Simon Staffans, Media Strategist at MediaCity, Transmedia – Industry Interview

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To kick off 2014 in style we have one of the most forward thinking transmedia gurus, Simon Staffans.

Simon Staffans, Transmedia Expert

Simon Staffans believes in the possibilities and powers of multiplatform storytelling, in transmedia development. That transmedia enables telling, sharing and distribution of great stories.

I have been following Simon Staffans tweets and FB page for a while and met him where he was giving a masterclass on transmedia at X Media Lab, Lausanne. A fantastic weekend with great talks by experts in their field, networking in beautiful switzerland (they do change location). A MUST for anyone interested in media, storytelling, and especially transmedia!

Not only being an honest, genuine and friendly chap Simon has been working in various media positions, from radio to newspaper. Allowing experience and knowledge which favour multiplatform storytelling. Currently Simon works as cross media and transmedia strategist at MediaCity, Finland and has his own company Storista.

Novel Influence – 1. What is the biggest challenge for a transmedia producer?
This depends on two things – the producer him- or herself, and the project in question. Within these variables there are a number of challenges – on a personal level everything from lack of certain skillsets to not being able to delegate and cooperate enough, on a project level everything ranging from finances to collaborators and technical challenges.

The biggest challenge the average transmedia producer still faces though, is to get a transmedia project off the ground without compromising on quality or scope. This is the same across the board, in my experience. It doesn’t matter whether it is an entertainment property for a TV channel or if it’s a corporate storytelling project for a company – transmedia is still an odd bird, especially among people who are not used to having to deal with storytelling on more than a superficial level.
That’s where we as storytellers need to step out of our roles a bit. Just as we would understand very little of the finer points of any other profession, at least until someone has explained them to us, we can’t take for granted that collaborators and clients have knowledge of even the vocabulary used in the setting of a multi platform project. We need to work a lot on our pitches and on how to cooperate with other partners in a story, to be able to create the best content possible.
There are a lot of pieces that need to fall into place to make a successful transmedia project a reality, but striking the right chord from the beginning – i.e. having the luxury of a client who is on the same wavelength as you – might be the most crucial one. And yes, I know it’s a luxury that anyone would want in any kind of job with clients, but in a transmedia setting any differences or arguments have the possibility to magnify.

2. How would you use second screen to engage or interest audiences with TV shows?

Well, the question might be if the tablet or the smartphone really is the second screen anymore, or if the second screen nowadays actually is the television screen. Assuming that that’s the case, that the tablet really is the second screen that is, I think we need to build on the strengths of that screen. This means not pushing actions on the people using the second screen but tapping into what they’re already doing there, which in many cases is related to social media. A recent study seems to point to this; people are already using their screens for something else while watching TV, all 75% of them, but the actual produced second screen possibilities only get a favourable rating from 13% of them. This, in my mind, indicates that the TV industry as an industry still hasn’t really gotten it – they’re not in charge anymore. They can offer up content on any platform, but the choices their intended audience has are basically endless, and pushing interaction on them will only help pushing them away (http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/tv-viewers-arent-thrilled-with-second-screen-synchronized-content-study-finds-1201040757/) .

3. Could you tell us your perspective on Brand Story?

It encompasses everything from values to principles to thought leadership and strategies. Most of all it should convey the essence of the brand. The Brand Story can have a number of intended target groups, and should be grounded in such a fully-fledged story world that no matter from what angle you view it – as a possible client, a possible customer, an existing collaborator or a former employee, or anything in between – you should be able to see the same brand story, only with slightly differing reflections.

4. What brands are creating great Brand Stories?

You have one good example right here. Black Milk Clothing is a good company when it comes to this, creating a fabulous – and short, and to the point – story about themselves, where they come from, where they are now and why. It’s great because it’s fuelling the reader’s imagination while giving enormous credit to their loyal and hip customers, assisting future and current co-workers no end when it comes to talking about the brand and interacting with customers.

5. How can brands tell their story using transmedia?

First off brands need to know what story they want to tell. Then they need to know whom they want to tell it to. Finally, they need to reach deep down to find out what the needs in question are – the needs that they’re addressing with their campaign. This is the brand’s needs as well as the needs of their targets audience.

6. What advice would you give to people looking to create a transmedia narrative?

Collaborate and let yourself be inspired. Collaborate, since very few of us as multi-disciplinary geniuses, and there are probably a great number of people who would be better at coding – for example – than you. Let yourself be inspired, since whatever it is you’re trying to do, chances are someone done something similar before; analyse their success (or lack thereof) and build on it.

7. What projects would you say have been extremely successful transmedia narratives? Why?

There are narratives on so many levels… Why So Serious? was a brilliant campaign back in the day. Game of Thrones, Dexter, the interactions around True Blood… Lizzie Bennet Diaries (and Welcome to Sanditon), Networlds, Collider, Beat Girl, Almost Human… the documentaries from NFB and Tribeca.. Don’t know about “extremely” successful, but successful and thought-provoking. They have all succeeded the best where it has counted for the most; in telling their stories in an enthralling and engaging way. For a fairly comprehensive list of transmedia and multi platform projects in 2013, take a look at the recap post here: http://simonstaffans.com/2014/01/01/year-2013-the-projects/

8. What projects do you have in the pipeline that you are very excited about?

The one I’m the most excited about has to remain a mystery for now, I’m sorry 🙂


For more information and updates from Simon Staffans, check out his twitter account, personal website and MediaCity.

Dan Ball
Dan Ball
Brand Narrative Designer at Novel Influence. Dan decided to set up Novel Influence to help brands navigate the multi-platform and provide a new age approach to effectively connect brands with an audience. The approach was telling and sharing brand stories. This approach use a framework that assists brand creating ecosystems, authentic social good and authentic stories around the brand. Dan Ball on Google
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