Digital Media in a day: MCDM launches executive training

The University of Washington’s Masters of Communication in Digital Media program held its inaugural Four Peaks Executive Summit this week in Seattle. Approximately 30 executives spent the day listening to and learning from MCDM’s faculty on topics ranging from the transformative power of story telling to analytics, digital law and engaging with audiences in a multi–screen era.

Hanson Hosein, Brain Marr, Brooke Shepard & Scott MacklinThe day is pitched as an “intense bootcamp-like curriculum”where “TED meets graduate school; a mind-shift for entrepreneurially focused professionals now looking to media as a point of innovation, connection, and creation”.

Hanson Hosein, Director of the MCDM kicked the day off by describing the revolution that has occurred over the last few years as digital technology has blurred the the lines between journalism and marketing and how the explosion of content has changed the trust relationships that existed between audiences and media organisations. Citing examples such as Kony 2012, Hanson emphasised the power of stories that connected emotionally with people. Hosein stressed the importance of working out how you then engage with your audience once you have their attention. With the volume of content uploaded every two days approaching 5 billion gigabytes, finding a way through the content tsunami is supremely important.

Scott Macklin, Associate Director of MCDM then worked with the group to help them build out an “Action/Idea” for their own organisation to help direct and drive the content they produce. The Action/Idea, Scott explained, is a summary statement the outlines who the story is about, what their challenge or goal is and what difference could be made with the story. That should be what drives the narrative of all your content.

Anil Batra, Sr. Director, Marketing Insights and Optmization, KBM/Wunderman and MCDM faculty talked about the importance and power of effective data measurement and analysis and he subsequently outlined a process for getting the most out of that data. Batra tied everything back to business goals with the ultimate goal in being clear why you are measuring what you are measuring. Being aware of the most important data is crucial, as Anil explained, “the important metrics are those that make people freak out when they go in the reverse direction and call for immediate action”.

Over lunch, MCDM Associate Director Anita Verna Crofts, gave a keynote address that focused on leadership in the digital age. While the basis of good leadership remains unchained, Crofts suggested that technology has changed the way we engage as leaders within organisations. Crofts said it was important to recognise that leadership can come from many places not just from those who are most experienced in the room – particularly with regard to new technology. An interesting question she raised was whether technology is forcing us to over–emphasise collaboration by basically demanding we engage with peers about everything. That in itself could stifle individual creativity and opportunities to try new things. “Change is the constant: leaders live in a permanently beta world”, according to Anita.

Kraig Baker is a digital media Attorney and instructor for the MCDM law and policy classes. Kraig took the group through what he termed the “Baker’s Dozen” of key legal issues surrounding content production and distribution. Despite the law influencing much of what has developed in digital media trends in the US – interactivity and citizen journalism for example – it is also useful to be aware of the complications law poses in terms of of ownership of content, digital rights management, licensing and risk management.

To round out the day, MCDM marketing, branding instructors Brian Marr and Brooke Shepard covered the digital and “any screen”  aspects of the current marketing landscape They offered some ideas on how to engage with a digitized, multi-screen audience. Brian stressed that good marketing strategy principles still apply – there are now just exponentially more channels and ways to engage. Brooke presented some thought provoking numbers – 46% of phones in the USA are considered smart phones and 1 in 5 Americans own tablet devices. Interstingly, 25% of all bandwidth used between 6 to 9pm is used up by people using Netflix and 85%of tablet owners use them while watching TV. The way people consume media is clearly changing and therefore marketers and organisations need to adapt their strategies to both account for and capitalise on this. Keeping in mind the three truths of engagement – content attracts, be anywhere, anytime and activity retains – Brian and Brooke then got the group to workshop a real life example and come up with an “any screen” marketing strategy.

The day covered a broad range of issues and was a a good primer for some of the key learning and activity that graduate students of the MCDM are immersed in. This is the MCDM’s first foray into executive training and certainly presents a great opportunity to grow the MCDM professional network. It will be interesting to watch how this initiative grows, not only in the program’s Seattle backyard, but further afield as well.

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