Why integration is an agency superpower

Converging arrows

By Chris Dodds, Co-founder and Digital Managing Director at Icon Agency

As agency owners, we’re continually working to ensure our services remain useful and impactful. Because if you’re no longer innovating someone else will, and after a few cycles you’re no longer relevant.

Defining what Icon Agency does depends on the lens applied and the person we’re speaking with. It’s not us being vague – it’s agnostic listening prior to forming an opinion. Integration is our true superpower – bringing together a spectrum of skills from across the communications landscape.

Is everything an agency produces “communications”?

At a reductionist level, everything our industry undertakes can be defined as “communications”, i.e. a media object or channel that transmits information between the source and the receiver – a core principle in communications theory.

It’s a simple model: The source is a need. A need to promote a brand, change a behaviour, inform a populous, or make a sale. The communications channel is the medium used to transmit the message. And the receiver is the target audience.

And let’s not forget the iconic “The medium is the message” concept posited by the communication theorist Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s. He believed the message being communicated will be influenced by the medium it’s being transmitted through.

Case in point is social media's short form format and moderation policies influencing facts and trust amongst users. Shallow echo chambers breed misinformation and reinforce bias. As audience numbers (and revenue) grows, the content model is reinforced.

I'm pretty disillusioned with the state of social platforms – particularly the way they're used to manipulate and misinform the entire populous. But I also know we need to engage with them as this is where people congregate. It's also difficult to change something without direct engagement.

Integrated thinking helps our team understand these communications challenges, tools and impacts – enabling us to craft targeted solutions and messages based on the chosen channel/s.

In the digital age, the tools and processes used to identify, create, broadcast and measure communications are accelerating at an ever-increasing rate. This presents both a threat and an opportunity for agencies. Every second of every day billions of people experience and engage with media objects and the messages they contain.

Our attention is long on choice and short on span (thanks for getting this far!). Knowing who you need to engage, the type of content needed to engage, and how your communications should be crafted (both the platform and the content) takes interdisciplinary thinking and skills – even if you’re only responsible for one part of the processes.

I can’t stress this last point strongly enough. Understanding and appreciating what comes before and after your role in any project is key to its success. That's why Icon is filled with curious and empathetic people working in disparate but overlapping fields of practice.

20 years ago, understanding the power of integration was the reason we created Icon’s integrated agency model. After starting life as a design and communications firm, we realised everything was ultimately driven by the need to communicate across disparate and ever-changing mediums.

Graphic and UX design, PR and media relations, brand strategy, advertising and marketing, social comms, data analytics, content production, and web development should all be part of your communications toolkit. By understanding which message and medium is the best fit for the job, it’s easier to build truly impactful, channel-agnostic campaigns and products for clients.

“But we need specialisms!” I hear you say

“We agree!” is my answer. That’s why many of our solutions don’t require the full-service toolkit. Some clients need a digital content and governance strategy, a new website and WebOps support. Others need a refreshed brand. Or a national PR firm to run media relations. Icon specialises in all these services, but it’s our team’s holistic, integrated approach that acts as a communications superpower – one born at the intersection of strategy, craft and technology.

If you’d like to see Icon’s model in action, visit the links below for examples of how our specialist and integrated services have delivered some truly remarkable outcomes.

Still Six Lives
A national awareness and education campaign to lift the lid on the hidden tragedy of stillbirth.

Department of Defence website
A digital content and governance strategy, design system and component library built to drive brand consistency and development efficiencies across Defence’s extensive web estate.

An empathetic, integrated communications campaign helping connect Victorians to the vital mental health services they need.

You Haven’t Been Drinking Alone
Educating families on the risks of increased alcohol consumption during COVID-19 lockdowns.