Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing about some principles I feel are crucial for anyone creating stories and content today, while hoping to reach and engage people with said stories and content.
There are many ways for us to look at what we’re doing. There are many tips and tricks to keep at the back of our heads while creating our stories, planning for their distribution over different media, anticipating and enabling interaction and engagement and drawing up the strategies for the harnessing of all of this in a way that will boost future stories and future engagement. But drawing on a number of conversations I’ve had over the past week or so, I think we all need to take a couple of steps back and lift ourselves to another abstraction level, before we get down to business.
The discussions I’ve been having with people from different fields – journalists as well as marketing professionals, writers as well as filmmakers – all point more or less directly to a fundamental misunderstanding regarding our role as creators and producers and storytellers in today’s world.
The audience is no longer here for us. We’re here for the audience – if we’re lucky.
What I’m hearing are professionals– great craftsmen, gifted storytellers, skilled producers and so on – who say the right things, but clearly has not grasped what those things mean
It’s not enough to profess that the relationship with the audience has changed to a more interactive one. We need to accept and acknowledge that this, in the eyes of the (entity formerly known as the) audience, means that they are the ones producing, merely building on from a prompt we’ve provided them with as we told them our original story.
It’s not enough to say that strategies for engaging an audience are imperative. We need to realize that these strategies must allow for a great deal of flexibility, as our audience might have their own strategies for getting a rise out of us, for using our stories as platform for their own agendas or any number of other possibilities.
And it’s absolutely not enough to express a conviction that a story is best told the way we intend for it to be told. This might be the best way WE can envision for it to be told. For the majority of the people we reach, another way – slightly or greatly altered – might be the optimal way. We need to let go of the control of our stories. If we’ve managed to create something gripping and engaging and immersive enough, it will survive the clash with the audience. Survive and thrive. And if it’s not good enough… perhaps someone else might turn it into something better.