Only as strong as your weakest link

 

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When developing stories and projects and creating and producing content today, the temptations are endless. Today we no longer need to ’only’ write a book or ’only’ create a movie script, the possibilities are manifold and the possible rewards huge.

On this blog I’ve been promoting the principles and methods of – well, call it transmedia, cross media, multiplatform, what have you – over the past few years. Back in the day, 2012 or -13 or so, I wrote that I couldn’t wait for the time to arrive when we no longer needed any of those terms, as everything created and produced and distributed already had all the transmedia angles and multiplatform stories needed, as a natural part of the setup from the outset. No need to defend the spreading out of a story arch over different media, no need ot justify the extra costs of applying social media-based fiction for engagement and outreach… Everyone involved would know why different media were utilized and how to do it in the best possible way.

Utopia? Indeed. But while we haven’t yet arrived fully, there are still many encouraging signs. The audience has – as audiences are wont to do – not cared one iota about the plights of the creators, instead merrily moved into the spaces most rewarding and suitable for them, leaving content producers and creators to catch up as best they can.

Creators all over the world are finding the new possibilities less and less daunting and more and more exciting with each passing day. Looking at the success of projects all around them, they take inspiration and best practices from any number of areas, applying them in innovative ways to their own creations.

Even brands and organizations are slowly but surely picking up pace, which will lead to a lot of headache-inducing mistakes, but also, ultimately, to new ways of telling stories, engaging people, harnessing engagement and providing long-lasting, rewarding experiences.

There is one point where I feel the need to stress caution though, especially looking at a number of projects I’ve been involved in in one capacity or another. Don’t overreach. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a multiplatform story arch is only as strong as its weakest story or platform.

Tweet: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a multiplatform story is only as strong as its weakest platform. http://bit.ly/1LY7i2t

You’ve created your experience as one where consuming the content on one platform is enjoyable, but consuming the content – as intended – over all platforms, building on each other or complementing each other or merely adding to the common story world will give the full, immersive experience you’re aiming for. But this, in turn, means that you have to put 100% effort into each and every one of these platforms and stories, into their content, their strategies of reaching people, their calls to action, their reward structures for interacting audiences…

Too often do I see people who pour all their energy into their film, their series, their documentary or their book, while adding on social media or vlogs or graphic novels as an afterthought. Yes, in their plans and in their outlines these are all as important part of the full experience as anything else, but their heart, as creators and producers, are set on certain parts of the output more than others. I’ll stress that I think this all is fully understandable – it’s all about our backgrounds, our experiences and what we feel the most strongly about.

What we should feel most strongly about, though, is making sure we reach and engage our audience. That should be our priority, guided by thorough research and sound strategies. If we can manage this, the platforms we feel most strongly for will also see a bigger uptake. It’s a win-win-win situation all around.

Tweet: What we should feel most strongly about is making sure we reach and engage our audience. From http://bit.ly/1LY7i2t @simon_staffans

What I’ve found is helpful is taking a step back quite often under the development process, bringing in some fresh eyes if possible, even ”playtesting” the story archs and the bridges in the narrative on paper, to analyze the different parts. Are they of equal worth, experience-wise (taking into account the traits of the different platforms)? Are their calls-to-action equally enticing? Are they logically connected, or do we risk losing people in transition? Are the rewards for engaging equally fulfilling?

Finally – don’t be afraid to drop parts of your project. There is no need to have fictional Facebook characters for your project if they don’t add positively to the experience. There’s no need to create a graphic novel just to create a graphic novel. The weakest story in your project might not, on closer inspection, have to be there at all.

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3 thoughts on “Only as strong as your weakest link

  1. Great post! That’s exactly what I’ve been telling my students at a Uni I’m teaching in. The main issue for them is, to think beyond a single extra platform (that exists in the Storyworld). However, once they’ve understood this – they then want to add on another 10 platforms (from games, apps, social media, vlogs, qr codes, merchandise, and so on)
    It’s that odd mix of pushing them to expand their boundaries, but then to temper this excitement with an understanding of manageable goals (because of experience, budget, resources, team size, appropriateness for the audience and piece and so on)

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