A conversation I had yesterday with a PR textbook author got me thinking about our habits and the tactics we employ to communicate with our audiences. We were talking about digital storytelling, and the conversation turned to multimedia.

What format should a multimedia press release take, he asked. I think my answer may have surprised him — and wrecked his chapter outline, to boot.

The format of the content shouldn’t dictate the message.

My answer veered off the path of what I think he expected, because I said that the answer to that question depends upon the audience, and is informed by the assets you have at hand.

You won’t go wrong if you start with your audience. Where do they look for information? Do they gravitate toward a particular social network or digital community? If so, what sort of content does that audience prefer? Asking these questions and allowing the answers to inform your content strategy will ensure more effective communications.

Some networks, like Instagram and Pinterest, are built on visuals. However, visuals are also make messages more effective on networks like Twitter and Facebook. And they carry extra weight with search engines — and speaking of search engines, YouTube is the second largest. Point is, incorporating visual elements – video, images, downloadable content such as presentation decks or white papers — will ensure your message is available to the denizens of those networks. Making visual communications a habit will improve communications results.

I don’t like thinking in terms of formats, simply because they discourage people from incorporating multimedia elements if they perceive they don’t have all of the right content lined up. Instead, allow your audience’s needs to guide development of your content.