Ben Risinger, Communications Professor

Grand Valley State University and Indiana University School of Journalism

Sometimes you get thrown into something and think, maybe this is the future. Digital media is EVERYWHERE today and it fits right in with communications, public relations, and marketing.

I have been in the communications industry since 2000 and when I graduated from college I was still faxing press releases and information to the media. I remember the first glimpses of social media and how I never thought at the time it would catch on. It did. My first “ah-ha” moment came around 2005 when I saw a Honda car TV ad that featured their MySpace account URL instead of their website. Whoa.

In the past 10 years, social/digital media has gone from a tactic to a legitimate profession with thousands of tactics itself. Heck, 20 years ago what was social media? It was not here yet.

Digital media came and hit me like a freight train, and I was hooked. I successfully received my master’s degree in 2013 and my school immediately asked me to teach a class. Still to this day I teach undergraduates and master’s students about digital media and how they can harness the power today, both personally and professionally. At that time I had my online web show and bi-weekly television segment called DoItIndy that had come of age from social media to a blog website to then on television. This never would have happened unless I had been active and very responsive on social media. But what I was figuring out in 2012 was that things were starting to change, new platforms were beginning to evolve. I had to learn. I had to keep up with all the new changes and implement them myself in my own show.

Fast forward to today, July of 2019. Digital media is not only EVERYWHERE still, it follows you now. Digital media advertising and social media listen to you, they analyze you, they give you an algorithm that is tailor made for your tastes. What’s hot on social media seems to change daily now, not every few months or years as in the previous decade. Live-streaming, Stories, Instagram, TikTok, and more seem to be in our faces every single day. Go for it, try to harness that power for yourself and/or your business.

We talk so much today about digital and social media that at times traditional media gets left out of the picture. Yes, the print ads, billboards, mass mailings, television and radio ads and more. There is still a place for traditional media today (I will admit that the need tends to be shrinking) so look at your audience. Not every demographic sits on social media, and plan on that for at least another 15-20 years. Previously I worked in the healthcare industry, where newspaper ads and billboards still did amazingly well. On the flip side I am proud to say that before my 80-year-old great aunt passed away in 2012, she was on Facebook and interacted with family. You can’t discount Instagram today either – it is a platform that does a good job of hitting all demographics today. (I love it, it works, use it now!)

Everything seems to be changing, right? So what are some good resources to follow? Please see my list below of digital resources to help you stay informed. I read/browse the internet every single day to stay up-to-date on what the public wants and is using.

Here are my top five digital resources:

  • Social Media Examiner – Blog and podcast.
    ANYTHING and everything social media that is relevant, from beginner to seasoned pro. One of the first digital, legit organizations out there – this team knows what is up and help immensely.
  • Ad Age – Blog and magazine.
    One of the earliest contenders that used to be called Advertising Age – started in the early 1900s. I love to subscribe and get this in the mail which features different content than the online editions. A mix of it all.
  • PRSA Content Connection – Blog.
    The Public Relations Society of America is a PR organization, but they embrace so much more. Today, you have to know a little about it all. Content Connection gives you the information you need from staff writers and guest blogs across the country. I suggest subscribing to their newsletter for a good email.
  • TechCrunch – Blog, events, podcasts.
    Digital. Techy. Anything. The TechCrunch Battlefield is an amazing competition that brings people together from all over the world to talk tech, communications, marketing and more. Their online content is top notch.
  • Hootsuite – Content Management System, certifications, blog.
    I love the Hootsuite platform and use it personally and professionally every day. Hootsuite went a step beyond and offers certifications (I have my college students take it) and a plethora of information on their blogs and social media.

What will the future hold? The future is starting to show itself now. Virtual Reality (VR) is here and has started to be used not only in digital media but in traditional business and healthcare. Automated Intelligence (AI) can listen to you and give personalized recommendations. I use my Alexa hub every day for my smart home to turn on the lights, play music, give reminders, etc. Everything digital will become more personalized. Every day.

As you have read, it is important for you to stay informed of the realm of communications as it continues to evolve faster and faster. Stay on top of the trends, read blogs, watch videos, follow a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram and be vigilant. The need to learn will only become greater as more platforms arise and the older population adapts to the digital landscape.