What is “rich media” and what is it good for?
|February 14, 2012||Posted by Anharris under Content Strategy, Events-past, New Media, social media|
First heard of “rich media”–not to be confused with rich text or smart media– at a recent Public Relations Society of America Boston Chapter meeting at which panelists shared their views about what it is and what it’s good for.
What it is:
Lisa Kilborn, director of corporate communications at Zmags, a Boston-based “rich media” merchandising and analytics platform, defined rich media as “any content that appeals to the senses. It involves vision and may involve sound; it’s easy to share.”
Nick Barber, a multimedia correspondent for the IDG News Service, said, “rich media is interactive and engaging. It reaches people one-to-one, not one-to many. And individuals can comment on it.”
Rob Ciampa, executive vice president for the video marketing company Pixability, called rich media “a two-year old. Because it moves and makes noise. ” That is, he explained, “it’s visually engaging; it can transfer passion and raise a more visceral experience than words alone.” For example, “you can use words to describe Yosemite [National Park]. You can show an Ansel Adams photo. But a high density video will get you closest to experiencing the real thing.”
As I (now) understand it, rich media is content used on the Internet –which may include photos, video, or graphics, voice, music and other sounds–that emotionally grabs those who encounter it. And, the panelists pointed out, companies are increasingly using whatever it is in hopes that it will “go viral”–that is, be shared with millions of potential customers across the Web.
To get that to happen, the panelists agreed, companies must already have built an online community of people who share interests. And companies must provide content appropriate to that community so that its members will want to send it to others.
As Ciampa explained, “Social media is for building community…Rich media is used as ballast. To make your social media effective, you need to get the right person on camera, get the video in front of the right audience, and make it shareable.”
What it’s good for?
As an example, Ciampa showed a video of a brief presentation in which an engineer described a new technical feature of a software product I did not understand. Dull as it seemed to the PRSA audience, the video was deemed highly succcessful as rich media because it would appeal to a specialized community whose members needed the information, would share it with others, and would buy the product.
Ciampa also showed a video titled “Domino Effect.” Produced by a Woburn mattress company, it opened with a shot of a dozen or so individuals, each standing with his or her back to an upright mattress. It then showed the person in front of the first mattress leaning back, his mattress striking the person in front of the next mattress, who leaned back so that her mattress struck the next person…etc. etc. etc. until, eventually, two people wound up on a bed in a truck. They pulled up the bedcovers, the truck door closed, and the truck took off.
This was meant to be an example of a fun video that was simple and inexpensively produced, interesting to watch, likely to be shared, and contained a message everyone will remember. I thought the video was fun, memorable and shareable….but can’t for the life of me remember the name of the company. Oh, well.
“Rich media” are most effective when integrated with “traditional” media, the panelists agreed. According to Barber, “people prefer to see video alongside relevent text–so it’s important to include copy that provides context and frames the message. ” Before viewing an online video, you want to know what to expect. “Is it educational? Entertaining?”
Barber showed a rich media video he shot at a trade event –of someone dropping the forthcoming waterproof Iphone into a goldfish tank in which fish were swimming. The point? Showing–in addition to telling–in order to send a clear message in an interesting, memorable way.
Kilborn exhibited two 6-foot-tall posters to show informational graphics that went viral after her company put them on the Web. Each poster featured cartoon-like drawings and graphs exhibiting the results of a survey in which 1500 people were asked about their use tablet computers for holiday shopping. The infographics were shared on line by millions of people and Zmags executives were interviewed on numerous national television outlets–all at a cost of just $7000 for the survey and $700 for the infographics. After seeing the posters, I still wasn’t sure what Zmags does–but Kilborn said the idea was to get the Zmags name known–then let people find out what the company does.
[It worked; I checked the Zmags Web, which explained: Zmags delivers an on-demand, rich media merchandising and analytics platform that enables clients to design and deliver personalized, interactive online catalogs and digital magazines that dramatically increase shopper engagement and conversion rates, finally bringing the richness of a brand’s offline experiences across virtually any mobile device or social media – whether on an iPad, iPhone, browser, or within Facebook. ]
At the close of the meeting, moderator and marketing expert Jonathan Kranz asked each panelist to offer some words of advice to companies considering the use of rich media.
Barber said: “The hardest part of getting started is getting started. Don’t be afraid. The social media community will tell you if they like it or not.”
Ciama advised: “Don’t be timid, but don’t do rich media just for the sake of doing rich media. Anything you do must transfer passion for the topic and get your audience to react.”
Kilborn said: “Think of your audience as real people. Different forms are relevant to different audiences.”
So… what is rich media and what is it good for? I guess I’ll know it when I see it…and share it.
–Anita M. Harris
Anita Harris is president of the Harris Communications Group, an award-winning Cambridge, MA PR firm specializing in integrated communications strategy and thought leadership for companies and organizations in health, science, technology and energy, worldwide. Anita also blogs at New Cambridge Observer.