“Hi, my name is Laura and I am a storyteller.”
That’s how Laura D’Alessandro, integrated media editor at American Public Power Association, kicked off the “Mastering the Art of Multi-Platform Storytelling” session at ASBPE’s 2015 National Conference.
There was a point to D’Alessandro’s rather pithy introduction. In this uber-connected media world, effectively telling stories across multiple digital and mobile platforms requires, first, a compelling story. With that in hand, the editor’s attention turns to tailoring the story for greatest impact on various platforms.
“We still need to approach things in an old-school way, in that we have to tell stories that connect with people,” D’Alessandro said.
D’Alessandro urged the conference audience to think in terms of repackaging and reusing original content, commencing with the longest version of the story that makes sense for the publication. In her case, the starting point may be a 1,000-word magazine story. The same lede and facts can then be condensed into a 500-word piece that is more suitable as a blog post. The next step may be compressing the story to 200 words for use as an e-newsletter blurb.
The voice of the story often should change for the various platforms, she said. Finally, it’s time to present the product(s) on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Change the voice further to emphasize an immediate human element.
“It’s basically a creative writing exercise. You just take a piece and you cut it into varying word counts,” D’Alessandro said. “You can use it in very different places.”
Pay attention to the structure of the copy and how you can make the presentation easier for the reader’s eye on the various platforms. For example, D’Alessandro recommends using subheds to break up long stretches of copy on the web, an approach known as “chunking.”
The panel’s moderator, Paul Heney, took the repackaging approach one step further. Heney, editorial director at WTWH Media, urged editors to consider resurrecting non-germane material that gets cut from stories and finding a home for it as interesting social media nuggets.
“Sometimes there’s a place for content that’s not prototypical for your audience,” Heney said.
Panelist Kitty McConnell, assistant editor at Columbus CEO magazine, discussed her publication’s editorial-sharing arrangement with the daily newspaper in Ohio’s capital city, The Columbus Dispatch—which is owned by the same company. A journalism watchdog once described similar content convergence practices as “one of the most watched and feared experiments” in American media.
The freelance contributors to McConnell’s magazine typically are assigned 3,000- to 5,000-word feature stories, which are exclusive to the magazine. On the same assignment, the freelancers are instructed to provide an 800-word “Q&A add-on”, which appears in the Dispatch’s business section. The extra work is acknowledged in the freelancer pay structure.
McConnell said the arrangement offers the magazine “increased brand awareness in the business community” while helping the newspaper fill its pages with editorial that differs from the everyday.
“The result is that there is additional readership that we get from the Dispatch (and it’s) additional content for the Dispatch at no additional cost,” McConnell said.
Both D’Alessandro and the third panelist, Kristi Sanders, suggested studying what social-media users on your beat are talking about and how they tag items. If the information in the story is still potentially fresh to various audiences, new status updates and tweets offering the same story link can be reworded and sent out multiple times, even months into the future.
Sanders, vice president of creative and chief storyteller at Plan Your Meetings, urged the editors to customize storytelling to the myriad of digital platforms that are blossoming every day.
“Think about what the shelf life of the story is,” Sanders said. “How does the story want to be told? What can I do with these assets for the next three to six months?”
Sanders suggested using the following applications as accelerants for your stories, to boost engagement or to enhance multimedia presentation:
The “Multi-Platform Storytelling” panel took place at ASBPE’s National Conference on July 24 at New York University. See ASBPE’s Events page for an upcoming webinar or live event near you.
Dom Yanchunas is a New York-based business journalist. He is Editor at Professional Mariner magazine and Vice President of ASBPE.