How to Shape a Transmedia Campaign for Your Organization

Telling a story about your organization often seems complex and difficult. This activity can help you craft a unified message across platforms.

whatsyourstory

Make more

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the first StoriesLab conference at the Center for Social Media at American University in Washington D.C. StoriesLab is a project of StoriesLead and co-presented by Pride Collaborative. The focus of the day was the evolution of storytelling across multiple media platforms. It was energetic and engaging.

I frequently find myself at conventions or conferences where I rarely get an opportunity to meet other attendees or participate in the work itself. I often feel that way about online discourse, too. We are fortunate to live in a world where discussion and debate about any topic of the day can flourish online. However, it’s not unusual for me to find myself wondering, “Now what?”

Talk less

There are great organizations working to put our money where our mouths are. EmcArts is just one group harnessing the echo chamber’s best ideas to implement important change.

That’s why it was so great to be at StoriesLab. It offered three interactive working sessions to help its attendees understand this cumbersome concept of transmedia storytelling, or telling stories over multiple media platforms. In my first post on ArtsFwd, I asked the question, “What’s the Value of Transmedia Storytelling for Organizations?” I offered successful examples of companies who have successfully used transmedia storytelling.

But I didn’t tell you how to implement these ideas. Today, I’m going to do just that.

Tell better stories

My presentation at the StoriesLab conference at American University.
My presentation at the StoriesLab conference at American University.

At StoriesLab, I spoke about transmedia and audience engagement. After sharing my project, NY_Hearts, to offer context for how one might create a multi-platform story, I gave a brief overview of Holistic Storytelling, discussed how to create narratives that include only the social platforms their organization uses, and talked about how to maximize their potential by using each platform for its unique voice instead of broadcasting the same message across all of them. For example:

“Buy your tix here! Only $25!”
“Buy your tix here! Only $25!”
“Buy your tix here! Only $25!”

It’s repetitive. And boring.

To energize and engage the attendees, we went into a working session where I put four giant white sticky pages up to represent our story, and each platform: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and live events. We chose a company with which we were all familiar, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. After brainstorming story ideas, we picked an obvious but easy-to-work-with theme: “Join us on our circus adventure!”

Twitter became a “Ringmaster” who shared exciting deals and served as an information hub. We imagined a Facebook app that allows people to transform photos of friends and family into circus performers. YouTube became a place for “how-to” videos for making towel animals (led by a clown, no less). Finally, there was a beach ball scavenger hunt around Miami for people to find clues to the next, fun location, ending with a live circus on the docks in front of a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship.

It was fun, invigorating, and it gave attendees an opportunity to see how a multi-platform story might work for their own projects. After the exercise, attendees asked great questions. The most prevalent was: “How do we do this on our own for little or no money?” My answer: Do what you can. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the massive mounds of media these days, and first and foremost, we must fish where there are fish. Go where your audience is and fashion a story you believe will engage them. Then, break it up into parts that are manageable.

What’s your story?

Now, it’s your turn. I’ve created an exercise to help you shape a transmedia story for your company. Over an hour, you should be able to brainstorm a solid story and ways to use four distinct platforms.

Worksheet

Download PDF: Transmedia Storytelling Worksheet

Participants

Ideally, first meet with the entire staff to brainstorm. Afterward, the marketing department focuses the game plan and executes it.

Duration

Approximately one hour.

Facilitator

If you can hire a specialist in transmedia storytelling to consult, that is ideal; however, this exercise is meant to give you the tools to create your own transmedia story. It is recommended that your marketing director leads this exercise.

Activity

  • Step 1: With the group, decide on the three locations your audience congregates most frequently. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a live event are suggested, but if your audience is heavily active somewhere else, like Pinterest, substitute it out for one of the other platforms.
  • Step 2: The facilitator posts each category up at the front of the room. Use the downloaded sheets for your team to take notes.
  • Step 3: With the group, the facilitator asks, “What is our story?” Spend 15 minutes deciding what your organization’s story is. It can be its overall story, or it can be a story for a single season or production. Whatever you decide, make sure you are clear what you are storytelling about.
  • Step 4: Spend 10 minutes each (40 minutes total) brainstorming how you can tell that story on each platform. Think about how their unique attributes can be utilized.
  • Step 5: Look for ways to connect each part of the story. How does Facebook feed Twitter? What can you do to encourage more people to join you on a platform, especially if it isn’t a heavily trafficked one for your audience? It is very important that all the parts connect and each part is unique.

Sharing your story

Now, the marketing team takes over to execute the campaign. Try to keep ideas manageable and inexpensive. The point of most of these online platforms is that they are free. If you can find ways to make your story fun and engaging for very little money, the returns can be higher than when you spend money on an expensive ad campaign.

I’d love to know what you come up with. Better yet, let me know once you’ve executed the story. Don’t get stuck just talking about your story. Make it happen. anbefalte kredittkort | Easylifeapp

About

James Carter, Guest ContributorJames Carter is a dramatist, experience designer and producer. He was a founding member of terraNOVA Collective and its associate artistic director for eight years. Recent transmedia plays include FEEDER: A Love Story and NY_Hearts: LES. For more about James, read his blog onemuse.com where he explores the intersection of art and technology, or follow him on Twitter @jdcarter.

  • http://www.umslobby.org/ Anna

    Hi James, Thanks for this exercise. It’s a great reminder that stories can be told more effectively when tailored to each platform using the strengths of that platform. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about what kinds of stories are most suited to transmedia campaigns, or if based on your experience with various projects using transmedia, particular kinds of projects tend to be more successful? Particularly relevant to my work – Any thoughts about whether events lend themselves to this kind of storytelling, or is transmedia better suited to institutional storytelling? (Maybe the answer is both/and.) Could you suggest any criteria for how to determine if a project is well-suited to the transmedia approach?

    • http://www.onemuse.com James Carter

      Anna: The short answer is both. But the approach to each is different.

      If your institution has an event it’s promoting, there very well might be a story in place. The most obvious example is a stage play that features a narrative and characters. In my first piece at ArtsFwd, I used the example of the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s production of Robert Askin’s “Hand to God.” They chose a main character and created Facebook and Twitter profiles for the character and shot a “talk show” featuring the him on YouTube.

      For the “Hand to God” example:
      http://artsfwd.org/whats-the-value-of-transmedia-storytelling-for-organizations/

      If the event is less narrative driven, like a concert, look at the stories surrounding the event. Is the concert all Beethoven concertos? What is the story around these concertos? How were they written? Where was Beethoven in his life when he wrote them? Beethoven was deaf; is there a way to use online platforms to give the audience the experience of “hearing” Beethoven’s music from his POV?

      I’m a firm believer in finding creative ways to disseminate program notes. It saves paper, and it can educate your audience before they enter the performance space. Dramaturgical notes for plays can often feel academic and dry. Finding an entertaining way to tell the history of a play or musical composition online can excite people to join your audience.

      Regarding extending your institution’s story, it’s the same concept, but requires long-term planning. Landing on an overall story about your season can be a challenging and time consuming task. It’s a season-long marketing campaign. Depending on the size of your season, you might find a thread that links all the productions together. For example, let’s imagine a theater company that produces four shows a season. If two or three of those productions center on family, maybe you want all your online storytelling to center around family for the season.

      On a grander scale, there is the story of your company. How do you want the community to view the institution? What do you offer your community, and how can you spread that story out across multiple platforms? I’ve given some examples of this on the downloadable worksheets around the concept of a theater being a “home” for new playwrights.

      Depending on time and resources, I’d suggest starting with your institution’s overall story. Then, spread out into your season, and, if you can, do this exercise with every event and tie them back into your institution’s story, that’d be icing on the cake.

  • http://www.umslobby.org/ Anna

    Thanks for the thoughtful response…it resonates with my thinking about our approaches. The “both/and” answer is a good reminder to keep institutional storytelling on the editorial calendar for all platforms, even as the focus shifts to specific events during the season.

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