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 as an example. 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


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.


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.”

What I Learned at the Dog Park

Since we brought Michelle home, she has proven to be a high octane dog who needs some running time. Being the first one up at the Livingston household, I am often chaperone her to the local dog park. I see some amazing parallels at the dog park to the good and bad of online social networks.

My dog park consists of about 250 people. Everyone says hi to each other, and we learn a little about each other’s lives.

I often smoke a cigar in a corner and blog, or work on my iPad. This used to be my writing time, and I don’t want to give that up. As a result, I tend to a bit more of an observer than a central figure at the dog park.

Once you get below the initial niceties, you see a bit of some of the same issues you do online. There are cliques. Some people gossip incessantly about others. Others judge you. And others will tell you how to live your life.

I remember once I was sitting on my bench working and a fellow came in. Michelle walked over and started playing with his dog. A third gentlemen says, “There goes Michelle” to the newcomer, who responds, “I always hate that dog.” Then he realizes I heard him, and proceeds to talk quietly, avoiding me the rest of the morning. A week later he almost ran me over in his BMW speeding into the park.

Hmmm, this reminds me of a few bloggers I know.

In another case, one of the clique queen bees noticed Soleil had a red mark on her arm. She tells Caitlin (who was the chaperone that day) it may be some horrible disease carried by dogs, and insists that she leave for the Minute Clinic that moment, lest our little girl suffer terribly. A scared Caitlin rushes to the clinic to learn the verdict: Spider bite.

The next time we are at the park, said queen bee asks me in overly concerned tones about Soleil, and the offers some really unnecessary motherly platitudes of worry, and moves on. Another dog owner saddles up to me and proceeds to tell me all the ills of the clique leader.

All of these mini incidents (and others) are the same as the ills online. Misinformation, back stabbing, gossip, nastiness, etc. Yet, I still like going to the dog park. Because there are some great people here, too. I have some fantastic conversations with some surprisingly accomplished and humble people. It’s generally a nice place to go.

This is especially when I choose to simply ignore the very human failings of this small K-9 social network. In some cases, I know what to expect from folks so I limit my interactions with them, just like I do with similar types online.

The lesson is that people are people.

The wrongs of online communities are no different than the less visible ones of the real world. Wherever you go there you are, and the roles are often the same, regardless of physical or virtual context.

Perhaps the one difference is a perception of permanence online thanks to the everlasting digital record of things said and done. But even these can be learned from, allowing for personal growth.

In the end, online tribulations are good. We see ourselves. We realize who we are good and bad, and how we contribute to the positive and negative. And we can choose to participate in either, and possibly develop stronger relationships from it.

Like it or not, this is who we are.

What do you think?

Featured image by Natasha Ruzyinski.

Vine Reflects Bandwidth and Quality Limits

There’s much ado about Vine these days. In addition to the usual porn issues, most of the controversy surrounds the video network’s six second format. Like it or not, the six second format is ideal for bandwidth constrained 4G powered devices.

Marketers are already experimenting with the weeks old social network bolt-on. But to me, it’s too early for that conversation. What’s fascinating is the medium itself and how it fits into the larger social context.

First, consider that Vine is the video short equivalent of Instagram. Load time is critical for a long stream of videos, especially given it’s mostly viewed on devices leveraging wireless carrier networks.

Competitors like Viddy and Keek also have short video formats, 15 and 36 seconds respectively. But even Vine still suffers in low bandwidth situations as I found out at a packed concert on Sunday night.

A functional stream is critical for the Vine user experience. If you are promised short videos, they better load quickly into the stream most of the time.
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