SPECIAL SECTION/RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: Connecting to Information in the Electronic Age
October 1, 2007
We're bombarded every day by nonstop information delivery and technology. Do you prefer to look for news and information on websites, read about it in magazines and newspapers, have it delivered to you via e-mail newsletters, or discover it through online training/certification/seminars? All of the above?
The possibilities for information gathering are limitless, and sometimes overwhelming. Strategically managing how and when we receive information can enable us to be more productive, effective and profitable.
Understanding Integrated MediaIntegrated media channels encompass all of the various platforms that can deliver information, including print, the Internet (online access and electronic delivery), direct mail, meetings/conferences/shows, webinars and more. Combined and separately, these platforms allow editorial content to be delivered in different formats and information streams; they also allow for the selection of those delivery methods that best serve individual needs.
Print trade magazines offer in-depth articles, comprehensive features, and detailed information on technological advances, as well as industry news and updates. Magazines are easily shared, which makes it convenient to route relevant articles to other interested parties, and portable, so they make for great reading during travel. Reprints of print articles also help manufacturers connect with customers. Reprints can be distributed at customer visits, trade shows, in direct mail, and in internal meetings to add third-party credibility to the company's message.
Buyers' guides and directories-both in print and online-provide product use and selection information that enable us to make informed purchasing decisions, and offer direct access to providers of materials, equipment and services. Print directories are an excellent on-the-shelf resource, while online directories often offer additional benefits like search capabilities; links to suppliers' websites; spec sheets; and even product videos, which provide the opportunity to see products and processes in action. Print directories remain excellent resources for industry and product information, but visiting online versions can enhance the search process.
A number of online options are available if receiving the latest news quickly is a priority. Electronic newsletters (e-newsletters) offer the advantage of delivery to your mailbox. While frequency may vary, e-newsletters generally provide focused, industry- or topic-specific news and information. In addition, they allow you to opt for various delivery methods (digest, individual e-mails, online reading) and to select your delivery format (HTML or text).
Websites serve a different function, offering detailed information, microsites, blogs, networking through bulletin boards, access to research information like editorial archives, industry and company links, even live consultant services, and more. To keep ahead of all of these offerings, as well as the latest news, limit your visits to sites that are updated frequently and offer professional coverage. Real simple syndication (RSS) is a tool to help ensure that you are alerted whenever selected updates are made to a website. RSS uses a special reader. After you select the updates of interest to you, the updates collect until you access them. You can then scan the update and read more as interest dictates.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the muscle behind Internet and website searches. The most well-known and broad-based search site is Google. Google is also a technology in itself, licensed and used by many vertical or specific sites to enhance the search experience with speed and efficiency.
Optimizing Your Internet ExperienceWhile the Internet is fantastic for immediacy, it is equally strong in providing content that will help you obtain comprehensive knowledge, perspective and leadership skills. Archived articles stored on industry websites allow concentrated study of a topic or in-depth analysis of an expert's opinions, while white papers allow you to read thoughtful analysis on new products and procedures, often complete with statistics and projections. In addition, syndicated research can help you maintain a high level of expertise on a topic or industry, and provides insight for strategic planning.
Perhaps you've avoided places like YouTube, bulletin boards and blogs in the past. For a growing number of people, online community is now an essential part of their business success. These communication resources serve as a vital link to the online community, connect us to industry opinion and allow us to reach out to peers in the industry.
A huge benefit of online community is free access to people who have already tackled our challenges. Whether you are fixing a broken part, launching an initiative, or revolutionizing your company, someone is waiting to tell you how they succeeded at that task, or, equally valuable, what pitfalls to avoid. Many sites also offer video that shows you how to do it.
Another aspect of the online community is the ability to build your reputation. Community participants don't want a sales pitch, but they do respect you for providing useful information and solving problems. Respect translates into trust, and trust translates into opportunities for your company. Find trustworthy bulletin boards, blogs and communal spaces that focus on your industry. You'll benefit by engaging with sharp-minded, impassioned participants.
Online training has come of age and keeps getting better. High-speed connections, in-house projection, enhanced software, improved two-way communication, and experienced providers make online training an engaging and useful experience.
Many webinars also provide a link allowing attendees to print a course completion certificate for proof of participation to qualify for continuing education credits. Taking advantage of webcasts in your field can improve training and provide significant savings through reduced travel costs.
E-commerce is now more than a buzzword, and some would say it is the foundation of the Internet. In the commercial world, giants like Amazon have made online transactions commonplace, and this has extended to the business-to-business world as well. Many companies now participate in e-commerce with online purchase orders, applications, designs, specifications, bids, change-orders, credit checks and payments, and even complete shopping experiences with virtual shopping carts where you can collect your items for online purchase.
Making the ConnectionThe broad palate of integrated media communication vehicles offers tangible benefits in the form of enhanced content delivery, multiple information resources, multi-channel information, delivery information and focused sourcing of relevant information. Integrated media enables us to develop a relationship with the information that serves us best. By accessing and using as many of these resources as possible, you'll ensure that you and your company stay ahead of the information curve.
SIDEBAR: IM OpportunitiesTechnology allows CI to address the diversity of our readership by offering multiple media outlets. CI's integrated media communication vehicles include print; the Internet as a host for our portal website; electronic transfer of information via e-mail blasts, electronic newsletters, webinars and (in the future) podcasts; electronic search capabilities; and visual and audio presentations.
Ceramic Industry magazine. The print edition delivers high-quality content-from feature articles and case studies to industry news and new product announcements-each month.
Reprints. Print or electronic reprints provide an easily distributed vehicle to help manufacturers share their article with customers and colleagues.
Directories. Six print and online directories provide reference and purchasing information.
Website. The website at www.ceramicindustry.com serves as a resource center and allows access to additional resources like hotlinks, directories and microsites, as well information such as website-only exclusives and show reports.
CI CyberNews. This weekly e-newsletter includes the latest industry, company, product, and events news and updates.
Digital Editorial Archives. The CI editorial "library" provides the ability to perform a focused online search, and facilitates convenient reference and storage of past articles and news.
RSS Feeds. RSS feeds provide immediate notification of changes to the CI website so you can keep on top of news and updates.
Google-Based Search Engine. This key component of CI's website allows you to filter results across the website, within editorial or within CI's directories, for focused results.
Editor's Blog (coming in 2008)/Bulletin Board. These communication resources help you to stay in touch with what others in the industry are thinking and talking about.
Videos. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must increase value and understanding exponentially. Videos give website visitors the opportunity to see products and processes in action, thus amplifying the information-gathering experience.