Lecture Outtakes: Convergence

What Is Convergence?

kay tappan, convergence
Illustration by Kay Tappan

According to Webster.com, convergence is defined as “the merging of distinct technologies, industries or devices into a unified whole.” Convergence among various hardware, software and interpersonal encounters can be used to achieve synergistic outcomes. With regard to the practice of public relations, it is useful to subdivide the term into categories. It is important to note that the following categories are not mutually exclusive.

Structural Convergence

This is the most technical definition and refers to the use of various communication platforms, such as print, web, television, etc.  to achieve communications objectives. A 2011 Nielsen report found that in the United States, 45 percent of tablet owners reported that using their device while watching television was a daily occurrence. Shazam is a great example of an app that has been created to exploit this confluence of platforms. The love-or-hate-it QR code is another tool that has designed to facilitate a more seamless convergence of print and web.

Tactical Convergence

Think: strategic partnerships. Cross-Media Promotion (CMP) falls under the umbrella of tactical convergence. This could be anything from a lifestyle blogger’s shout out to a shelter magazine to product placement in a film to the repurposing and sharing of content between two media outlets under different ownership. The screen capture below, from the music streaming site Grooveshark, is an example of tactical convergence.

kay tappan
A Glade advertisement, with playlist, on the Grooveshark music streaming site.

Storytelling Convergence

Storytelling convergence is really a journalistic concept, as described by Ross Collins. Collins points out that traditional stories are told in a linear way, while the human thought process is distinctly non-linear. With links, audio, print, video, apps, etc, we can abandon this linear modality. In this same vein, PR practitioners can embrace storytelling convergence to more effectively communicate with their publics and achieve organizational objectives.


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