One of the challenges of communication planning is coming up with relevant, realistic strategies to communicate with/to a specific audience. Whether the strategic purpose is marketing, reputation management or employment branding, the discussion inevitably reaches the question of delivery and media channels. (One example that comes up frequently in my work is if/how blue-collar employees access the internet from their homes or phones.) Often, in the absence of usage audits or anecdotal evidence, we make assumptions about internet access, hardware and popularity of specific media platforms. A new report on global media trends by AdAge provides some useful context for this discussion.

There are several interesting findings in the study:

  • Facebook (with a user base of 517 million) dominates all other platforms in terms of time spent on site;
  • Media habits in the United States (e.g. the decline popularity of newspapers) are different from other global regions;
  • Television has tremendous reach and popularity in many areas of the world – including many poor markets;
  • Internet access continues to expand, fueled in emerging markets by cheap cyber cafes;
  • Video use is booming in developing markets (like the BRIC countries);
  • Mobile phone growth and penetration is driving most internet usage (due to lower cost compared to desktop or laptop access); and,
  • Digital data content continues to explode – with the latest boost powered by video and movies.

I saw evidence of many of these trends during a visit to Tanzania – where locals could visit internet cafes and guides on Kilimanjaro used phones (all the way up to the summit) to communicate with each other.

These global trends, of course, lack the detail and depth required to adequately plan and execute communications aimed at specific audiences – or communities. Communication and marketing professionals still need to do their homework to confirm the best media recipe to reach a particular group – whether internal or external. The ultimate lesson might be to avoid making too many assumptions; media habits and technology are both evolving at a rapid pace and stereotypes are often based on dubious or outdated data.

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