Digital media platforms may define the way people interact in the modern workplace, but how integrated is it in their personal communications repertoires? According to the results of the PR News/Medialink Digital Media Use survey, it may not be as clear-cut as you'd think. The 445 survey respondents answered questions regarding their personal use of gadgetry and rich media Web publishing platforms, granting insight into the choices they make when it comes to their adoption of these tools, and helping to draw parallels between personal use and professional application (see page 2 for complete survey results).
Based on the survey results, one can identify a growing comfort level with digital communications channels, at least in terms of individual adoption. Case in point: 43% of respondents said they personally maintain or produce their own social networking page, and 26% have a blog. Wherever this usage is occurring--at home or in the office--it betrays the common notion that professionals aren't taking the initiative to interact with these tools. Supplementing these findings are those from an earlier survey PR News conducted in conjunction with DS Simon Productions, in which 18% of respondents said they were looking to actively use blogs for their organizations and clients; 10% said the same about social media platforms like MySpace and Facebook (see page 3 for a snapshot of findings).
Based on the survey results, one can identify a growing comfort level with digital communications channels, at least in terms of individual adoption. Case in point: 43% of respondents said they personally maintain or produce their own social networking page, and 26% have a blog. Wherever this usage is occurring--at home or in the office--it betrays the common notion that professionals aren't taking the initiative to interact with these tools. Supplementing these findings are those from an earlier survey PR News conducted in conjunction with DS Simon Productions, in which 18% of respondents said they were looking to actively use blogs for their organizations and clients; 10% said the same about social media platforms like MySpace and Fa
"It's indicative of increasing media usage that a combined 69% of [Digital Media Use survey] respondents maintain or produce social network pages or blogs," says Larry Thomas, COO of Medialink. "This says that people are becoming more comfortable, so we can except to see a lot more of these tools deployed in their professional lives. It really is as simple as getting comfortable and then figuring out how to apply them to clients."
When it comes to adopting digital media for personal use, price, brand names and professional product reviews have far less influence than one thing in particular: informal, personal recommendations. The highest percentage--34%--cited this the most influential factor.
"It's the trust that's driving the whole social media phenomenon," Thomas says. "It's an indication as to why communications professionals at large embrace social and viral media."
However, it's worth noting that the question about adoption of digital media revealed significant inconsistencies. When asked to rank what drives their adoption on a scale of 1 to 5 (one being most important), the highest percentage of respondents most often fell somewhere in the middle. This could be attributed to any number of factors, from their organizations' influence over adoption to general confusion about the personal benefits digital media might have. One thing was clear, though: Saving time and money are the biggest returns on investment for digital media users, with 41% and 27%, respectively, citing these as the most important factors when deciding to digital media for personal use. Streamlining activities was important to 23.4% of respondents.
Communications professionals should keep this in mind when trying to solve the age-old problem of getting senior buy-in for digital media usage, both in terms of applying it to internal strategies and incorporating it into client programs. After all, if executives are driven by time and money savings with their personal decisions surrounding digital media usage, there is no reason to not apply it to a professional setting.
Another potential angle for selling digital to senior management: Digital media can help minimize risk from a reputation. Although only 15.3% of Digital Media Use survey respondents cited risk protection as important when deciding to adopt these tools for personal use, Steve Cody, managing partner of Peppercom, points to another PR News survey to highlight the importance of digital channels in professional risk management--and proving digital's worth to senior management.
"There is a tremendous amount of frustration, either with management not investing in digital, or just not understanding the strategic value of digital," Cody says. "[There is] a lack of preparedness from a crisis standpoint. [Communications professionals] are anticipating the worst, but they're not thinking strategically or doing something new and different. They are still caught up in being prepared from a reactive standpoint, not in outdoing their competition." (For more on these particular findings, see PRN 03-14-08, "Digital Survey Results Reveal Insecurity.")
While all of these survey results are just a baseline benchmark for what will hopefully be an ever-growing use of digital media, they do offer some important messages to communications executives in any type of organization:
Encouraging, if not requiring, employees to adopt digital media tools in every aspect of their jobs will only serve to enhance comfort, familiarity and, ultimately, application. Need a starting point? Go to Ning.com and create a simple, customized social network for your organization, and require each employee to establish their own page. Not only is it hands-on training that can be applied to clients' needs, but it also fosters employee engagement and internal communications.
Saving time and money is as important as ever to people, and apparently they see digital media as a means of doing both. This is a point to make when getting senior buy-in for digital investments, as is these tools' importance in managing risk and avoiding crises.
Ultimately, practicing what you preach is the only way to foster a culture in which digital media is embraced. This drive should come directly from the communications department, as these executives are best equipped to guide the digital movement. "Consuming a lot of multimedia personally as well as professionally is important in going out and providing counsel," Thomas says. "How can we provide it if we aren't embracing it in our own lives?"
Larry Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org; Steve Cody, email@example.com
PR News/Medialink Digital Media Use Survey Results
1. GADGETRY: I personally use (choose all that apply):
Wireless home network 28.6%
PDA or smartphone 21.2%
High-definition TV monitor 19.9%
Digital video recorders (DVRs) 19.0%
Satellite radio 7.9%
Mobile car video system 3.4%
2. RICH MEDIA WEB PUBLISHING: I personally maintain or produce my own (choose all that apply):
Social networking page 42.9%
Podcast, RSS feed or widgets 13.9%
Channel on Web video platform 11.9%
Virtual community residency 4.9%
3. REAL-TIME CONNECTIVITY: I personally use (choose all that apply):
Instant messenger (IM) 57.3%
Twitter or Dodgeball 17.4%
4. ADOPTION: Rank these factors in order of most important in your decision to purchase or adopt for personal use ?(1 = highest, 5 = lowest):
a. Professional product reviews:
No response 0.4%
b. Competitor adoption:
No response 0.9%
c. Brand name:
No response 0.7%
No response 0.7%
e. Informal, personal recommendations:
No response 0.7%
5. ROI MEASURES: Rank these in order of most important in your decision to purchase or adopt for personal use ?(1 = highest, 5 = lowest):
a. Time efficiency:
No response 0.4%
b. Cost savings:
c. Generation of leads or contacts:
No response 0.4%
d. Risk protection:
No response 1.1%
e. Streamlining of activities:
No response 0.9%
Source: PR News/Medialink Digital Media Use Survey Results
Web 2.0 Applied: Taking Digital Tools to Work
1. I am looking to actively use the following areas of Web 2.0 for my organization or my clients:
Online video 33.5%
Social media 10.4%
Video blogs 4.7%
Second Life 1.1%
2. I will be including the following in my 2008 communications plan:
Online video 31.3%
Social media 10.7%
Video blogs 5.9%
Second Life 1.8%
Source: These results are excerpted from the 2008 PR News/DS Simon Survey on video as a PR tool. For the full results, see PRN 01-14-08 "Chew on This: Online Video Platforms Are the New Watercooler."