The storyteller evolved - the fluid and authentic validator

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking at the Documentary Campus Masterschool in Cologne. I’d been asked to speak about things transmedia (which is a term I still find myself using, not for pitching but definitely in my own development work) and multiplatform, and how to use these methods and ways of thinking to engage with an audience in a fruitful way. I thought I’d share part of what I was talking about, which ties into things I’ve written about earlier on this blog. They were true then, at least to me, and they still are. Three  things I talked about were fluidity, authenticity and validation:

FLUIDITY

The art of consciously letting go of traditional rigidness and purposefully embracing the flow of the stories and the volatile nature of the audience.

Fluidity is the art of moving with the flow of the story. I’m from a traditional media background and I know the comforting security of working against a deadline and having a set launch date or a broadcast spot, and then you’re finished with your program or your show and it’s broadcast and then you move on to the next thing.

It’s very reassuring, very stable and very nice.

Now I believe we need to be more fluid regarding our content and our approach to our audience. We know what we want to create, but if we know our audience and who we want to reach and affect with our content and our stories, we need to keep alive the possibility to react to things that are happening around us. Transmedia storytelling can help with this!

See – if we’ve applied transmedia storytelling methods to our project from the beginning, we have done some things. We have

described the world our story exists in, the world that makes up the foundation of the story we’re trying to tell in, for instance, our documentary. We know the rules of this world, the characters (also the ones not appearing in our main piece of content), their motivations, the environment – all the things that are not told in the documentary
drawn up some plans about other stories, parallel to the main one in the documentary, that can be told from other parts of the world we’re describing; perhaps on other media platforms, perhaps in other ways
analyzed our main target group and know some things about what platforms they’re on – are they predominantly Netflixing content or do they watch broadcast TV as well? Can we reach them on social media, and how in that case? What are their interests and their motivations? What engages them?

All of this allows us to be more fluid and more able to respond to movement among our target groups. If someone takes part of what we’re talking about, cuts it out from context, puts it together with other sentiments and starts an eager discussion about that, we can use one of the other story lines we’ve been thinking about to tell another facet of the same issue, reclaiming the narrative and guide the discussion in a desired way. In essence, fluidity is what gives us a fighting chance of retaining some semblance of control over the narrative.

AUTHENTICITY

The art of staying true to oneself and one’s core message in all aspects of communication and interaction.

Authenticity is another extremely important word to take into consideration. Be who you are, no matter what you are. Insincerity shines through, as does trying to hide something. You don’t have to be a do-good nonprofit organization, you don’t have to be Mother Teresa, you don’t even have to be very likable – just as long as you keep your authentic voice constant on all media and in all communication, so as not to give conflicting impressions to the audience and give them reason to doubt that you are who you say you are.

The world is full of companies trying to be something they’re not on social media, and making fools of themselves when they are caught out… so we should agree to simply don't!

VALIDATION

The habit of acknowledging the audience and their engagement, of celebrating their loyalty and involvement, and of basing this on a sound strategy.

The third one, validation, is as important as any of the others. I know that I’ve wanted to produce my content, publish it – on TV, online or whereever – and be done with it. Yeah, sure, I can talk about it with people and accept awards for it an so on, but on the whole, when I’ve come up with something, produced it and distributed it, I’m done with it.

Not anymore though. If we manage to create something that engages people, and we’ve managed to retain fluidity and autheticity, and we’ve even managed to come up with a great plan for interaction and engagement, we’ve embedded brilliant calls to action in the narrative, and we’ve gotten people to actually commit themselves… then we need to be prepared to validate their engagement.

We need to have strategies in place for how to celebrate everyone who engages themselves in our narrative. Is it enough with a Facebook ”like”? Do we need to acknowledge them and then challenge them further – if they want to engage themselves further? How do we showcase their engagement to other people? And how do we retain our authenticity and fluidity throughout this process?

Our content is moving to a future when it is becoming a long term engagement … for good and for bad.

TL:DR:

The audience is changing and there’s no turning back

The competition for attention is fiercer than ever

Transmedia storytelling can help us find ways to reach and engage

CHECKLIST FOR PRODUCERS

Look at the world of your narrative – what other voices can you find?
Think about your audience – research them – where, what and how?
Strive for fluidity, authenticity and to validate and celebrate your audience


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