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.

Listening Is Key, But Don’t Forget Your Research

by Heidi Sullivan

Stage actors have an old, if somewhat crude, joke. When they read a script it looks something like this: “BS BS BS BS … I enter … BS BS … My line … BS BS BS … Another line … BS BS … My last line … annnnnnnnnnnnd exit.”

Actor with Script
Image purchased from iStockPhoto

As Geoff discussed here three weeks ago, whatever your influencer engagement strategy may be – Direct Community Interaction with Stakeholders, Top Down Influence, Flanking, or Creating a Groundswell – you need to first “read the tea leaves” to be successful. He rightly spoke of the importance of listening prior to engagement in social media.

But, listening is just not enough; it’s too passive. And to a lot of people, engagement sounds too much like “this is when I get to talk.” Let’s rethink engagement as a process that begins long before you post a comment to someone’s blog or show your face on Twitter. It begins even before you start listening. True engagement means committing yourself to a deeper understanding of your communities – discarding outdated assumptions, re-learning basic drivers of perception and behavior (and identifying possible disruptions), knowing who is doing the talking and where their head is at, and finding the right, real voice that adds to the discourse.

Knowledge should come first. In-depth research can lead to true engagement – knowing how to listen and what to listen for. From this comes a greater intimacy with your online communities, better networking and interpersonal communication practices, and the development of social capital and trust that will be the foundation of a rewarding social media presence.

Step 1: Learning to Listen

Before you can figure out who is talking about you or your industry (or who should be talking about you!) it’s important to understand your keywords so you can identify who’s using them. Because your community might not be talking a lot about you yet, find out who’s talking about your competitors and other topics in your space in addition to your brand itself.

Whether you use an advanced social media monitoring solution or free tools to listen to conversations, it’s important to assess the breadth of the communities you’re monitoring. Search across outposts to discover communities, trends and types of interactions in your space in addition to benchmarking your success within your community. Which blogs are receiving comments and tweets? Who is answering Q&As on LinkedIn? Are there any Web 1.0 communities (like Yahoo! Groups) in your space that are particularly active?

As you dig into the content you identify through monitoring, you’ll start to discover the content producers (whether it be through Twitter, a blog, traditional media or another social platform) who are mentioned most frequently, get the most comments and responses, and are producing content that is being shared by others.

Those producers are the building blocks of your stakeholder list. Quite simply, these digital influencers are as unique as snowflakes, and their influence can be felt in very different ways. By measuring across multiple outposts, you can begin to identify patterns of influence.

Step 2: Deep Dive and Discovery

Then, dig a little deeper: go beyond listening to truly understand your influencers, stakeholders and communities. Read all the blog posts, industry news and general community interaction to familiarize yourself with breaking trends, shifting perceptions and tastes, and begin to understand each individual influencer in your community.

Really “knowing your stuff” will put you ahead of the game just by showing that you are aware of what people are interested in – both personally and professionally. Getting to know the stakeholders in your space are simply the fundamentals of solid business networking – with a social media twist.

Analyze what you’ve discovered to develop a solid strategy before diving in. Identify business objectives and establish benchmarks – these will help you in the future when talking to the C-Suite about the benefits and ROI of your program.

Step 3: Authentic Engagement

The cornerstone of engagement is establishing community trust: You can blind copy dozens of journalists on a canned pitch and be dubbed a “spammer” or you can take your initial discoveries and create story ideas, guest posts, tips, breaking news, etc. that intrigue each stakeholder in your community. Guess which one will garner better results?

Ensure that your community interaction is exactly that – interacting as a member of the community and not just pushing your own content. Read blog posts and leave comments, send a related tweet to join the conversation, watch others’ posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. Think of it as digital karma – what you contribute to the community will be returned in kind.

Lastly, remember to maintain relationships that you’ve built. Engagement is not an in-and-out concept – even after you develop a great relationship or contribute great content, you must nurture the relationship to maintain the trust you’ve developed.

And as for that theatre joke, only the “hams” believe things like that. Great actors through the years, from Spencer Tracy to Meryl Streep, have said the same thing: “Acting is listening, truly listening.”

Heidi Sullivan (@hksully) is Vice President of Media Research for Cision North America and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. Heidi was formerly an editorial manager for a firm that produced regional business magazines, an account executive at a PR agency and an editor and media researcher for a major newswire service. She is a host of the popular Cision Social Media Webinar Series, a blogger for Cision Blog and frequently speaks at industry conferences and events on best practices in social media, public relations and the changing media landscape.