Content is King, was what I heard ages and ages ago as I took some of my first fledgling steps into the transmedia storytelling world of that time, and it rang very true then. Context is King, was the next rallying cry heard from the people in the media industry with their gaze firmly trained on the future, and I have to admit that rang true as well. Now, in the later half of 2018, I feel we’d need something new to rally around. Perhaps we don’t need a new catchphrase though – perhaps we just need to approach some fundamental parts of our craft in a new way?
Over the course of the past few years I’ve worked with everyone from multinational billion-euro companies to producers, ad agencies, universities, organisations and private citizens, not to mention all the projects that we’ve been developing and producing on our own. It’s become more and more obvious that the relationship between the storytellers of today and the audience has changed – drastically. It’s also become painfully obvious that not everyone is prepared to accept these changes, embrace them and make the best possible use of them,
Everyone faces these challenges in different ways. For the creator or producer who works on a project and dearly would like to have an appreciative audience take part of the story they’re offering, the challenge is to identify the audience and build an organic conversation with them – a conversation that hopefully can blossom into a symbiotic and mutually fruitful, respectful and playful collaboration.
For the organisation or company it’s the challenge of connecting with large numbers of possible clients or customers, cultivating a relationship that does not feel like one between a seller and a buyer while still retaining the basic structure of one party selling something and the other party buying it, with whatever currency is appropriate (money, time, engagement…).
There’s one thing though, that I’d dearly like to see some change in – the prevailing school of thought that this essential part of any development process or outreach strategy for any kind of media content is something that needs not be budgeted for. Understand me correctly – this absolutely needs and must be budgeted for – adequately.
I’ve talked to companies and people who still feel this is something that should be a part of the marketing budget – “just squeeze it in there!” – and is something that doesn’t need any extra specification or any extra resourced attached. This is the equivalent of saying “naah we don’t need anyone on sound – the camera has a built in microphone right? Let’s use that!” while filming a high-end documentary.
The ones I’d like to see initiate this change are the big players. The broadcasters, the acquisition executives, the people sitting on the money and the power to make a project a go or a no-go. I’ve spoken to a number of producers who say that there is no leeway to make room in the budget for a proposal for this very essential part of the development and production process. There just isn’t – still! This needs to change.
I believe that with more and more examples of this being budgeted for accordingly, developed and produced (and followed up) in the correct way, the easier it will be to bring everyone else onboard. But I am afraid it will still take some time, so until then – plan for the interaction with the audience, set aside time for it and yes, budget for it (even though you might have to hide the sums away in the marketing budget), develop, produce and roll out, and learn from your mistakes. It’s the only way we can progress!