Part one pointed out that for many business owners — even those who understand the potential of digital signage — deciding to add digital signs to the communication channel raises a thorny issue: Who's going to create the content that feeds the sign network fresh information of interest to viewers in a professional format that makes a great statement about the business?
Certainly there are a number of third-party content aggregators that can provide fresh information by using real estate on the digital signage screen; just keep in mind that too much syndicated content and you risk squandering your core communication strategy. There is nothing wrong with syndicated content; it's extremely desirable for many kinds of communication strategies. It's just that too much of it and your message becomes diluted to the point that, well ... what is the point?
Most importantly, fresh content that is focused on your company's communication effort is paramount if viewers are to keep coming back for reasons that meet your company objectives. Creating the right mix and balance of information sources is the "secret sauce" only you and your stakeholders can answer considering business type and viewer preference.
Now on to the elephant in the room: Who is creating the content that is going to drive the company vision, value proposition, market differentiators, news, promotions and entertainment? Here, I examine solutions that go beyond the obvious answer of hiring someone like a full-time graphic artist or ad agency — two steps many business owners are likely unprepared to make until they see results that justify investing in professional talent.
Before you read my "elephant busting" content tactics below, keep in mind that the success of any digital sign relies on having a clear communication strategy with stated goals and ways of measurement that are accepted by stakeholders.
Tactic 1: Create and use attention-grabbing templates that carry a consistent theme, which match a specific campaign, product or company branding effort. Templates reduce the complexity of creating digital signage content. They can be constructed to accommodate nearly all of the information — whether it's menu items for a restaurant or special event listings in a hotel lobby — that a digital signage user needs to display. Once created, templates also minimize the time that must be devoted to the communications process because they can be used over and over again.
A well-thought-out template for digital signage will go far; plus, it can be repurposed for other campaigns with little effort. If you are short on manpower to accomplish this, consider your company's website designer or nascent employees with starlet skills. Another possibility is to outsource the template design to a third-party firm. Either way, you are still in control of your key message.
Tactic 2: Select digital signage software that has the ability to automatically import data from company databases and content sources to relieve staff from re-keystroking data into the digital signage page. For example, a hotel might rely on event- or property-management software to track reservations, meeting room bookings and conference events. For instance, meeting room booking data, such as the name of the party renting the room, could populate a text field in a template built for use on digital reader boards outside individual conference and ballrooms.
Tapping into data automation is a great way to repurpose existing resources without needing a content manager, graphic artist or a third-party service provider. Additionally, widgets or other software programs can be used to source news feeds, social media feeds, weather forecasts and corporate Web pages. This could happen simply by sitting down with stakeholders and identifying pieces of data that could populate a digital signage template automatically without staff intervention.
Tactic 3: Leverage existing marketing, promotional and advertising materials to minimize the amount of original content that must be created. Existing content, including social media assets, TV, Internet or YouTube commercials, viral video and corporate video can be reused on digital signs when appropriate.
This may only require sitting down with the person in charge of marketing and finding out what media assets are available to repurpose on the digital signage system. If such media fits within your company's communication objectives, your marketing department may be a rich source of Web videos, PowerPoint presentations, animations, logos and other valuable assets.
Tactic 4: Use RSS feeds to keep a stream of fresh content constantly updating on the screen. Depending on the business and the application, Internet RSS feeds from various sources can provide fresh, new content to attract viewers and hold their attention.
Better digital signage software will support RSS as a source feed. RSS feeds are often available directly from one's website, which may be great way to reinforce corporate news. Additionally, there are countless sources of both local and national news feeds from many Internet providers on popular topics that could supplement a digital signage communication strategy.
Tactic 5: Rely on a traditional television programming to supplement your digital signage content. This may seem counterintuitive for a corporate digital signage channel, but TV is a proven medium that attracts attention. And when placed in spots where employees take breaks, such as cafeterias or lounges, could prove a dynamic way to provide both corporate messaging and entertainment all at the same time.
Some digital signage systems are available with optional TV tuners that allow programming to be imported into a digital signage layout. Integrating TV relieves much of the burden of creating a lot of fresh content.
However, there are a few caveats to keep in mind. The cable or satellite TV source may not allow retransmission of its programming without first paying a licensing fee. Another is possible competitive conflict. For instance, how would the owner of a used car lot feel about unintentionally displaying the commercial of a competitor on his digital sign?
Relying on these five tactics can help any business owner — small or large — create the content that gets and holds the attention of viewers without taking on a new employee or vendor. In my next column, I'll offer five more tactics that can be used to help create content, and may finally chase the elephant out of the room.
David serves as Keywest Technologys director of marketing and has a background in emerging digital technologies, working for more than a decade as an electronic field engineer with digital video equipment manufacturers before joining Keywest Technology.