3 Ways to Think About and Measure Media Convergence

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Shonali Burke In recent years, the concept of "media convergence" has been getting a lot of attention in business communications. On the face of it, this isn't a bad thing at all; in fact, it's an excellent reminder that in whatever the type of business, communication will function most effectively and productively when silos are dismantled..

The fact is, however, that the concept of media convergence is far from new. As Terry Flew writes for Britannica.com , it involves:

"... the interconnection of information and communications technologies, computer networks, and media content. It brings together the "three C's"-computing, communication, and content-and is a direct consequence of the digitization of media content and the popularization of the Internet."

In a marketplace that is only getting more, crowded, how can you optimize for media convergence so that your communications don't just feel stuck in the past? And how can you tell whether or not your efforts are making a difference on your business objectives?

1. First things first: PESO

The most common way-at least in the PR and marketing space-of looking at media convergence is the "PESO" model: the coming together of "Paid," Earned," "Shared" and "Owned" media.

The late Don Bartholomew propounded this as far back as 2010, when he was vice president, digital research, at Fleishman Hillard. A post he authored for Social Media Explorer defined not just which types of content fell into the P, E, S and O buckets, but also provided examples of the types of metrics to track that would help determine levels of exposure, engagement and influence in each of these areas.

Today, most business communicators are familiar with this model as well as its suggested metricsand at the end of the day, if there is only one type of metric that is tracked, it is that which can be tied to business impact.

As Deirdre Breakenridge noted in her recap of Nasdaq's "Convergence and Conversion" expert panel discussion at the 2017 PRSA International Conference in Boston:

"Regardless of the changing media landscape and all of the different types of media you can use to reach and engage your customers, there is one aspect of PR we can all agree upon: accountability. PR has to show how communication is connected to business impact."

The first order of business for modern communicators is to evaluate their overall communication programs in light of these four types of media. Are the media strategies integrated? Is content created with a view to being repurposed across these different channels?

For example, does a blog post lend itself to also being showcased as a boosted post on Facebook, intended to drive traffic back to a particular part of the company website? And where does the content consumer go from there? To what end?

These are the types of questions we need to constantly ask ourselves as marketers. And if we don't have the answers immediately, we need to keep asking the questions until the answers find us.

2. The Convergence of Mediums

A less conventional, though equally important, way to think about convergence is to consider how different mediums of communication are being used in the marketing mix. While pretty much everything is "digital" these days, more traditional mediums such as print publications (yes, they still exist) can wield great impact and influence depending on the audience one is trying to reach.

The Coca-Cola Company's Ben Deutsch made an interesting point during the October 2017 Nasdaq panel cited above. He said, "CEOs still want the Wall Street Journal print edition coverage." If you're a PR pro reading this article, you're probably nodding your head, because you likely hear this too.

At first glance, it might not be apparent why the C-Suite places such emphasis on print coverage, particularly if tracking mechanisms have not been instituted to gauge the impact of such coverage (this is a key element of my teachings on Social PR ).

However, it's important for us all to remember that impact can take various forms. There's direct impact, where our efforts result in the types of audience behaviors and actions we desire, and which we know will result in a certain type of business impact. But there's also indirect impact, which tends to be fuzzier yet no less meaningful if one knows what to look for.

Why, for example, might a CEO want coverage in the print edition of a major daily, even if it's less likely to lead one's audience to engage in the outcome-based behaviors a company is looking for? Because their peers are likely reading that daily, which means there is a higher level of peer-to-peer recognition.

Particularly in an era where media outlets are coming under fire for purveying "fake news," media companies are working harder than ever for their audiences' trust. Securing coverage in a high profile media outlet frequently indicates a greater level of credibility for the businesses, and lends itself to reputational metrics that can impact opinions and business decisions among specific stakeholder groups.

3. The Convergence of Media Creators

Finally, when we talk about media convergence, there's one critical angle we cannot afford to ignore: the creators of said media.

Technology has always been the great equalizer. Think back to Gutenberg's invention of the printing press , which essentially introduced the concept of "mass communication" to the world, and paved the way for radical social reform, because of the availability of information.

The technological advances of the 20th century were no less revolutionary, thanks to how they democratized media. The fact that anyone with an opinion and Internet access could become a content creator and publisher, and build and motivate legions of fans and supporters, is something traditional media outlets still struggle with.

As a result, finding and working with alternative content publishers has become part and parcel of effective business communications; hence the increased focus on influencer marketing . So when putting holistic marketing campaigns together, it's critical to look at not just the various types of content that power one's campaigns (see #1 above), or the mediums of communication available (see #2 above), but to also identify a range of content creators, who will most effectively help you bridge the knowledge and value gap between you and your various audiences.

They might be bloggers. They might be podcasters They might be traditional media professionals. They might be community organizers. Depending on who you're trying to reach, and with what message, make sure you're paying as much attention to the convergence of media creators in your campaign as you are to the rest of its elements. And when it comes to measuring their effectiveness, message awareness, retention and behavior are the most meaningful metrics to focus on.

We live in a multifaceted media world; some might call it crazy! And while it can seem overwhelming, it is still possible to create and implement effective campaigns that support business objectives while benefiting one's audiences. That's what makes working in marketing today so exciting.

Shonali Burke, ABC, is an award-winning growth strategist who helps brands bring big ideas to life. President & CEO ofShonali Burke Consulting, she also teaches at The Johns Hopkins and Rutgers universities. She offers a free webinar on incorporating breakthrough Social PR into your work for measurable business results; you cansign up here.

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