Planning small muliplatform projects is a great way to get started. In this article Nicola Joseph, The CEO of the CMTO, talks about how she would have done a recent project differently if she had known how to plan it.
While I work full time at the CMTO, from time to time I like to get my hands into practical projects. For this I often go back to the station where I have done a lot of work, Radio Skid Row. As I am a local resident in the station's broadcast area, I was increasingly frustrated at the lack of stories about the gentrification of the neighbourhoods where I lived. So I came up with the idea of a documentary series called "There Goes the Neighbourhood". Each documentary looked at a different community/suburb in the area and how gentrification was affecting them.
The project team consisted of a website writer, a photographer and a number audio producers. The idea was that once we finished the five documentaries we would play them on air and then make them available on the station's website along with photos and articles about gentrification around the world.
What planning did I do?
To be honest the early planning mapped out the content for the radio documentaries as I saw them as the centrepiece of the project. I just figured that if we got the photographer to travel around the areas we were reporting on she could take photos which represented gentrification. That was pretty much the brief she got. You can tell from this that I was thinking about the issue more than the way we were going to tell the story.
Somehow the planning was about the logistics of getting each piece of content done and not about how those pieces of content intertwine to tell a story.
How did it turn out?
There is no doubt the radio documentaries turned out to be great. The photographs were also really high quality and basically the website looks good. But that's where it all ended. We didn't get the interaction we hoped for through sharing that content on social media and while we added content to the website for a few months it is basically a museum piece sitting buried somehwere in the station's website.
What would I have done differently?
Everything, now that I've learnt more about digital content planning. The first thing I would do is take the radio documentary out of the centre of the project and put the story itself in its place.
As it turned out, each suburb had different characters who emerged as the main characters of each episode. If we had been thinking characters from the start, we would have sent the photographer to shoot short videos and take photos with the various radio producers when they did the interview.
This is what the content platforms might have looked like:
Here is an example of the content we could have produced if we had planned with all platforms in mind and the story still in the centre! All three of the characters, Hanan, Jill and Harold are from various suburbs. You can see here how we extend the storytelling across all the platforms and engage an audience to actively contribute to the project. Our photographer would have accompanied the producer and together they woud make sure they got enough content to cover all of the platforms:
Of course there is much more to add to this simple first brainstorm with myself.
I can already see that the audio from the slideshows could be used as on air promos and the writer's work still has to be planned. What I have learned is that the new media environment is constantly changing and every project is a work in progress that requires us to be agile, adapting and responding to those moments when the content seems to take on a life of it's own.