Monday, December 28, 2009

Augmented reality provides a real-life example of integrated communication. Before our eyes, we have moved from a collection of distribution channels to a collection of audiences or communities. These communities, like Esquire’s readership, are looking for new ways to connect. To use the traditional magazine as a platform to tee up another communication channel is such a cool idea...and very effective in creating a unique experience. Additionally, this provides the magazine’s editor the opportunity to enrich the publication through the use of media on the Web site. And with the use of unique codes, this “enrichment” can be unique to individual see where this is going? It’s not one or the other, but more a strategy of leaning the channels on one another and doing so taking into account the desire to customize the individual experience..

I don’t know about you, but I consider myself fairly tech savvy, and yet I still like to sit down with a good, old-fashioned magazine. Starting my career out in print publishing, I saw early on the impact that electronic communications would have on relative demand for print services. Upon introduction of the Internet as a viable communication channel, many thought that print would simply go away. Over time, we have realized that this is not the case. Print will likely “right-size” to take into account the quantity and quality of other media channels.

The future of communication belongs to those organizations that can successfully execute a message, campaign or promotion across multiple channels of distribution, with special focus on how one channel can deliver their audience to another channel. Take it a step further, real success comes when we can customize each individual experience upon execution, making it unique to the individual in the community.

One of the greatest challenges we face in living out this new opportunity is that much of content production is built around a given channel of distribution. As an individual once employed by a large retail organization, I was witness to the redundancy that took place by focusing content production on a specific output channel. In order for these new media channels to survive in a market of declining budgets and declining advertising spend, content production itself needs a makeover. Shifting the production focus away from channels toward communities is a step in the right direction. To take it a step deeper, we need to strategically introduce automation into content production processes. This will be the focus for my next blog post.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Integrated Communications (continued)

Last post I talked specifically about the vision for a more integrated communication approach. Now, I'll touch on what the implications are of this on technology.

Integrated Communication strategies require that we design and develop a technology architecture that is content-centric and is designed for such channel integration. This infrastructure enables us to have the flexibility to access centrally managed media and distribute this media to digital channels, like Web, Mobile, Digital Signage, Video-on-Demand Training, etc, efficiently and effectively.

The difficult reality of so many different communication channels is that the operational costs of developing content in support will require us to do a better job of making this content highly available throughout the organization. As part of the vision for SONA (Service-Oriented Network Architecture), video content development, management and distribution will become an absolutely critical part of every Corporate organization. Choosing the right architecture for video distribution, avoiding the development of content, especially video, for a single channel of distribution, and using the budget for implementation of the customer-facing retail media network as a platform for preparing the Corporate network for rich media are all considered best practices in today’s content-centric business environment.

Cisco developed the networking standard that is IP, which allows for data, voice and video to be routed through a packet-switched network. They have mastered data and voice and have developed “best of breed” technology to support all three types of digital data distribution. It is only a matter of time before the largest Corporate organizations are routing all digital communications through their IP network as standard business practice. Cisco’s DMS (Digital Media Suite) supports all facets of Digital Signage as a channel, but does so using Cisco’s network-centric solution. This enables other video-based applications not commonly available through typical “store and forward” Digital Signage software solutions. Video-based applications like live streaming, say for a weekly, live and interactive nutritional seminars hosted by your on-staff Registered Dietician from your Retail Corporate office and available in all stores. And applications like video-on-demand, say for Corporate training or Consumer product research in-store. Retail experience is more than just push marketing and mass media. It is interactive, which requires a more network-centric Digital Signage solution to facilitate customer engagement in-store.

For additional information, please review Cisco’s podcast on “Preparing a Network for Video”:

Take the issue of integrated communication a step further and consider the future of tying in traditional, non-interactive, static forms of media communications. I'll talk about tying all this together on my next post. In the meantime, take a look at last month's Esquire Cover, referred to as Augmented Reality: