Friday, 15 October 2010

The best and worst examples of 'transmedia.'

Transmedia's the new buzz word for communicating across media. Think paid media, editorial, experiential, communities and social networks, the blogosphere and twittersphere. In the new digital media ecosystem, all these channels interconnect and so must the messages we convey across them.

The penalties of not doing it well can get serious.

Take BP.

The BP PR and marketing team were known to be excellent in social media; they set up an expectation of being open and honest, addressed the good, the bad and the ugly in equal measure. Their ad campaign was great too. But, when oil spilled into the seas around America's Gulf Coast, and their CEO was called to account on global TV, he negated, at a stroke, all their hard work, leaving their reputation fractured. BG Global PR, a parody of the main BP site was more visited than their own. The outcry was palpable.

In the words of a BP marketing executive at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) Masters of Marketing conference: "It provided a terrific crash course in how to do transmedia well."
It will take a new CEO to restore the company's damaged reputation. And a centralised approach to transmedia communication! One team, one message, one tone of voice. One agency; Ogilvy.

So who does it well?

Southwest Airlines for one.

They're a service brand using external comms to lead a culture shift. They recognise that people are core to their business proposition and what works for them is a specific type of employee; one that's as passionate about their business as they are. Their "Nuts about Southwest" blog celebrates their internal culture. As well as publishing stories about their people they also post to the blog 99.9% of the external comments made about their company, taking the good with the bad.
It helped them deal with the sensitive issue of Kevin Smith - the guy who was too big to fit into one seat. And in Southwest Airlines the CEO stands by his employees. When a member of his cabin crew staff was assaulted by a drunken passage the fact that the CEO wrote to the passenger and told him he didn't want him flying on his airline any more, copying in his staff member hit the headlines.

Glee, the fictional high school programme with a glee club, do transmedia well too.

Glee started as a programme format on a passive medium - TV. But it quickly spread because the brand owners understood its values and their audience, and picked up on the vibe created by other media formats e.g. American Idol and the Twilight book series. Now you can buy Glee books; including a prequel - what happened before the TV show - and a (ficitional) 'autobiography' of a book signing. The music from the show has been packaged to download on i-tunes. The series is extended with the Glee show tour, where parents as well as teen fans get involved in live events. There's an app for your i-pad and i-phone, which picks up on the trend for karaoke, and allows you to change the pitch of your voice to make it in tune, add harmonies, record and upload your song to the Glee Facebook page. You can even join someone else's song as a performer. And every new platform and brand extension expands the business model and brings new revenue streams. That's joined up transmedia communication!

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