Transmedia Storytelling

Two things I’ve learned about running a business in today’s new media landscape is that 1) change is inevitable and 2) this industry loves buzzwords. New media. Content marketing. Engagement. CPM. Infotainment. Advertainment. KPIs. Gamification. The list goes on. One buzzword that is gaining traction is “transmedia storytelling.” Essentially, this is the process of telling a story or sharing an experience across multiple platforms.

Why is this important for the small business professional creative? Because understanding the various methods by which you can market yourself and/or your clients will separate those who stand the test of time from those who don’t.

“Ignoring the various new media methods by which businesses today spread brand awareness or connect with their customers would be akin to continuing to shoot videos on VHS.

Media vs. Platform

lizziebennetbookA key concept to grasp when understanding transmedia storytelling is the distinction between the media and the platform. The media is the content itself. The platform is how that media is distributed and disseminated. On the New Mediacracy podcast, transmedia producer Bernie Su (co-creator of the Emmy-award winning series “The Lizzie Bennett Diaries“) made a very poignant distinction about the types of media there are—video, audio, words, photos & graphics, and social. Everything you create falls into one of these five categories. The platform from which you disseminate that media could vary: web, print, podcasts, theater, radio, etc. Some types of media are accessible from multiple platforms—e.g. you can watch a television show on your desktop, your smart phone, your tablet, etc. Heck, you can even watch it on your television set (go figure!). A book can be in digital form (e.g. Kindle, tablet), printed, or even in audio format.

Su’s “Lizzie Bennett Diaries” is a great example of transmedia storytelling. The YouTube show is a contemporary, series-based retelling of Jane Austin’s “Pride & Prejudice”. The main show exists on YouTube. The character, Lizzie, has her own Facebook and Twitter following (I’m not talking about the show. I’m talking about the character herself!) A book has even been released. The show was a huge success garnering over 260,000 subscribers and accumulating over 58 million views.

A comprehensive understanding of these media types and the various distribution platforms is essential because decisions you make about how you market yourself and/or your clients must take this knowledge into account. In fact, even the creative decisions you make will be affected by the types of media and platforms you plan to utilize. The cameras, lenses, and set design you create may change dramatically if the primary distribution platform is theatrical release vs. web video vs. mobile. Speaking of which, what if you want to utilize SnapChat Stories to help your clients reach a younger demographic? Your “equipment” in that case is a smart phone.

Putting it Into Practice

So how do you take advantage of this knowledge to benefit your own business? Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many of the various media types are you/your clients currently utilizing? (Video, blogs, social media, etc.)
  • How many of the distribution platforms are incorporated into your marketing?
  • What kind of “out of the box” ideas can you apply to yours or your clients’ business?
  • Are you reading, listening to or following the social and new media mavens who keep abreast of stuff like this?

With respect to that last bullet, here are a few of the resources I use:

In my next post I’ll address the importance of knowing your audience when transmedia storytelling. In the meantime, share how you have (or are) using transmedia storytelling.

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