Strengthened Purpose… My Media Use Continued

hands-1167619

Since I reflected on my personal media use two months ago, those of us in New Hampshire have been inundated with political messages. I am in the group of more than 40% of voters in our state who are undeclared—often referred to as independent—and not registered as either a Republican or Democrat (Brooks, 2016). We can evaluate each candidate at all ends of the spectrum—and as the first 2016 primary in the nation, there were 58 candidates for us to choose from (Associated Press, 2015). That’s a lot of homework.

I believe that present day New Hampshire lacks the socioeconomic and cultural diversity to ideally represent a cross section of America. But it is our responsibility as influencers, tasked with the honor of voting first, to take extra efforts to try to understand the complexities of the issues of our nation and how they impact all of our citizens. This duty is what affected my recent media use the most, but what remains unchanged is how I approach media with intention.

My TV viewing habits changed. I viewed 3 Republican and 3 Democratic debates to educate myself. It seemed as if candidates could pretty much say anything they wanted in the debates to sway voters without having to be factual. After each, I followed up with research—doing my own fact checking. I was disappointed when news organizations were slow to point out false statements. It was also frustrating that the complexities of issues were not being discussed. During a Republican debate, an answer to the problem of drug addiction was to build a wall to stop drugs coming over the border (Team Fix, 2016). Not discussed—or even acknowledged—were over-prescribed opiates, inadequate rehabilitation options, and many other related concerns that make the issue of drug addiction too complex for a simple answer. The media fails at presenting fair perspectives when it does not cover the intricacies of issues, regardless of the matter, and does not discuss problems and solutions in a greater context.

I read more news about these issues and researched online. I attempted to make sense of the rhetoric coming from the candidates, which was amplified by news outlets; social media campaigns; and expensive direct mail and advertising from influential Super PACs. Cross-referencing information with credible sources—a media literacy skill—is time consuming but necessary to determine if information is factual.

My use of social media changed during this time. Like many, I broke my rule of keeping politics out of my social network. I used the platform to try to counter false information and educate others through easy-to-understand factual data, which I found through my research. My intent was not to sway anyone towards a particular candidate or ideology, but rather offer credible information that others could use to craft their own opinions. This mirrors the role of professional writers and news producers, which should provide information in a fair and ethical way.

We are all influenced by the media. This is one way that we learn. Being media literate helps us to be influenced by facts and truth, which shapes our opinion. But when false information is intentionally provided to influence us, it can be dangerous. Citizens without media literacy skills are unable to filter out these false messages, and will shape their opinion based on them. For example, they may have been led to believe that all Mexicans are rapists or that all Muslims are terrorists, which will influence their behavior, how they vote, and what laws they support.

Although the candidates have left my state, my concerns about the future of our nation continue. I repeat my prior reflection by stating, “I do not have grand ambitions to change the world, but if I help only a few people to think differently—stepping back to look at a new perspective or being more aware of an issue—then it is worth the effort.”

References

Altmann, G. (Photographer). Hands-1167619. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/hands-smartphone-news-press-1167619/

Associated Press. (2015, November 22). 58 candidates sign up for New Hampshire primary. Retrieved from http://www.wmur.com/politics/58-candidates-sign-up-for-new-hampshire-primary/36600052

Brooks, A. (2016, January 21). WBUR poll: Large share of N.H.’s undeclared voters yet to settle on a candidate or a party http://www.wbur.org/2016/01/21/new-hampshire-unenrolled-voters-presidential-primary-poll

Team Fix. (2016, February 6). Transcript of the New Hampshire GOP debate, annotated. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/06/transcript-of-the-feb-6-gop-debate-annotated/

 

How Wine Can Make Your Blog Better

…and Other Multimedia Tips

wine-335672

Blending different grapes in the wine-making process is often used to enhance the aroma, color, and flavor of a wine. The different varieties compliment one another to create a wine that is higher quality than each of the individual components on their own. When you think in terms of what makes your blog effective to your audience, consider different multimedia that can be blended with your words for the most impact.

Visual Varieties

A common statistic used in blogs, articles, and books, is that our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Although that sounds impressive, there is simply no proof of this. The 3M study that is often credited as the source doesn’t even mention speed. It does, however, state that “presentations using visual aids were found to be 43% more persuasive.” (Vogel, Dickson, & Lehman, 1986, p. 3, para. 2). That statistic is much more important that speed. Relevant visuals are more persuasive because they support the written content and give the message more credibility.

Readers are also more likely to remember a message that includes both visuals and text (Sundar, 2000). Visuals can include:

Photos or IllustrationsOur attention span is only 3–8 seconds. (Stelzner, 2014). An image can be used with an engaging headline to immediately grab the attention of the reader. Additional photos or illustrations can be used to explain your content in a visual way. For example, Dr. Vino includes beautiful photos showing tables of bottles lines up and rows of wine glasses to support his blog about a wine tasting.

InfographicsAdobe Illustrator can be used to create visually engaging graphics that incorporate words to explain information or data. Infographics can be more effective than graphics alone (Krum, 2013). A fixed design is the most common, but interactive infographics add a dimension that involves the reader as a participant. Dr. Vino  has a great example of an interactive infographic, which shows a map of wine shops in Paris. When the user selects a map location, a box pops up with information about the shop. Unlike static visuals, interactive infographics are dynamic and are better in this case, because they customize the user’s experience to provide them information that they control. If you are interested in creating interactive graphics, check out D3.js for an open source javascript library that can help you bring your data to life.

Videos The majority of users prefer watching a video rather than reading content (Smith, 2013). Embedded videos are an effective way to present an animated infographic, presentation, or short movie to support your content. This helps your blog to be believable, but can be particularly effective for instructional or tutorial videos.

Audio Varieties

Audio Recording—A human voice on your blog page can tap into the reader’s emotions about your topic and lend credibility to your message.

Podcast—Think of these as mobile audio recordings, which can be listened to at work, in the car, or at home. You can also encourage your readers to subscribe to the podcast to increase traffic to your blog. GrapeRadio is a wine talk show that produces a podcast once a month.

The Finish

There is a great appreciation for the lingering flavor of a wine. Your message, too, may linger in ways that you didn’t expect. A benefit of using multimedia in your blog is that it can also increase traffic to your site. Search engines value multimedia much higher than your written content and a keyword in an image file can direct a user to your blog (Smith, 2013).

Finding the Right Blend

Without the right balance of varieties, a wine may fail to meet expectations. Know your audience and use media that is appropriate for your reader and for your message. Offer a blend of different forms of media, but remember blogs are meant to be simple. Providing an overload of information weakens your message. Limit your words, photos and video to be the most effective.

Wine producers go through many trials and errors to find the right blend to craft their best wines. So, pour yourself a glass of wine and think about what varieties of multimedia will best compliment your message.


References

Krum, R. (2013). Cool infographics: Effective communication with data visualization and design. Somerset, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

GrapeRadio (2016, January 29). 2015 World of pinot noir seminar: Latitudes & longitudes [Podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.graperadio.com/archives/category/podcast/#sthash.nqqKTmpx.dpuf

Langer, R. (Photographer). (2014, May 1). Wine-335672. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/wine-drink-wine-glass-red-wine-335672/

Smith, M. (2013, March 28). Why multimedia blog content is good for your site. [Weblog]. Retrieved from http://www.benchmarkemail.com/blogs/detail/why-multimedia-blog-content-is-good-for-your-site

Stelzner, M. (2014, March 7). Visual storytelling: How to use visuals, videos and social media to market your business. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/visual-storytelling-with-ekaterina-walter/

Sundar, S. (2000). Multimedia effects on processing and perception of online news: A study of picture, audio, and video downloads. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. 77(3). ABI/INFORM Global, p. 480. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.wisc.edu/~dshah/blog-club/site/Sundar.pdf

Vogel, D., Dickson, G., & Lehman, J. (1986). Persuasion and the role of visual presentation support: The UM/3M study. Retrieved from http://misrc.umn.edu/workingpapers/fullpapers/1986/8611.pdf

 

7 Best Practices for Blogs

blog-1027861_960_720I started this blog site as an assignment for a graduate class in communications and created 7 best practices for blogs, which stem from my purpose as a contributor of social media:

  1. Make a difference—Impact readers by inspiring them, teaching them, or offering them a new perspective.
  2. Include relevant and engaging content—Know your audience and provide value. Don’t publish just to publish.
  3. Keep it simple—Use an informal writing style that is easy to follow and a format that is clean. Proper grammar and punctuation make your message clear.
  4. Includes visuals—Words are strongest when supported with appropriate visuals.
  5. Remember that less is more—More words and graphics weaken the message.
  6. Be credible—Fact check, and don’t include false information. Offering your opinion is okay, but be fair.
  7. Proofread and edit—Nobody gets it right the first time. Taking the time to craft your error-free blog will earn you a growing readership.

If there were an official “Blogger’s Code of Conduct,” then I would be proud to sign my name and adhere to it. I have pretty high standards in my work, and it would help to validate my values for my readers.

As I review the blogs that I created so far, I think that I did a good job following my best practices guidelines, but several could be improved with more visuals. The blogs that had graphics were more appealing and might grab a reader’s attention more than those without.

One thing that I did especially well was making the content relevant to my audience. Some of my blog assignments did not necessarily lend themselves to natural blog content. My blog considered the audience rather than just fulfilling criteria with a simple Q&A, which might not make sense to the general public. I met the requirements, but took the extra time to put the blog in a context that is meaningful and relevant to the reader. For example, rather than a blog about the Oconee County Observations site, which would not concern most people, my Community Journalism blog focused on citizen journalism, and used the Oconee site as one of two examples. In Meet-ups and Mash-ups, the post about my trials of social media tools was more believable framed as a response to a conference that I had attended that same week.

If I could write about anything, it would be my travel experiences. I admire the Wisconsin couple that are traveling around the world and writing about it in their Getting Stamped blog site, which is a great example of a site that reflects my 7 best practices guidelines. Each blog includes a striking photo and engaging headline on a page that is clean and well-organized. Their text is concise and easy to follow. Their pages include a counter that tracks how many days and hours that they have been traveling, a graphic showing what country that they are currently in, and interesting travel stats, including miles traveled and beds slept in. The site also includes a resources section with travel information and recommendations.

I’m not in a position to quit my job and travel the world as Hannah and Adam have done, but their experiences inspire me to find my own unique travel experiences.

References

Hannah & Adam. (n.d.). Getting stamped. [Weblog]. Retrieved from http://www.gettingstamped.com/blog/

Lachmann-Anke, P., & Lachmann-Anke, M. (n.d.). #1027861. [Photo]. Retrieved on February 5, 2016, from https://pixabay.com/en/blog-leave-texts-blogger-blogging-1027861/