OC’s Three Magic Words Part Two: Distribution Demystified

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Part Two: Distribution Demystified

If you recall, we spent some time in the last blog post talking about our three magic words: audience, distribution, and purpose. These are our guideposts when it comes to the work we do. With a clearly-defined audience, it’s easier to know what content the project will need to contain. Purpose is something we’ll talk about in the next entry. But today, the focus is on the importance of distribution.

Distribution refers to the channels by which you deliver your project to the world. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, but it can mean the difference between an atmospheric launch or an explosive failure. When planning a project, having an idea of where you’d like to distribute it can greatly affect the end product.

Determine Distribution Early

Deciding whether you want a 20-foot billboard or a 30-second video will mean two entirely different projects. That’s a grand example, but differences in distribution can be as subtle as whether you want to share something on Twitter or Facebook. Your audience (back to audience again) on these two platforms could be wildly different, so your tone might have to shift to fit the distribution you prefer. On the internet, you can get away with saying much more than you could on network television. In a newspaper you’re probably reaching a completely different age group than on social media. You can see how audience and distribution play together, too. Determining these things early can save you hours of work you might undertake only to find out it was a dead end.

Another reason to include it in your early stages of planning is that distribution can define the limits of what a project can contain. If you’re planning on that 20-foot billboard, your audience is probably passing traffic. You’re going to have to get your point across in one big splash, since you’ll only have seconds to convey your message, not to mention having to compete for their attention with traffic and surroundings and maybe even their cell phone (though we don’t condone that). That really limits the scope of the project. But in a 30-second video, as long as you keep the audience’s attention, you can say a whole lot more.

Distribution Determines Length

On a related note, the length of your project is going to be determined by how you choose to distribute it. In a social media post, you have to be able to stop someone in their tracks and win them in five seconds. When they’re interested enough to visit your website, you can probably feel comfortable with a longer format, whether it’s 200 words instead of 20 or a two-minute video instead of the ten-second version. At a fundraising event, you’ve got a captive audience, more or less, so you can hit an audience’s emotions with a four to five minute video and really get your point across in a meaningful way. It’s all about meeting your audience where they are and knowing what channels best fit your purpose (which we’ll address in the third installment).

Choosing your distribution method can also solidify how flexible your project can be. A postcard is hard to edit into something else; it goes out, and you’re done with it. A five-minute video, however, can be cut into several different two-minute videos, 30-second videos, 15-second videos, and even radio spots. A flexible medium means a flexible message, as well. Recutting a longer video into smaller pieces can help to focus the message or change the call to action. It even allows for A-B testing. Basically, you’ll get more legs out of video than print, if that’s important to you.

Don’t Dawdle on Distribution

You can see how determining your distribution can be just as important as determining your audience. They go hand-in-hand, really. And both of those things depend on your purpose, which we’ll discuss in the third installment of this series. When we’re working magic for our clients, we always keep our three magic words in mind: audience, distribution, and purpose.

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