This is the second year that I’m co-teaching our foundational “Narratives & Networks in Digital Media.” graduate class with Mac Parks and Shay Colson. At its core (and also the premise to the MCDM/”Storyteller Uprising”):

Successful communication depends on the creation of compelling content and sustained multi-platform  engagement by distributing this content through relevant networks.

This week’s class was all about ROI — Return on Investment, that sometimes elusive demand we make to justify our communications efforts. At some point, I explained the “classic” division of earned (picked up by the press, social media), owned (your content, your channel, Storyteller Uprising at its best) and paid media (advertising), relying on Charlene Li’s Altimeter agency report to break it down further:

Excerpt “The Social Media ROI Cookbook” Susan Etlinger July 24 2012

However, it was our guest speaker, Adam Brotman, who really helped us grasp the reality of the ROI equation as it relates to the media spectrum. Adam is a trusted advisor of our program, and the Chief Digital Officer of Starbucks. He was recently named the third most creative person in business by Fast Company. Starbucks has been enormously successful in the digital engagement space over the last few years, with its in-store Starbucks Digital Network, MyStarbucksIdea, and now, its latest foray into point-of-sale innovation through its partnership with Square. Eschewing slides, and relying on a whiteboard, Adam had me wide-eyed when he proposed that “commerce” is a now form of media engagement.

As you can see from the photo above, Starbucks sees online engagement as a spectrum, from “mass” (paid, earned) feeding into “owned” (Starbucks’ own digital properties, especially its website), to “one to one” (loyalty cards/memberships, and now commerce). This makes complete sense if you see your ROI in the deployment of media as primarily a way to entice people into your house for further, sustained interaction. Transactions with Starbucks (specifically payment for coffee) are now occurring digitally through mobile, eCards, so it’s a straight shot to your various properties (website, mobile app, API, etc.).

If you want more of Adam, check out my Four Peaks TV interview with him last year, Beyond Seattle Nice.