Selecting Media Venues

When you are considering media outlets to deploy a story, there are so many choices. How do you know which digital and traditional media venues are the right ones, and how do you prioritize them? The following is a short primer providing a method to select media venues to distribute content in an outreach campaign or a larger initiative. It is based off a presentation I gave last week at the International PRSA Conference.

First, let’s assume you have a message, and that your customers or intended audience will actually care about it. Let’s say the media is unlikely to pick up the story or concept, at least until the market validates it. So your organization elects to use its own content to communicate the concept with customers.

You need to determine your primary distribution point. It’s critical to have a focus. Too many people make the mistake of using every media possible to publish a major piece of content.

Every group of customers have a primary venue or medium they prefer to receive content. Hopefully, your customer data is deep enough to help easily determine your customers’ primary media channels. Using analytics, you can identify those channels and determine what type of content will work.

Your website is unlikely to be that choice, particularly if you are not an actual media company (Red Bull aside). Instead, your website is home base and it should include owned content, but it is unlikely to be the primary communications point that your customers frequent.

Let’s consider Star Wars.com as an example. StarWars.com extends an incredible media universe, as you can see from the many options on their site.

However, we know that movies are the primary Star Wars vehicle. Every other media property dovetails back to the movies, and the movies drive interest in the other media properties. No other Star Wars media property is viewed by as many people as the movies are.

Dovetailing Back to the Primary Asset

StarWarsMediaChoices

Some people choose to post their media across different properties. But more and more brands are looking to differentiate content across media channels by extending their story. They use secondary media choices to amplify and extend the experience. This is called transmedia storytelling in academic circles.

Consider the above chart and how Star Wars uses its many secondary outlets to continue the story. The Star Wars franchise supports itself between movies with unique stories that offer its most enthusiastic customers an extended experience. Each piece can stand alone, but in the end the work around the narrative proposed in the movies.

Disney manages the Star Wars narrative closely so there are no conflicts. In fact, Leland Chee, the Keeper of the Holocron, is an employee whose sole job is to maintain story integrity.

Disney invests in the media platforms that are most likely to be used. You can see the website promotes all of these properties.

In areas that are not as well viewed or consumed, Disney allows third parties like Lego and publishers/novel writers to license the brand, and extend it. While not directly promoted on the Star Wars home page, these properties are also managed by Leland Chee and fit in the master narrative.

This is distributed storytelling at its finest, creating a cascading effect across a wide variety of media.

Applied to Corporate Content

Brian Solis Keynote

The same principles used by Star Wars franchise can be applied to any serious content initiative. Of course, none of them will have the budget of Star Wars, but even a small campaign can make use of transmedia channel selection methods.

Consider the recent Vocus (now Cision) Brian Solis/Gapingvoid eBook my company helped produce and promote. What If PR Stood for People and Relationships was distributed on SlideShare as the primary medium.

Secondary choices included select social networks, a live event at Google HQ that extended the SlideShare presentation, blogs that extended the book’s logic, and native ads. These were the channels that Cision/Vocus customers usually interact on. Each of these content choices featured different takes on the book, from analysis and live commentary to quotes.

FutureMedia

Tertiary choices included a fantastic Canva user -enerated contest that had more than 60 entries. I had my doubts about this, but Cision Community Manager Adrienne Sheares stuck to her guns, and this turned out to be a very good content extension. I included this and influencer blogs as tertiary as they were content pieces that were beyond our control.

Tertiary media choices are tough. You don’t know what you will get, but investing them is important. Many times they can take an effort to a new level. At the same time, if unsuccessful tertiary efforts can just burn resources. I like to use tertiary choices as acknowledged risks and to experiment, as Cision/Vocus did with its successful Canva effort.

It’s important to experiment. You learn what your true brand advocates enjoy. Test new media and see how they can benefit your relationships and overall storytelling capabilities.

How do you approach media selection?

You may also like “Transmedia Writing” and “Transmedia: Multichannel Storytelling Transcends Platforms.”

Getting Lost In Tech Again

Tenacity5 Media’s client Vocus and Cision released a new eBook, “What If PR Stood for People and Relationships” authored by Brian Solis and GapingVoid. The primary gist is to stop getting lost in technology, or suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.

Shiny Object Syndrome has been an issue ever since blogs and social networks took over the Internet. Today, you can see it manifest itself in the way marketers and communicators talk about data, social tools, and mobile technology.

Let us consider data. More than ever before we see how our actions inspire people to act. Data is fantastic, and it can inform our every step. Yet, when we let the outcomes manifested as precision results drive every action, our outreach can become lifeless.

Just look at the current iterations of ad retargeting. Marketers realize people have visited us and if we offer them something worthwhile or a coupon, x % will become customers. We engage in campaigns to yield this percentage, and in doing so we sacrifice good will with a much greater population of potential customers, because they are annoyed with cheap ads and tricks.

As Brian says in the book, we need to make relationships the guiding principle in our communications, no matter how powerful the technology may be. In the case of ad retargeting, offering additional quality content with real value for a limited period of time after a visit (like three days) would be a significant change in approach. Data is great if it is used wisely.

I hope you will check out the book. It’s a fantastic read with great illustrations. The Tenacity5 team was thrilled to have worked on the project, and hope it makes a great impact on the PR business.

Grasping Threads of the Future

5645782770_ec2ddece49

What do people mean when they call themselves a futurist? More often than not the moniker revolves around grasping threads and predicting the near-term future.

Futurism increasingly drives conversations amongst technologists and leaders. The future fascinates us as much as the past does, a response to the technological imperative of change facing every single one of us.

Al Gore and Brian Solis popularized the term with their recent books The Future and WTF (What’s the Future) of Business, respectively, but contemporaries like Greg Verdino and others are calling themselves futurists, too.

Futurism extends into our larger culture now. The popular i09 blog looks at future concepts present, in entertainment and through science fiction. Of course, science fiction is the narrative business of imagining the future.

In business, futurists look at current trends, and predict how they impact society, business and culture. They see blends of activity pointing towards a general direction, using emerging trends as a clay to formalize anticipation of what’s next.

But it’s important to understand that as sexy as trendspotting is, it can lead to all sorts of bad decisions.

Continue reading

All Polls and Surveys Are Not Equal

linkedin polls
Image by renaissancechambara

In Washington, polls and surveys drive policy decisions, particularly around campaign season. For a presidential election, Gallup polls are considered accurate within four points, and this has yet to be proven wrong. However, several online polls and surveys last week did produce highly questionable results, and in once case, was outed as a hoax tarnishing the Microsoft Explorer brand.

This degradation in quality is indicative of a larger trend on the social web, the erosion of expertise (and professionalism) caused by social media content. Launching a poll or a test on a web site is so easy now that anyone can claim to execute research. Indeed, they are. The quality and value of their data is another story. Mind you, this erosion has not only impacted the new media content producer, but also the traditional journalism field as both our Microsoft and Google+ examples will show.

Interactive firm AptiQuant ran a test on its site purportedly measuring the IQ of visitors and correlating that data with IQ. Explorer users were deemed least intelligent.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the browser IQ test was widely reported by the media, which did not verify the data. Finally, the BBC determined the research was a hoax, but not before the media had popularized Explorer as a low IQ tool. AptiQuant is defending its study, and says it will battle any lawsuits.

But does it matter? The damage has been done to an already lagging brand. Publications that may print retractions won’t push them to the top of their sites with the same zeal they did in their original reporting. A successful lawsuit would only provide a consolation prize for being a called stupid Internet Explorer user.

Google+ Polls

Several polls came out surveying Google+ users about abandoning Facebook for the new circle based social network. Of all the polls only the Christian Post labeled their effort as an unofficial poll, and their numbers were the lowest with 7% moving solely to Google+.

The Brian Solis, Mashable and PC Magazine posts ranged from 23% to 50%. However, all of their readers are extremely tech or social media centric, in essence polling the early adopters. They do not represent the general population, and as such their polls can be pretty much dismissed as industry and demographic specific.

The average reader of these stories would not be able to discern that three tech/social media polls are in essence, “inside baseball.” Mashable did add a little conjecture: “Users may be reacting to the novelty of a new social network. Facebook.”

What is most notable about these four polls is the 40+ point spread between them in response. In the case of the three social media and tech polls, there was still a 27 point spread. Such wild variations should be a clear indicator that the data is inaccurate or compromised in some way.

Keep in mind on line polls — particularly those on social media — often suffer from fan based flash mobbing towards a favored outcome. Also, given the subject matter a survey of the non-indoctrinated general public’s opinion about Google+ would have offered an interesting context to the data.

Conclusion

Without stronger open methodology and wider population samplings, polls cannot be considered representative of likely trends. Polls that deserve respect like Gallup and Pew Internet research are painstaking about their methodology.

In the information age are readers and the media — as the Internet Explorer hoax revealed — savvy enough to discern quality information? Yet another series of examples why we need to teach children and adults alike how to mindfully accept information, and question sources.

What do you think of the polling trend?

The State of MLK’s Dream Online

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. day as an official U.S. federal holiday. It is during this holiday that MLK’s famous “I Had a Dream” speech plays on TV stations, radios and is discussed on the Internet. Perhaps the greatest aspect of the dream was hope for a meritocracy where his children, “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

How are we doing with racism, segregation and diversity in conversations online? Particularly as social media empowers, giving everyone a digital printing press. Has the digital divide fallen or is it sill rearing its ugly head? Are we talking? And to each other?

To compliment the thoughts below, Influential1 Founders Mike Street and Dupé Ajayi interviewed in a point, counterpoint format on four questions. Influential1s seeks to highlight many un-recognized influencers in the urban space.

The Economic Divide of Access Still Exists

A8B526CF4F0A46ECAA90179A0ADDB2A5.jpg

Mobile and social media have done a lot, with minorities adapting Twitter more than the whites. But there’s still a lot of work to do. A recent Pew study revealed that Internet use is still an economic privilege. Consider this: Some 95% of Americans who live in households earning $75,000 or more a year use the internet at least occasionally, compared with 70% of those living in households earning less than $75,000.

The technology gap gets more pronounced with less income. The median white family income in 2009 was $54,461, the media hispanic family income was $38,039 and the median black income was $32,584 (U.S. Census Bureau). You do the math on who is getting the short end of the digital divide stick.

Mobile and social media have done a lot to provide equal access in the past few years, but there’s still a gap. What is that gap in your mind?

Mike Street – Mobile, social media, and all of the above have brought communications to a whole new level. But I feel that while we have much more access to information, African-American’s and Latinos are not leveraging these platform or creating new platforms in order to create the next level of technology. This is the new gap.

We’ve turned the digital divide into the digital crack but now there is a whole new divide that needs to be closed. While both communities are consumers and content generators, the pace to compete within the startup space is VERY slow. It troubles me on many different levels but this fact drives me to be out there more and to help highlight and honor minorities working in this space.

Dupe Ajayi – To me, that gap is tied to education and economics. Last year I sat on a panel that Mike hosted and almost got into a fist fight over this one! The other panelist’s argument was the digital divide comes as a result of minorities choosing to spend their money on items such as sneakers and bags as opposed to tech gadgets that would open up help close the gap.

I agree with [Mike] to some extent but feel education is key: inform people as to why it will pay in the long run to invest in tech. Furthermore, educate people on the fact that the use of tech tools goes way beyond social networking: you can use them to find a (better) job, get money for school, find resources to help you start your own business, etc.

Blacks and Latins Get Shut Out

Think this is untrue? Let’s look at the social media marketing blogosphere’s defacto barometer the AdAge 150 and its top 20. The only minorities in the top 20 are Brian Solis and John Chow. As you scroll through the list of the actual 150, the numbers don’t get much better.

When the issues of social media rise up to the mainstream media, who gets cited? When the Quora fight du jour occurs on who the social media experts are occurs, who gets listed? Conference speakers? Etc., etc. The reality is that — at least within this market space — we are an almost all white homogeneous group. Intentional or not, digital segregation lives on. It does validate arguments that social media communities often polarize diverse groups of people.

Why is it harder for African and Latin Americans to receive notoriety in the mainstream conversation?

Mike Street: This is the million dollar question and I don’t have the answer to this. This was one of the main reason why myself and my business partner, Dupe Ajayi, decided to create Influential1s.com. We had had enough of seeing list of the best of social media that often excluded any diversity. So what we are doing is using the Influential1s.com platform as a showcase to highlight the efforts of people of color working in digital, marketing, social media, fashion, and beyond.

Dupe Ajayi: The question of the hour! I think mainstream media has made the decision to not highlight these people. It has to be. Mike and I both know of people who are ‘killing it’ in the social space across many specialties. However, when we look at ‘Top Ten’ lists, the faces of color are almost non existent. To add to the curious dilemma is that fact that minorities are top users of all things social.

I believe that we have been satisfied with striving to make the mainstream lists and then settling when we get a bit of recognition. This issue is at the foundation of us launching influential1s.com. We want to say, “Hey we’re here and we are a force.” We also want to truly celebrate our colleagues.

What Are the Answers?

The digital divide has more questions than answers. It’s hard to point in any direction with the surety of a silver bullet. Online, mindful inclusiveness is critical. Are you subconsciously shutting people out.

Long term, one thing is certain, focusing on education opportunities for minorities provides a key foundation point for equal opportunity. It addresses financial opportunity to some extent and gives individuals a better chance for success. There are so many more areas to focus on culturally and economically, so keep an open mind as to how you can help.

What is the answer in your mind?

Mike Street: The answer is for us to be fully visible and sit at the table. I’ve been in the NY tech space for years and have gone to several events, even recently, where I am the ONLY person of color. But I feel that it is important to work to opening these doors, helping to create safe spaces for African-American’s and Latino’s to prosper in the digital age. I run an African-American tech group called Black’s in Technology. I recently took over this group and will be working on providing solid networking opportunities that will help African-American working in this space to create new platforms like Foursquare.

What Would MLK Think?

One can only think MLK would be happy to see so many new tools open to minorities in general. At the same time, he would not be thrilled with the lack of progress in achieving equal stature in positions of authority, whether that be digital leadership or political standing.

He might have said that while freedom is within everyone’s grasp now, so few attain it. For every Barack Obama, there’s a dominant white U.S. senate. MLK would likely be focusing on empowering people to succeed and use digital tools to better their lives, as well as creating new opportunities for minorities.

Also, it is certain that MLK would not be happy with the lack of civility in U.S. political life. He would have been horrified by the Arizona shootings, and the political discourse that preceded them.

How would MLK view the current state of the interwebs?

Mike Street: I think MLK would be happy overall with the political activity going on now. Communities of color are more involved in the political and civil rights movement and using Facebook and Twitter as a means of organizing. However, I feel he would think we need to be a bit more proactive and helping to fully solve any issue that affects the quality of life of Americans

Dupe Ajayi: I think he’d say there is work to be done. I am a service junkie. I’ve spent the past few years dedicated to the non-profit movement because I really want to see change happen. I’ve spent time in learning and mastering social because I feel that these tools can be used to effect change. MLK would say that while finding out who wore what when and tweeting about it is cool, lets use our social networking muscle to create equality, jobs and level the playing field.

When Social Media Rewards the Mindless and the Elite

Writer’s Note (11/20): Trackbacks on this post have been turned off.  Links/SEO were not my objective.

photo-2.jpeg
Elite social media performer chart from Brian Solis’s Three Cs post.

Let’s be honest. Online media is just a collective mass of live and static expressions representing society as a whole. It should not be surprising to any of us that social media has evolved to reward immediate mindlessness and elitism. In that sense, it is just like our popular culture.

How else can you explain the rises of Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian as top Twitter accounts? Or within the communications sector, the widespread dissemination of “unique” best practices that will get you the largest, most elite position in the social graph possible?

This represents a huge problem for us — excuse me, those of us who want to affect more deep, meaningful outcomes with our online interactions. When Bill Gates — a global luminary of immense stature uses Twitter to disseminate ideas on change — is outfollowed 3-1 by B-rate actors and porn stars, our society’s views are clear. And those views lack depth and thought.

Sex Pistols and New York Dolls Manager Malcolm McClaren stated this very well in his Handheld Learning Keynote last year when he discussed the public education systems’ chief challenges. McClaren’s primary thesis: Pop culture rewards stupidity and immediate desires instead of intelligent or experienced thought. McLaren’s views are spot on (though I do feel that people are not stupid, just mindless and without long-sighted purpose). McClaren calls this desire a demand for instant success. This “karaoke world” flies in the face of real authenticity, the meaningful depth of life that some of us are trying to work within.

Even our corporate and organizational communications are geared towards trying to set up elite structures to propagate this structure. Consider our “thought leaders” online that clearly emulate this ethos.

The above chart from Brian Solis was used in his extremely popular (and painfully long tome) three Cs post on “Consumption, Curation, Creation.” Says Brian in reference to the chart, “Businesses must join the elite and integrate the creation of compelling content into the social marketing mix. Doing so gives consumers reason to share, expanding the role of curator within the 3C’s of Content and earning authority and influence in the process.”

Similarly, top marketing blogger Chris Brogan tweeted a recommendation to read this Harvard Business Review blog post: “How to Become a Thought Leader in Six Steps.” Unfortunately, no where in the article does it teach you to think, or about developing something valuable worth sharing with others. While some of the steps have good promotion advice, the overall exploitative instant success approach to the post is objectionable (see Doug Haslam’s outstanding post).

Thoughts on Thoughtlessness

Smart Has the Brains
A Diesel storefront ad in New York City

Should Brian and Chris be chastised for their individual statements, or their general blogging directions, which generally support this quick road to success ethos? Clearly, it’s what people want. That’s why both bloggers are elite “A-List” marketing bloggers. And they are no different than the other formulaic, drum-beating, top-tier marketing bloggers.

Facebookpunk.jpg

For me, I find the A-List to be a condition of general society’s values. While I understand that this is inevitable, it’s not for me. I prefer the Bill Gates form of notoriety. Substantive, earned relationships and real leadership matter more. I prefer to achieve and reward others with thought leadership because my/their acts are truly worthy of respect, and thus, are remarkable. This is opposed to demanding accolades.

Some A Listers follow formulas, sharing and content mechanisms to achieve their best practices. The Karaoke Show is on all the time. And they are rewarded for it with popularity and, in some cases, financially. Maybe this is exactly what they need. Maybe this makes them happy.

facebookpunk2.jpg

So to each their own. For me, in business I prefer developing core communities of followers, people that truly care about the organization’s business or cause, and feel a part of that organization’s extended enterprise. Zoetica clients are getting direct service from experienced communications professionals, and these clients are achieving acclamations for their work (as opposed to us taking credit for it). As communicators, isn’t this the right path… Achieving/doing something other than creating vapid fame?

Professionally as an individual, when I speak it’s because people want to hear what I have to say. When people comment here, generally it’s because they have something to say, rather than an accolade to deliver. When I fail — and yes, I do fail — I can live with and even better learn from it rather than worry about the Karaoke Show image hit.

I prefer the education, the experience and the thoughtful approach — the longer road to online and real-life success. As McClaren suggested, I prefer to use online technology as a tool and to achieve things, and I don’t use it as a replacement for experience and learning.

Yes, it’s less sexy, it’s a harder journey, and you get less back slaps. Having had a taste of the karaoke lights in the past, I can tell you it’s immensely more rewarding.