The Medium is the Message

Most first year college students are familiar with Marshall McLuhan’s excerpt from Understanding Media but, it occurs to me that even seasoned marketing pros don’t really grasp what he meant by the medium is the message.

What causes me to speculate on this misunderstanding is the continued and repeated assertion by marketing and pr folks that tell me they “just don’t get this whole blog thing.” Many of these folks, I suspect, assume McCluhan meant (way back in 1964) that blogging as a medium is just another way to deliver a message.

I am presenting a workshop today for the Kansas City Chapter of the PRSA and I plan to use McCluhan’s idea as a theme

Here is what I think he meant.

The medium is the message when a new medium causes fertile, yet often unintended, changes that allow for a shift in the character of the mess.

That was a bit academic sounding so let me restate it this way: Blogs were not created to be the next great marketing tool but, over time, people realized that they liked what they could do with blogs and as more and more people used them and built tools to extend the way they were used, the character of the message that businesses were sending changed forever.

The marketing message is now a conversation instead of an ad.

Advice to PR firms – take control of the character of this new message, tell the story, create the conversation, harness the growing set of social media tools and you will own a much larger and more important piece of the marketing conversation.


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