruments, pieces of music, format and venues all working together (hopefully!) to create sweet melodies for the listeners' ears. And it changes over time, a "living organism."

In marcom, the players are the copywriters, social media manager, designers, web masters and so on. It's a blend of creative types and more administrative, support or operation types. It takes a village!

The instruments of marketing communications are words, images, audio and video. Which you use to create pieces of marcom music: web copy, social media updates, product videos, etc.

Music comes in various formats—vinyl, CDs, streaming, live. Format for marketing communications is similar—published (digital and print), live streaming, on-demand, live-and-in-person (events). The music halls of marcom are the platforms, apps and places that host your marketing communications "music" in your chosen "format."

Uh...Give Me Some Visuals Please!

This article gives a nice, though somewhat dated, rundown of the elements of a marcom mix. It will get you thinking in the right direction. But your marketing communications mix should include modern practices and approaches (e.g., use of social and other digital media). The colorful diagram is useful, too, for us visual learners. (That's me!)

This explainer might also help to frame it up for you. To borrow from the orchestra analogy above, the verticals music/formats. The horizontals give details and examples. Definitely click on the image to get to the full PDF version, which has additional information (i.e., some context).

Marcom is Dialogues, Not Monologues

Marketing communications is...communications! Maybe this is a giant "DUH!" but it's worth stating explicitly. It's that important of a concept.

Communication means multi-directional, multi-modal conversations. Even when you're broadcasting out to an audience, you should have feedback mechanisms built into your processes and campaigns.

Having this back and forth is critical to your business.

  • It keeps you honest and focused. (Oh, folks will let you know if you've over-promised and under-delivered! Don't you worry about that.)

  • It helps you evolve your offerings and messaging.

  • It enables you to be responsive and address issues with agility.

  • It builds rapport with stakeholders so you can really solidify your brand, build trust and engage ambassadors and advocates. (Yay, happy PR!)

Marcom Context Matters

Other articles I've seen on this topic that haven't directly addressed this dimension of what marcom is. But, it absolutely makes a difference. Where/to whom you're marketing and communicating impacts every aspect of this function.


This is "Business to Consumer." It's marcom that's going from a business (e.g., company, non-profit, organization, etc.) to its consumers (e.g., users, buyers, subscribers, etc.). It's what you're probably most familiar with, and what comes to mind first, when you hear "marketing communications." That's legit. After all, you are probably bombarded all day every day with marcom from companies and organizations vying for your attention and $$$.


This is "Business to Business." As you probably can guess, it's marcom from one business to another. In this scenario, the recipient biz is the customer, client or consumer.

Generally, what's being marketed are professional or industrial products or services that the customer business needs to produce their own products and services, and run their own biz ops.


Possibly the least considered is the marcom that occurs within an organization. As opposed to externally, outside the organization.

This goes by many names, like Internal Communications or Employee Communications. It's often folded into the HR function, though larger companies may have a dedicated team (outside of and separate from HR).

The role of internal marketing communications varies from organization to organization but can include organizational announcements, employee events and programs, perks and benefits, etc. Essentially it's trying to accomplish a similar goal as B2C or B2B marcom (inform, compel, engage, mobilize, whatever the call to action is) just with a different audience.

Marcom is COMMUNICATION as in conversations, feedback loops, etc.
Marcom is COMMUNICATION as in conversations, feedback loops, etc.

Help & More Resources

The Marcom Explained table above is a handy resource as you begin to learn about marketing communications. I've been doing marcom for years and still look at it sometimes to keep me on point, kind of like a checklist or memory jogger.

For more goodies, swing by the Resources page. And, of course, you can always reach out to me for help.

And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges.

Crowd Wisdom Marcom-Style

How do you define marketing communications? What are your favorite marcom tips and resources? Share your thoughts and knowledge in the Comments section below. Thanks!

Learn More About Marketing Communications

We just scratched the surface here. Future installments in this Back to Basics: Marcom series will focus on other dimensions of marketing communications. Now that you know about the What, we'll explore the Whys, Hows and more. So subscribe to BrainWrap or check back soon. Thanks!


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