The year has started briskly with a number of articles talking about 2014 as the year of the tipping point. Finally the audience is in place (granted, it has probably been in place for quite some time already) but even more crucially, the entertainment industry is poised to take advantage of this, by moving into the creation of story worlds and franchises in an even bigger way than before.
The success of this method – which, as long as it is founded on solid stories, is an almost guaranteed success – will be mirrored by a growing number of more experimental stuff in the transmedia / multiplatform vein; from physical storytelling to fragmented storytelling and everything in between.
While this is all well and good, I think we will see an even greater change in other areas than the media and entertainment industries. Brands have increasingly focused on the ways of telling their stories that would give the largest impact. What I’m beginning to notice is a subtle shift towards the acknowledgement of well-crafted long-term campaigns and projects, ones that very well could be categorized as ”transmedia”, even if they are at the same time more documentary and more advertisement at heart.
On one hand, I know from experience that companies that have had next to no contact with storytelling – we’re talking heavy industry companies, global ones – have a hard time grasping what it’s all about and why they should even care.
Granted, if what you’re doing is selling heavy machinery or power engines or unique software solutions to niche companies all over the world, telling stories is probably one of the last things on your mind. It’s probably somewhere far behind producing on schedule, delivering on schedule and remembering not to pick your nose at the board meeting. Why would you need stories, when you’re raking in hundreds of millions on your regular business already?
What I’ve seen, especially while involved as creative, writer and strategist for the ”Energy Ambassador” project, is another facet of the issue, one that some of the companies as starting to realize exists.
In order for big companies to remain big and competitive, they crave new people in – skilled people, creative people, people who can solve problems and create new possibilities. To get new people in, the companies need to be great places to work at, as those skilled people could get hired at any other company instead in an instant.
This is where the crafting of storyworlds comes in. Not as a way to sell a couple of additional trucks or som more electrical boxes or some other kind of gear, but as a way to create and uphold the image and vision of a bustling, active and attractive place to work at.
As I see it, even the heaviest of industry companies can benefit from storytelling and transmedia methods in at least three different ways:
Make the buzz around the company buzz the right way.
Negative attention can happen to anyone and anything. Even if it looks like scandals and negative issues blow over more quickly than before, the impression of them linger and the facts, the articles and the posts on social media can be accessed again at any time in the future. One of the best ways to prevent these things from rising to the surface is to make sure the positive stories outweigh the negative ones. By utilizing transmedia storytelling methods, it is possible to ensure that these stories are coherent and logically connected to the company itself and fit into the larger narrative, supporting all other stories.
Attract the right kind of people and collaborators
As mentioned above, the competition for the best people is fierce. The companies with the best engineers, the best programmers and the best project managers will be the ones that get the biggest contracts and show the biggest growth. Now, there are a great many things that come into play when trying to attract new people (and new collaborators from other companies, come to that). Things like wages, surroundings, future plans all play a part. But storytelling does too! If you get the chance to work at a place that tickles your imagination, where you feel you will be part of a great narrative… that will have greater lure than a workplace where nothing such exists.
Get the internal pride going
This is a big part of the previous point as well, yet slightly different. Everyone who’s been a part of a startup of some kind know the feeling. You know you’re a part of a great team. You know you’ll accomplish great things. You know people are watching you with envy, and you are more than happy to sit late evenings with your colleagues (who are almost your friends as well) just to make what you do a little bit better.
For an established company, this is harder to achieve. But with storytelling it is possible; build the chapters of your narrative and write everyone in as important parts of that narrative. Press play and watch it all unfold. Just make sure you give plenty of room for people to express themselves as well; no one likes to be a puppet on strings.
Some years back is No Mimes Media did ”The Hunt” for Cisco, geared towards the sales people at Cisco. It was well crafted with a good story, and looking at it from the outside it looks like it did what it set out to do in the right way.
Sam Ford at Fast Company did a good piece a year back on why transmedia makes sense for B2B relationships.
A hands-on look at how a transmedia campaign can be shaped for an organisation was provided by James Carter last spring, a good read indeed.