Cross connections: Messages with multi-screening in mind

November 30, 2012

Recent Google research examining “The New Multi-screen World” reveals that 90 percent of people use multiple devices to accomplish tasks, averaging three screen combinations daily.

Common sequential screening examples include shopping and personal finance management initiated on smartphones and completed later on laptops, or using apps like Pocket to save online articles for later reading.

Cross-platform information consumption becomes more sophisticated and interactive during simultaneous multi-screening.

Google survey participants watched an average of 43 minutes of television daily, and 77 percent reported using other devices while viewing.

Similar Nielsen research found 45 percent of  American tablet owners use their mobile device daily while watching television. Examples include following a specific Twitter hashtag while watching election results or sporting events to share real-time reactions.

Mobile apps paired with televised events encourage most multi-screening engagements. Apps like Shazam serve as second-screen companions for viewers who tag shows via its audio recognition capability to access featured music, cast details and discuss episodes on Twitter and Facebook.

NBC’s Olympics broadcast generated several million Shazam interactions including a million for the Closing Ceremony, providing users with athlete bios, videos and medal counts.

ABC’s Billboard Music Awards let fans access performance schedules through the app, download a free song and comment with social media.

Gateways to engagement

As multi-screening becomes common behavior, communicators and journalists must ensure that their content renders optimally across multiple screens and leads audiences through a desired sequence of actions.

Citing more than 30 percent mobile readership, in November, Mashable introduced responsive screen formats that instantly fit its content onto any device — smartphones, tablets or large monitors. Screen size and reading experience are optimized, plus individual pieces of content like images, videos or quotes are sharable, encouraging readers to post Mashable’s content elsewhere.

Successful multi-screen messaging requires sharpened storytelling. Ogilvy West’s Dirk Shaw suggests collaboration among PR, sales and marketing disciplines to forge a publisher’s mindset. Scripting consistent narratives across screens with clear calls to action is paramount.

Hubspot blogger Pamela Vaughn cautions that communicators remain aware of context, because people use specific devices based on location, time, goals and attitudes. Understanding audience needs requires understanding how people want to access digital content and then, tailoring communication strategies to each instance.

A Grolsch beer U.K. campaign created by Beattie McGuinness Bungay applies these principles in an entertaining way.

Grolsch TV commercials invite viewers online to engage with the advertisements’ main characters. Online viewers can text characters from their smartphones with the promise that, if the characters recognize them, then they’ll buy them a beer.  Viewers with recognized geography and age credentials receive real-time, personalized replies with coupons for free Grolsch four-packs and a store finder app.

BMB reports 2.000 unique daily Web visits averaging four minutes each, plus social sharing of the brand’s “Big Bold” premium status message.  The campaign provides a nicely navigated multi-screen experience that many customers are sharing with friends.

Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


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