As a “newbie” to the South by Southwest festival (SXSW), I had the opportunity to experience what many attending the conference take for granted and others might have a hard time imagining.
Here is what I saw…
Thousands of individuals – laptops, tablets and iPhones in hand – checking in on Foursquare, tweeting, texting, sharing on Instagram, posting to Facebook – basically engaging with every type of social channel to ask questions, make plans, keep up, work, discover and in general stay abreast of what was happening, as it happened.
So with this frenzy of activity, who had time to learn? Everyone!
Panels ranged from the core conversations that included audience participation to very specific, technical sessions across a broad array of topics. But one thing was clear, the dialogue has changed. Social is no longer viewed as an outside force or a threat to traditional ways.
Through the conversations I had with media professionals, companies and organizations, it is clear that social media has been assimilated and is embraced as an integral part of any brand strategy. However, this doesn’t mean that every company is engaging with every channel.
Just as a surgeon may have hundreds of tools at his disposal but doesn’t take every one into each surgery, social channels are tools to be used strategically depending on a company’s objectives and the message it wants to communicate.
One of the most interesting sessions I attended was Storytelling Beyond Words: New Forms of Journalism. A highly-esteemed panel of experts that included Aron Pilhofer, editor of interactive news at The New York Times, Bill Adair, editor of Politifact, and Jim Brady, editor-in-chief of Digital First Media, discussed the often emotional changes their organizations implemented to ensure they were positioned to take advantage of all existing and emerging tools. From changing their approach to stories to understanding who should have a seat at the table, these media outlets needed to adapt – and so do businesses and organizations.
Each company has a story to tell, but today, the tools you use to tell the story are completely different. We can no longer view how we deliver these messages through a single, focused lens. There is a fundamental shift in the approach to be taken. Story generation and the way we develop content has changed. The following are a few key take-aways for communicating your story, whether you are talking to existing customers, prospects, the media, investors, or others.
Before you do anything, ask yourself:
- Do I have the right people in this meeting? The shift in tools requires that, in addition to the writers, your “digital people” have to be in the first meeting, too.
- What is the best way to tell this story?
- Is this story best told through short or long-form journalism, video, data, photos or a combination? With complicated content, for example, including video helps to simplify the explanation and can be a way to easily demonstrate your product or establish a relationship with a prospect.
- What do I want this story to be? If it’s fact-based, ask yourself if there is a data visualization technique you can use to help illustrate the information.
- How does my audience want to interact with this story? Do they want a quick highlight with a deeper story available?
- What tools will I use to push this information out into the market? For certain audiences, tweeting with a link might work best. For others, an e-newsletter could be the ticket.
Whatever you do, be open to all of the possibilities. The fun is in the telling.