James Fine is founder and president of Telecine, a Montréal-based company with over 30 years of experience creating great corporate communications. Fortune 500 clients from around the world rely on Telecine to solve their communication challenges by leveraging great electronic media.
We tracked James down at IABC World Conference 2018 and found out why it's so important for communicators to share their mistakes and how having a plan for your digital signage is the first step to getting the best ROI. 

 
 

Video Transcript

Chuck Gose: Alright, well we're here at day two, at World Conference IABC in Montreal, here with an old friend, I guess, from the digital signage world? Seasoned friend from the digital signage world?

James Fine from Telecine. You spoke earlier today at a session, why don't you to let everybody know what your topic was about.

James Fine: Thank you, Chuck.

Yeah, we actually had an absolute crowd, no actually it was a great group of people in the session and I really enjoyed talking about digital signage, which is something near and dear to my heart.

And what we've done is we actually interviewed many of our clients and many of our suppliers and people who know something about the digital signage industry. And we compiled all those results into some lessons that have been learned, because, you know, there's so many mistakes to make in digital signage, it's really a nascent industry, but we see the same mistakes being made over and over again, and it frustrates us.

I know that we can make new mistakes, we don't have to make the same ones twice.

"There's so many mistakes to make in digital signage, it's really a nascent industry, but we see the same mistakes being made over and over again."

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Chuck: So why do you think it is that internal communicators especially keep making those same mistakes?

Is it that they don't understand the full capabilities of the technology, or is it just one of those habitual type things?

James: I think the big challenge is that the initiative to start a digital signage network doesn't always start on the right foot. Sometimes it's the hardware supplier that gets called first, and they put in screens. Then they try to figure out what to put on the screens. Then they try to figure out how to get the content to the screens.

Really if they just flipped that around and actually tried to figure out what it is that they want to achieve, before they actually put a screen on the wall, I think they'd have a much better chance of success.

At least that's our experience over the last twenty, almost ... a long time.

Chuck: Yep.

So I know that one of the areas that, when it comes to digital signage especially, that internal communicators struggle with a lot of times, is measurement, and understanding what impact is this signage network having.

So what are some recommendations that you have for those who are wanting to, maybe not necessarily go full ROI on it, but understand the impact or how to properly measure how effective their network is?

James: There's a lot of tricks that we've come up with, some of them incredibly low tech, and some of them very high tech now, to measure ROI, especially when it comes to an internal communication network.

And we could go into that but I think it's even more important to go back to the beginning and analyze exactly what the organization is trying to achieve with the signage system. If you do that properly you actually will have a much easier way to measure your success and you'll be much more successful.

But what we've been doing lately is we've been actually conducting workshops at a client location, and that's helped an amazing amount.

We did one last week actually that really impressed me because we learned as much as the client learned out of the two day session. We walked out of there and everybody had a much clearer idea of what it was they were trying to achieve with the signage system, and honestly, I mean, it seems like common sense but, you know, if you know what you're trying to accomplish, the chances of actually getting there are go to be much higher.

"If you know what you're trying to accomplish, the chances of actually getting there are going to be much higher."

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Chuck: What would you say is some of the more creative content, cause obviously that's where a lot of communicators start to lend their value to the network. What's some of the more creative content you've seen? Is it truly more the visionary, great to look at content? Or is it the data driven, metric related type content?

James: Yeah, it's a great question, Chuck.

And there's so ... There's as many different of types of content that can be successful on a system as there are organizations.

And we did a journey map exercise, for instance, with, in the last, as we always do in these workshops, and it was really fascinating. We learned so many things about what content the people who were passing the screens required at different times of day, and I really was surprised by several of the answers, because every organization is different.

But our favorite kind of content is the content that doesn't actually take a lot of energy, but creates a lot of value. And there's a lot of low-hanging fruit there.

And in fact if content exists, if information exists in some electronic form, there is a way to turn it into interesting and useful graphics on a digital signage system, and we have a whole development team in Montreal who loves challenges like that ... esoteric software, intranets, internet sites.

If it exists, there is a way to capture it, and that's great because that means that the content on the signage system is gonna be always current, and it's gonna be always relevant, and it's gonna take no effort whatsoever because it just happens automatically.

Chuck: Let's talk a little bit about interactivity internally, cause I know sometimes it's one of those things where people don't know if they should touch a screen, can they touch a screen, and with costs coming down in hardware, have you seen ... Has there been an increase in interactive content or it is still more just the set and display type approach?

James: Yeah, we did a lot of work with interactive screens when they came out and yeah, getting people to touch them was the hugest challenge we had at the beginning.

We had actors who would, you know, come up and touch the screen and we were, honestly we achieved mediocre success. A lot of people were still afraid to touch the screens.

Now, actually, we have the opposite problem.

We put up screens and people think they should be touching it, and they do touch it but they're not interactive. So we have an interesting challenge, because people are so used to using their phones now, and their iPads, and their tablet devices, that they expect to have exactly the same functionality on a large screen. And sometimes that could actually be useful, but in many cases, there's no reason we can't actually create content that can be interactive with, on their personal devices.

And that's actually in some situations more desirable, especially when privacy concerns are involved, or personal information is involved. We work with financial institutions a lot, and obviously, you know, if you're gonna, you know, start talking about how much your house is gonna cost and how much money you make, maybe that's not good to do that on a 60 inch screen, maybe it's better to do it on your personal device.

So interactivity is just one of the arrows in our quiver.

"We did a lot of work with interactive screens when they came out and getting people to touch them was the hugest challenge we had...Now, actually, we have the opposite problem."

Click to Tweet  Tweet: Worried about rocking the boat? @carrieyoung & @chuckgose give advice for risk-averse #internalcomms via @bananatag https://ctt.ec/j_V2U+ 

Chuck: Okay.

And then last question, so you might have had one of the shortest commutes of any of the people here. You live here in Montreal.

What is it that you love about the city? What are some of the hidden gems? What should people discover, whether on this trip to Montreal or a future trip to Montreal? And when should they come, time of year?

James: Yeah, well this is the perfect time. I mean, we arrived here on Sunday, everybody arrived here on Sunday. I've been wanting to attend an IABC conference for almost since I founded the company 32 years ago. I've always had a conflict or found an excuse not to come. Well finally the conference came to me, so I had no excuse, but I honestly, I am really delighted with the quality and quantity of really good questions, the quality of the people, and everybody is so friendly here.

They fit in perfectly in Montreal, because Montreal is such a warm and friendly city. And there are fantastic restaurants, I spoke to some people who explored a couple of my favorites last night.

Summer in Montreal has festival time, we're coming up to jazz festival, where this year we have Jethro Tull, Paul Simon, and about half a dozen other people that, you know, I really want to see. It's a fantastic place to live. I love Montreal.

Chuck: Well I know on a previous visit I had here, you took me to an oyster bar, we were here once, so I've gotten to experience some of those personal favorites of yours.

Last question I have for you is, if a communicator is struggling with their digital signage network, whether it's content related or getting support, other than calling you for help, what's some other advice that you have to maybe get them to rethink it or start fresh with a digital signage network?

James: Well, you know, the reason we put that seminar together was we were getting the same questions over and over again, and we were seeing people making those same mistakes over and over again. We're happy to ...

have a one hour webinar that's prepared that I would be happy to deliver, there's no charge. We just want people to at least learn from some of the mistakes that others have made, and not make those same ones. It's frustrating for us, you know, we get calls all the time for this huge screen installation that was put up in a lobby, and people go "Oh, yeah, the building's opening in a month now, what are we going to put on that screen?"

And we'd like them to make the right choice, we'd prefer if it wasn't just an animated 3D logo or a corporate video that runs around in circles for five years.

"The problems that you're having are very likely the same problems that other people are having, and maybe the solution is the same."

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Chuck:
Right.

James: So, yeah, we'd be happy to help, and I'd like to ... We try to get groups together, we're going to do another workshop I think in New York, where people who have similar problems, you know, sort of a self-help group, to meet each other and realize that you're not alone. The problems that you're having is very likely the same problems that other people are having, and maybe the solution is the same.

Chuck: Okay.

Well thank you James for being on Chuck chat.

James: I enjoyed it, thanks Chuck.