The IMC team sets a marketing communications objective (what we want to achieve). From that, an overall communications strategy is developed (what we'll say to achieve it). From that, a creative strategy will emerge (how we'll say it). These strategies may utilize PR, advertising, sales promotions – or any combination of these disciplines.
Is the job of each discipline tougher and more restrictive when it's agreed that they must be consistent with the other? You bet it is! If advertising or PR can do its own thing without considering the ramifications for the other disciplines, then their job is easier – and probably quicker.
There are instances – most often related to a less-than-adequate budget – where one discipline, say for example public relations, is all that can be deployed effectively.
However, in most instances it's best to launch a campaign that uses a variety of tools to reach the prospect at different contact points and have them all work together to communicate consistent core product benefits and brand image.
The coordination and alignment of these elements is often considered the greatest challenge for marketing communications companies, but it also offers the greatest opportunities for success.