What is Media vs Message ?

After a conversation on communications strategy with one of my clients, I realised it is not generally clear to businesses what the pillars of communications – media and advertising – are.

These are two distinct but intertwined elements that we are going to discuss over the next few posts covering:

  1. What is media vs. message ?
  2. The right message at the right time – what is the right message?
  3. The right message at the right time – when is the right time?

Just to clarify – let’s start with definitions :

‘Medium’ (singular of media) is the vehicle through which information is transmitted.

Any type of vehicles that carry information can be considered media that can influence our view of the world: publisher platforms, social media, word-of-mouth, goodies, branded content, sponsoring, endorsement, influencer program, video games… The number of media vehicles available not only have increased but their « quality » -or trustworthiness- vary greatly.

Graph of the evolution of media offer – based on a Perspective graph edited by Carat in 2008

Where ‘Message’ is the content that is transmitted.

Messages can take the form of news, educational content, stories, anecdotes, satires, propaganda, advertising, and so on…

What are the characteristics of Media?

  • Shelf-life: Each medium has a length of time impact: where an outdoor poster can stay up for a month to be seen 60 times by commuters. A social media post would have a few hours – if not minutes – of impact to be seen once by an audience.
  • Memorizing stickiness: Each vehicule needs a number of repetition before the message sticks, where 75% of cinema goers remember an ad in one shot, TV needs of 3 to 4 to reach the same.
  • Engagement: Each vehicle can instil specific action or response; like create curiosity, provoque a reaction, searching about a product, participating into a poll, keeping an information top of mind for a few hours, or just build trust.
  • Image: Each vehicle has a perceived image by the public: trustworthy, statutory, specialised, entertaining, the choice of media and so on..
  • Reach: Each medium has a particular capacity to reach an audience over a limited period on time.
  • Message complexity: Each vehicle carries a specific depth of details: where print permits long explanations, display ads allow only short headlines.

The combination of these characteristics plus the study of the audience to address is the basis for the media strategist to advise on the best vehicle to use for a specific communication objective.

Nowadays – with the fragmentation of media channels – it is sensible to involve the media agency into the creative process to ensure that the message is related in the relevant way for the environment.

This will be the topic in our next post, stay tuned.

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