Think inside your boxes – find new ways to reach and engage an audience

Last week I read a good post by Jay Bushman on ”6 expert tips for multiplatform content creators”. One of the points stood out to me in particular – the need to throw out the manual and think in new ways regarding platforms and tools and possibilities. For Jay, this is about looking at platforms in new ways and about using different platforms in ways they were not necessarily intended to be used in.

The more I think about applying this to my own work and projects I consult on, the more I believe that for me it’s about starting this train of thought way earlier than that.

At the beginning of any project there is (hopefully) a solid story waiting to be told and explored. Most often, this story also has a main platform it’s attached to – if it’s a book, a movie, a web series, a graphic novel, an online experience or something else. If it’s developed in true multiplatform or transmedia mode, it also has a suitable number of other possible – or even probable – platforms to spread the story out on or continue affiliated stories on.

What I feel would be beneficial would be to take this initial story and port it to other media. Not necessarily for actual production, but for the added value of looking at the content, the narrative, in another light, and see which new avenues open up.

For instance, if you re-imagine your book as an online choose-your-path adventure, you will be confronted with several challenges. How do you hook your audience? What does a user journey look like? How would you hope to achieve virality? What happens when the user reaches the end of the experience – where do you point them.

The experience of this mental excercise can be directly taken back to the initial property and be used to enhance the offering the book consists of.

Vice versa – if you have an online experience you want people to engage in and interact with, try to port it into a movie script. You’ll soon be confronted with the traditional challenges of building a credible narrative that will keep your audience interested and engaged for a couple of hours at the least. This material can then be taken straight back to the online experience you want to produce and be used to influence the narrative to make it more engaging and exciting.

I could give a number of other examples, but I think you get the general idea. In short, I believe we shouldn’t simply think outside the box – we should instead carry all possible boxes with us in our toolbox, and put our ideas in one box at a time and see how the boxes influence how we view our content.

Simon Staffans is a content and format developer and media strategist, employed by MediaCity Finland. He works with multiplatform storytelling, transmedia development procedures and great stories. Contact him at simon.staffans(at)gmail.com or follow him on @simon.staffans.

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