Transmedia Storytelling: A Modern Practice Drawing on Ancient Skills
Recent developments in technology have revolutionized the ways in which people communicate with each other and process information. Gone are the days when advertisers could reach their intended audience simply by interrupting television programs. Today, there are so many other things to do besides sit through a commercial break- surf the Internet, check for text messages, or even skip commercials altogether using a DVR. Because it is so easy to filter out unwanted or uninteresting information, it is vital that anyone who wishes to convey a message grab the attention of their audience. One way of doing this is a technique called transmedia storytelling.
Transmedia storytelling is a modern practice that draws on techniques employed for centuries by storytellers to engage their audiences. Storytellers hook listeners by using universal themes, personal connections, emotion, engagement, and personal relevance to communicate meaning while building a relationship between the speaker and the listener. In a corporate context, such storytelling personalizes a brand and helps executives focus on key goals, delivering a cohesive message with a common focus.
Because people have been telling stories for tens of thousands of years, the human brain is adapted to engage with stories and process their meanings. This evolutionary adaptation allows such stories to supersede the noise generated in modern times by a constant barrage of information from cell phones, computers, and other devices. People respond well to messages that are interesting and personal. Whether the message comes from an individual or a corporation, it must be delivered with authenticity and in such a way that it grabs people’s attention, has a value unto itself, and inspires further action through communicating passion and purpose.
Transmedia storytelling is not just another way of communicating the same message; instead, it is a means of developing a nuanced message that is told across multiple media, which can include websites, mobile apps, television or movie spots, video games, and any kind of literature. Because this message is delivered in a variety of ways, it has the power to reach members of different demographics. While each piece can stand on its own, together they deliver a richer and fuller picture of an individual or company’s message.
There are essentially four parts to transmedia storytelling: the cultural, historical, and neurological qualities of the message; the media used to convey this message; the development of a compelling and coherent story; and matching each audience with the message most relevant to their lives delivered by their technological platform of choice. When these four qualities come together, the message of an individual or a company can be heard above the noise of modern life. As technology continues to advance and the barrage of information continues, it is essential that companies and individuals master the techniques of modern transmedia storytelling so that they will have the capability to reach and inspire audiences with their passion and purpose.