Managing stories


I’ve had some interesting discussions over the past few days regarding social media and how companies address challenges and issues regarding what’s happening there.

We have all heard the value of getting something to a viral stage and the need for either robust strategies for social media or an enormous amount of good luck to make that virality happen – most often a combination of the two is needed. We’ve also heard a lot of examples where this has failed, and where companies have messed up their social media presence in the most ungraceful ways. The lynch mobs online are never far behind, it seems.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, or so the saying goes. The discussions I’ve been having have centered around the very necessary work big companies do to know as much as possible about the people active online and on social media. They need to know who is influential and who is not, who can actually impact them in one way or another and who cannot. This of course all varies, but in the mean there are surprisingly few people with the reach and the following to actually make any kind of bigger dent in a major company’s plans for the future.

Not even a mob of social media assailants are apparently something to be concerned about. It can blow over of itself, or it can, for instance, have its fires stoked by the brand itself, so that it more rapidly burns down (while at the same time offering the added value of alienating the sensible and credible voices, or burying them in a mass of vitriol).

These are, I admit, cynical approaches to peoples’ concerns, however these concerns are voiced. But as is my wont, I’ve started thinking how these approaches could be applied to, or augmented to fit, storytelling projects – especially the ones that rely on audience interaction and transmedia storytelling principles.

What I’ve landed in is what I see as a clear need for management. If I manage a client and their brand building or corporate narrative, I’m taking care to know as much as I can about them, their stories, their target audience etc. I hold regular meetings with them, put up clear goals and mirror results against these goals. I rectify, follow up and tweak narratives and strategies as needed, according to new needs, new information or new wishes.

Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.
– Paul Hawken

The same goes for my story. Following this line of thought, looking at the world my story will have to live in and find its way in, I would need to treat it as I would a client. I would approach it by striving to successfully manage its process in the world. I would need to sit down and have a meeting every now and then with my story, discussing how we thought it would play out and what the eventual results finally were.

This also means my story can hold me accountable – and I will have to let it do so. Did I mismanage it and it’s narrative (for in this mindset, my story – a narrative – will have its own story, a narrative of itself, which is its journey in the world)? Did I put up the correct goal posts? Did I do thorough enough research on the target audience and did I plan well enough for engagement and interaction?

It’s a complex world we launch our stories in. But taking a leaf or two out of management’s bible might give us a fruitful way forward.



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