Digital Signage: Uncovering the Content Mystery

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Digital Signage: Strengthening Visitor Connection
By Vern Freedlander

Pretty much everyone is familiar with the concept of digital signage these days. We see digital signs in several places throughout our busy lives— getting our morning coffee, waiting in waiting rooms, shopping for groceries or clothing, eating at restaurants.

Even though these solutions seem to be popping up everywhere, (including houses of worship) there still seems to be a fair amount of mystery surrounding the process of creating content for the medium.
With this in mind, TFWM cultivated feedback from a few folks who integrate digital signage solutions in various environments, including houses of worship. It seems as if the mystery surrounding the creation and management of content for digital signs is a topic that comes up frequently, and not only just for houses of worship.

Screens are being installed in entryways to communicate upcoming events, Sunday school schedules, and community activities. Displays can provide first-time visitors with an introduction to the church and inform them about current happenings, the church’s mission and message, and what the church has to offer for different age groups.

An on-screen welcome message allows each visitor to absorb the information they need while cutting down on the need for paper flyers. In addition, large-screen digital displays can be used to enhance the overall service by displaying scripture passages, hymn numbers, and inspirational messages, as well as video of the service.

The culmination of these messages, the way they appear on the screen, and the impact it has on congregants is ultimately an expression of the church’s overall message or its distinctive brand. Though the term “brand” has traditionally been associated with consumerism, houses of worship require a consistent form of messaging that communicates their unique offerings as well as the church’s vision and personality. The goal is to engage parishioners and strengthen their connection to the church. This is achieved through the effective use of digital signage content.

Content is defined as every visual, every editorial, and every audio element that appears and plays on the screen. Together all of these components define the church’s personality. Worship incorporating media may include live video of a preacher or presenter; words to hymns and other songs; the text of a reading, blessing, or prayer; or announcements of church news and events.

To be truly effective, it is important to think of your network as more than a digital version of a poster or bulletin board. It is in effect a mini-television network with the capability to deliver a variety of multimedia content that will have a dramatic impact on viewers.

Your network’s identity speaks to your church’s unique message. For example, television broadcasters achieve their individual identity with strong, identifiable graphics, marks, and music that clearly distinguishes their network from other networks. Likewise, a digital signage network must consistently remind audiences of what they are watching. The unique “look and feel” your church creates will serve to strengthen the emotional bond viewers will have with the church.

Vern Freedlander is Vice President of Production Services for X2O Media.

Digital Signage: Keeping Your Content Fresh
By Keith Kelsen

Content creation is probably one of the most difficult places to start for a new digital signage network. Even some existing networks have a difficult time keeping up with the constant need for fresh information for the viewers.
When you are making decisions about how much content and how long the content needs to play on screen, you need to consider how long the viewer is going to be in front of the screen, and how often the viewer visits.

The challenge is how you keep the flow of content coming without “producing” every single message. The answer is to create a series of templates that relate to the type of message that is being served. For instance, for children’s ministries, you could create a template that is more whimsical and addresses a younger audience. You can create a different template geared toward single’s ministries as well. In this way, the viewer recognizes certain types of formats, and takes special notice to that particular message based on their interests.

Creating templates that can be easily updated is the key. This will make the production of your messages much easier.

The best way to start this process is to create a formatted design that reflects the overall look and feel of the church. These colors, icons and fonts should be consistent across all templates and messages.

It is a good idea to limit the basic color choice to only a few. This can be based on the overall colors that your house of worship uses already. You should also limit the fonts to just a few and be relentless in their use. You should design and use icons for each ministry or service that is provided to your members. This is another visual cue that viewers will notice if the icon represents an area that they are interested in.

Next, create templates that are representative of each of the types of messages that you deliver. Then, use these templates to easily update new messages.

Create seasonal versions and themed versions of all your templates; this will also keep your visual pallet fresh and current with the seasons, events and special times throughout the year.

Keith Kelsen is the author of “Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen.” • Twitter: KKelsen

Digital Signage: Publishing Content
By Alex P. Wang

Here are a few tips on how to leverage the right content management platform for your digital signage system.

First, you need to engage your audience with the right content at the right time and right place. Based on screen locations, you need to identify the right content sources. Some content will be broadcasted to all locations, while others will only be target-casted to certain locations. For example, emergency alerts will go to all screens, while a specific event may only go to certain screens.

After you identify the right content sources, you need to think about how to publish content. Manually collecting and publishing content to your digital signage network is not the right approach. Manual publishing is not only labor intensive, it is also error-prone. The right approach is to leverage an appropriate content management platform to automate the entire content flow process from content collection, content presentation, content scheduling, content delivery, and all the way to content playback.

In case of interactive content, this process may also include collecting and displaying user inputs in real-time. This is what is called “Content Automation for Digital Signage”. Common content sources for automated integration may include an emergency alert system or an event scheduling system. Web2.0 applications such as Twitter and Flickr may also be integrated with your campus digital signage network.

The right content management platform should support all elements of the content automation process including content collection, content presentation, content scheduling, content delivery and content playback.

Content Collection: retrieve the content elements automatically from the source with the right update interval based on the nature of the content
Content Presentation: use a set of predefined content templates designed for the content sources
Content Scheduling: schedule content delivery and playback time
Content Delivery: deliver the content elements which may include XML and media files to the media players
Content Playback: play content according to the schedules
Once the automation process is implemented, the up-to-date and relevant content will flow to your screens on campus automatically at the right time without manual intervention.
Without content automation, managing a campus digital signage network could be a challenging task. However, with the right content management platform, content publishing can become seamless and effortless. The end result is that each screen becomes an effective communication tool to display the relevant content to the right people at the right place at right time.

Alex P. Wang is President of DYNASIGN, a Silicon Valley based technology and service provider for the growing digital signage network market.

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