Source-message-receiver in integrated marketing communication: A study of U.S. institutional advancement

Sharee LeBlanc Broussard


Because integrated marketing communication (IMC) research has traditionally been problematic, this study used an existing scale to determine that higher educational institutional advancement (alumni, marketing-communications, development) is an appropriate venue to study the process model. Responses from practitioners representing every department within advancement, every regional accrediting body and each of the baccalaureate to doctoral Carnegie Classification levels indicated the IMC process model is both understood and its tenets practiced by practitioners at all sizes and levels of institution. The study was of interest to the practitioners as more than half of the respondents requested a copy of the results. Additionally, because IMC is criticized as theoretically weak, this study demonstrates the multi-dimensional construct of IMC can be examined through a Source-Message-Receiver lens, thereby contributing the basic underpinning of much communication theory as a possible core for studying the process model. The study attempted to assess if relationships exist between organizational complexity (size as well as horizontal, vertical, spatial and functional complexity), practitioner engagement in professional development activity (communities of practice, comparative activity, personal engagement) and higher scores on the adapted four- construct, 18-item IMC scale. A second scale was developed to assess practitioners' comparative activity (e.g. benchmarking). The study collected and analyzed descriptive data regarding the function of institutional advancement within U.S. institutions of higher education and its practitioners. Practitioners representing baccalaureate institutions agreed most to the IMC dimensions of differentiated communications and database-centered communications. Practitioners representing doctoral institutions had the highest agreement on the dimension of unified communications and those representing master's institutions had the most agreement on the relationship-fostering dimension. No statistically significant relationships were detected between the variables of organizational complexity, practitioner engagement and the dimensions of IMC. While the practitioners reported increases in success indicators commonly collected within institutional advancement, statistical significance between these and the IMC dimensions was not detected. Limitations are examined.