Is the media or the message getting in your way?

Guest post from Maria Ross, founder and chief strategist of Red Slice  a branding and marketing consultancy based in the US. She is the author of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget available on


The old adage, “Is it the medium or the message?” has never held more weight than it does in today’s marketing arena. You have a story to tell (your brand message) and you have a dizzying array of mechanisms through which to tell it (Twitter, website, blog, ad, events, signage, Facebook….) So when it comes to evaluating success, you have two factors to consider: the message and the medium itself. Social Media expert Jay Baer just wrote a great post about organisations’ fear of failure when testing tactics. They assume that just because “they did it once and it failed” that the entire tactic is to blame, never to be tried or tested again.


Seth Godin’s blog talks about how organisations use PowerPoint appallingly these days. Never has a tool come along that seemed so easy to use, but people forgot about honing basic presentation skills before cutting loose on this software. It’s just like blogs or DIY websites – just because you “can” doesn’t mean you “should” or even that you are doing it “right.” You could be doing more harm than good in communicating your message simply because of using the vehicle incorrectly. You have to adapt your message to the medium you are using so you leverage it effectively.


In addition, a third layer to consider is choosing the right vehicle to reach your target audience in the first place. So let’s say you have a great message AND you are using the medium correctly – you still might be singing beautifully to an empty room, because no one that needs to hear your message is actually present. This is what happens when you get caught up in the next new shiny thing, and forget to evaluate if your target audience responds to it.


Messaging can be complicated. You can’t just assume messages “didn’t work” if they fail, simple because you got no response. Look at how you are using the media first: are you leveraging it fully, are you understanding how audiences are properly consuming the information, and did you design the message to fit the specific medium? Then look at the media itself and if it’s the right vehicle to reach the people you wanted to reach. Hopefully, you put all this thought into it before you embarked on the campaign, but if not, take a step back and look at these factors.


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