Engage Management

Project Success Stories

The Role Of Media In The People Business

by Clayton Miller

Have you ever wondered what it was like before radio, film or television? As a man in my early thirties, I can't even imagine what it was like. I have grown up surrounded with media my whole life.

The Importance of Communication

"Moving images," achieved through celluloid film, only became common enough to be viewed by the masses in the 1920s. Likewise, the first radio news program was broadcast August 31, 1920 by station 8MK in Detroit, Michigan. The first live, moving images transmitted via television was achieved on October 2nd, 1925.

All of these monumental communication breakthroughs were invented a mere 80 years ago. Along with these increases in the convenience and improvements in communication, there has been an equal expansion in human productivity.

Let's take the US gross domestic product as an example. In the years 1790 to 1899 (109 years), the US' REAL GDP (the dollar value of production using prices from a given base year) increased at an average of 3.3 billion per year. But upon the advent of the aforementioned communication breakthroughs of the early 1900s, namely from 1900 through 2005 (105 years), the real GDP increased at an average of 101 billion per year. (I know that GDP may not be the ideal indicator, but it was the first one that came to mind.)

The increase in the ability of human beings to communicate efficiently with each other directly effects our ability to improve and advance technologically. The advance in technology helps us to communicate more efficiently. They feed off of each other.

Media is communication. And speaking simply - communication equals productivity. Several studies have provided evidence for this. Let's take visuals alone.

Media isn't just Entertainment

A study at the University of Minnesota found presenters with visual aids were 43% more effective at persuading their audiences to take a desired course of action.

Research by Robert Horn at Stanford University showed that visual language shortened meetings by 24%. Groups using visuals were able to reach consensus 21% faster than those who didn't, and written information is 70% more effective when combined with visual supports and actions. The fact is - people today have become accustomed to digesting information audio-visually. The "boob-tube" is our escape - our relaxation. We get our news from it, our entertainment from it. In many ways it shapes our very world-view. We're not only accustomed to it, we are comfortable with it. We understand its language.

Quality is Key

There is a caveat to this, however. Because of the endless bombardment of media in competition for our attention everyday, we are used to QUALITY media. Producers and advertisers are constantly improving the quality of the images, sound and content they deliver in order to get you to stop and watch THEIR product or THEIR show. The result of this is that people are able to spot poorly produced material, and tune it out. There are too many other good things to tune into to waste our time on bad stuff.

People will pay attention to quality, contemporary material. It says to them, "We care enough to do this right." Poorly produced material and/or videos that were obviously shot in the not so recent past say to the audience, "We just got what we could find to fill the time."

The People Business

In our business, where we are trying to find better ways to communicate with people - where we are trying to SHOW people why there is a better way to do things - media cannot be ignored. We MUST use media to reach our audience and get our point across. It just works better than talking or reading alone. Quality has to be important when we produce communication material in order to maximize it's effectiveness. With these two things in mind, we will continue to be more and more effective and influencing people to do things safer and faster.