Posted February 25th 2010 at 11:05 am by
in Media Mindfulness

A Touch of Spice: Choosing Wisely from a Media Menu

Choosing a Media Tool Can Be Confusing

The expansive range of new media choices is intimidating, even for the most experienced media maker.  Nonprofits and academics alike are braving spaces like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, sometimes under the duress to catch-up without first considering the basics of any communications strategy.  As result, a recent survey of non-profits found that 84% admit that their messages rarely connect with their target audiences.

When advocates and activists tackle challenges as complex as racism, poverty, and environmental sustainability, we often struggle with boiling a message down to its essence without losing its substance.  When we aim to inform everyone, the message can get so muddy that it informs no one.  Longer conversations with stakeholders can allow stories to bubble up organically, but the fast paced and short attention span world of Web 2.0 often demands media content with a more targeted message and audience in mind.

Colab 1st Media MenuWith all this in mind, the media-minded folks at CoLab started brainstorming a list media product choices set in the context of intended audiences and messages.  What if you approached the assortment of media products you could create like a menu at a restaurant, where you’re hoping to satisfy hunger but also have a good experience trying something new?

The resulting ‘media menu‘ describes a starter set of media products, complete with estimates on scope, time, and ingredients needed to produce media as messages in campaigns, programs, and fundraising efforts.  We judged the complexity of each product by marking how ‘hot’ it is, the way you see little pepper symbols next to spicy dishes at Thai restaurants.

Some of the media products include:

micro-text microblogging, 140 characters, updates, teasers, headlines
photo story photos in a slideshow, either in Flash or video format, with music and/or voice narration
audio story mp3, podcast, public service announcement, song/spoken word
video documentary documenting event/meeting, reflection, journal, editorial, storytelling/documentary
visualization original map, graphic, diagram, chart, table

We developed the attached version of the menu for a two day media strategy and skills training for CoLab’s Mel King Fellows and AmeriCorps VISTAs from the Transmission Project, who started from all different points of experience and need a manageable starter menu as a point of entry into the world of participatory media.  The menu is far from complete; options are endless.  Additions could include songs, sidewalk chalk, and in-person exhibits.

Using this approach, we’re hoping you can choose a media tool based on your intended goals and tactics to achieve them, the time and resources you have, and your tolerance for complexity.  Do you have time and stomach to savor the spicy vindaloo curry, or will white rice do the trick?

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