By Denise Zimmerman published March 8, 2012

Transmedia Storytelling: 4 Tips for Creating a Consistent Content Strategy

At the office, at home, and on the go, consumers are digesting and interacting with content on multiple platforms in increasing numbers. As marketers and content strategists, we need to be able to anticipate and meet their needs to engage, connect, and motivate them — whenever and wherever they need information. At the heart of our ability to reach this goal is developing a consistent transmedia storytelling content strategy.

A consistent transmedia content strategy will not only help facilitate stronger and more meaningful connections with your customers, but it can also significantly extend the value of your content and amplify its overall impact.

While the best practices for content strategy are still evolving, there are steps you can take now to implement an effective transmedia content agenda that can be updated as content marketing practices continue to take shape.

Here are a few tips to consider as you get started:

1. Establish content strategy as a practice and discipline in your organization

While companies are starting to hire “content strategists,” the discipline of “content” itself is still evolving, and its practices vary — even the very definition of “content” is still under debate. Content can be audio, video, a logo, words, pictures, a button, meta data, tags, a tweet — anything that conveys meaning to spur action to achieve business goals. Or, said in another way, content is anything that is at the core of what makes and supports meaningful, interactive experiences.

Establishing a content strategy practice begins with a universally understood and accepted definition, so that it can be applied consistently to all your company’s efforts. Content strategy may very well exist in your organization already (even if it’s not defined as such). But establishing a universal company perspective, focus, and definition right from the start will help rally the troops to produce more unified and consistent efforts. Elevating its relative importance as a means to reach overall company brand and marketing goals is critical to gain the required support, buy-in, and participation for your efforts.

After you’ve defined what content means for your brand, your next step is to outline a process and methodology to standardize content development across your company. This will help bring clarity and drive the creation of more effective solutions.

How you go about this will vary depending on the nature of your business and how the organization is currently aligned around content, but it’s imperative that you start with one key concept:

2. Connect your content efforts to existing brand and/or marketing goals

To be consistent, your content strategy must evolve from the core, centralized, and overarching brand and/or marketing priorities that your company has in place. A consistent storytelling transmedia content strategy is not just about making sure you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a website, a mobile strategy, a URL in your TV commercial or print ad, and so forth. It’s a common error that companies can integrate a content program by tacking on platforms or channels, or idly placing links across the web.

Forging a content strategy that flows through and supports your overall brand/marketing strategy will not only facilitate consistency but also helps encourage seamless integration. Furthermore, it will reveal superficial connections and identify wasteful or misguided content executions to help craft more productive solutions moving forward.

To make this actionable when developing your content strategy, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Are your content ideas consistent with your current brand personas and marketing goals?
  • How will your content fit into, support, and advance your overall marketing strategy?
  • Are your messages on brand?

Also look to develop content guidelines (much like brand guidelines) and style guides to help facilitate, guide, and direct future efforts for all your team members in content and marketing, so that your efforts will all speak to your overall branding and outreach goals.

3. Identify, analyze, and prioritize

Know what assets you have at your disposal, and what additional resources or materials you will need to do the job right. More often than not the work involved in content strategy development and deployment spans an entire organization, so it can require participation from multiple, cross-functional teams — even those that may not always be obvious.

For example, content can come out of IT, PR, marketing, advertising, and other departments or practices within an organization. So it’s important to determine, in advance, who is responsible for developing your mobile strategy, your SEO, your social media communications, your advertising efforts, and your website, and bring them in on your content strategy meetings and brainstorms. Many organizations haven’t yet taken this global view of the materials that already exist or have been planned. Consistent guidelines, processes, and methodology cannot exist in a vacuum, so it’s essential that you identify existing content, analyze its potential effectiveness, evaluate the quality, and map its importance and effectiveness to company objectives before developing new content.

And it all starts by performing an overall audit and analysis of existing content.

An audit of existing content will not only help fuel your content strategy but will also help identify content sourcing resources and opportunities to maximize those resources. Consider how content might be redistributed and/or repurposed in other channels of delivery. Look to identify and mark content life cycles to create a system and processes that govern the development and management of content. Putting these processes and systems in place will help support consistency later on, as you execute on the content strategy you develop.

4. Make content findable, distributable, and extendable

While consistency in message, form, and voice is borne from connecting to overarching strategies, process, and practice guidelines, it is at the media consumption level where you get to truly savor the impact. So once you have your content, you need to determine where you will distribute it, how you will make it findable by your consumers, and how you will enable those consumers to share it across their networks.

The rapid growth of multi-platform media consumption and the rise in media audience fragmentation underscore the importance of understanding where and how our customers are consuming content. Most media strategies transverse platforms and channels to include both paid and earned media — including user-generated content. Your customers are seeking your content, distributing and sharing it as well as creating their own content that relates to your brand, so a consistent transmedia storytelling strategy may require you to modify or create new content so that it can be found, consumed, and shared across platforms.

Top brands, like in the Black & Decker example above, encourage and enable transmedia participation in their content campaigns. Even coupons, such as the ones offered by Airborne (below), can be re-purposed on platforms such as Facebook to help drive engagement, sharing, and email sign-ups. While some of these considerations lie more in the execution phase of content development, understanding where and how to implement your content strategy — and figuring out how everything will work together — will feed and inform your entire strategic process.


Did it work?

Even after you have your core content plan laid out, there’s still the very important consideration of measurement. A comprehensive transmedia storytelling strategy needs to establish the success metrics that will tie back to your overall goals, ensure effective consistency, and validate the results of your efforts.

Make sure you build in checks and balances, set benchmarks, and be prepared to apply a number of different measurement scenarios and tests to help you gauge how well your content efforts performed. Some common measurement guidelines you can use include:

  • conversion rates
  • engagement rates
  • new customer acquisition rates
  • cost per sale calculations
  • earned impressions
  • changes in the number of “shares” your content generates

To be sure there are a number of different ways to approach developing a consistent, transmedia strategy. Use the tips and approaches outlined here as thought starters and actionable insights that can help you advance and elevate your efforts. If you have additional ideas for maintaining consistency and quality across your multi-platform content efforts, we would love to hear from you in the comments.

Author: Denise Zimmerman

Denise is President & Chief Strategy Officer at Netplus, a full service digital agency. A 25-year marketing veteran, Denise has spent the past 18 years of her career focusing on the emerging digital landscape and best practice applications in marketing and communications. She and the Netplus team have combined decades of experience in helping industry-leading brands to capture the measurable value of the interactive medium with a proven record of innovation focused on results. You can connect with Denise on LinkedIn or on Twitter @dzimmerman.

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  • Jim Woolfrey (@informative)

    Thanks for writing this.  It’s a great article in general, although there were a couple of things that I didn’t entirely agree with… perhaps I’m overly nit-picky, but here are a few thoughts:

    Tip 1: Establsh content strategy…

    I generally agree in principal, and although I have a slightly different take on the definition of “content” yours is reasonably solid.  The second paragraph — “establishing a content strategy practice begins with a universally understood and accepted definition” — (a) of what?  Content… or Content Strategy?  and (b) this premise tends to simplify the situation that many face in larger organizations.  Perhaps if you’re a benevolent dictator you can simply make your definition and outline a process… and “ta-da” you’re done.  I might suggest that the process of establishing content strategy will certainly be different for everyone. You may have the benefit of instituting it top-down, but more often than not, methinks, especially in complex enterprise organizations, the practice begins with a bottom-up approach of identifying the value that content has to the business, and building the case for content as a business asset… first from a marketing/sales perspective, and the expanding into the broader business. Bottoms up! I say.  That said, you make some good points in this tip.

    Tip 2: Connecting content efforts to existing brand and/or marketing goals.

    Some good points, for sure, although the “few key questions” to ask “to make this actionable” seem overly focused on brand and marketing messaging and goals, while missing equally (or more) critical “key questions” such as:  What does our target audience want?  How does our content relate to the wants/needs of our customers?  How does your content connect the dots between customer needs and business needs?  The point I’m trying to make is that the critical “key questions” should be focused on evaluating content based on the needs of the content consumer as much as those of the content producer.

    Tip 3: Identify, analyze, and prioritize…

    All very good points, especially bringing in stakeholders from across the organization for input and buy-in, and the focus on developing governance systems and processes.  I have a mild issue with the claim “it all starts by performing an audit and analysis of existing content.” Yes — that’s a critical early step in the process, but I contend that “it all starts” (more effectively, anyway) with a carefull discovery and articulation of both the needs of the business (or organization) and the needs of the customer (member, user, visitor, target, whatever), because without *that* the auditing and analysis is hunchwork.  That, and the final paragraph over-emphasizes a focus on the content that exists.  The real emphasis should be on the content that *doesn’t” exist, or more broadly on all of the content that is needed, whether it exists yet or not, and prioritizing the most critical bits and pieces of content that satisfy both customer and business needs… and *then* go back to the content that exists to determine how best it fits… what to use, what to discard, what to re-purpose, etc.  The rest — all great points on developing processes and governance.

    Tip 4: Make content findable, distributable and extendable.  This is generally spot on, although I stumbled on the line: “…understanding where and how to implement your content strategy…” which does not make sense to me in the context of otherwise salient points about transmedia distribution and participation.  It’s sort of the other way around — where the content strategy helps inform your transmedia programs and tactics… no?  It sounds a bit to tactical in this paragraph/sentence, like “oh… let’s apply a little content strategy over here, and apply a little over there…”  Know what I’m sayin?  But again, perhaps nit-picky of me when the bulk of this “tip” is solid.

    Thanks again,


  • Greg Giersch

    I haven’t read the fine details, but bravo for your organization. Your four tips in general are right on at the view from 30,000 feet. Details can always be worked out.

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  • Chris Carmichael Ubiquity Corp

    A consistent transmedia contentstrategy will not only help facilitate stronger and more meaningful connections with your customers.