To Be Talked About Online, Be Hyper-real

About a million years ago, when I studied theatre and movement, I was fascinated by what appeared “real” on stage and what looked like it was a person slouching across an open space. There was a real difference between an actor who was able to inhabit and own the stage and someone who seemed to shrink within its open space. For some actors, this ability comes naturally but many have to work on it. And it is these techniques that interested me the most.

For a while I studied with Leisa Shelton, a brilliant and patient teacher. We would spend hours in quiet, but intense, routines, learning to stretch our bodies, extend our arms from the shoulder to the fingertip, create difficult but beautiful arcs across our shoulders, and walking with fluidity. One of the core “figures” we’d work on was drinking a glass of water – amazingly technical and challenging to master.

Leisa had, herself, studied for years in Paris, working with Ecole de Mime Corporel Dramatique de Paris-technique Etienne Decroux (1983-89) and was a member of the Meryl Tankard Co (1990-93). As a result, she generously shared not just her abilities and experiences but her stories which brought her theory and theatre practice to life for us all.

But there was one particular story that has stayed with me. It was about the physical proportions of Rodin’s The Thinker. Taking into account the position of the viewer, Rodin had created his famous sculpture larger than “real life” in order for it to appear in-proportion from the audience’s point of view. Parts of the sculpture – especially across the shoulders and back, were significantly larger than they would be in real life. And the lesson for us in this, was to appear “real” on stage, we had to work to extend the appearance of our bodies on stage, not just to be seen, or for aesthetics, but to appear real.

The same principles apply in the digital world. In fact, we are seeing a greater blurring of the distinctions between the on and offline world – they are merging into what we call “life”. This is made ever easier by the five forces impacting the future of business – social media, mobility, big data, unified communications and cloud computing. As consumers we are ever more connected and connectable – and enterprises continue to struggle to keep pace with consumer expectation and business demand.

However, we DON’T need to be in all places at all times. We need to take a lesson from Leisa Shelton and Rodin. We need to be larger than life in the spaces that we do operate. We need to be hyper-real – 10-20% bigger than we are in real life. And now, more than ever, we need to be PRESENT. That means we must be hyper-real and IN LOCATION.

Take a look at this great video promoting the upcoming release of the movie Carrie. It’s 6 million+ views come not just from a great idea, but from brilliant execution. They captured a real world impact and amplified it into our digital lives. They put a physical experience into our consciousness through digital storytelling.

In a world where our experiences dominate our perceptions, businesses, governments and not-for-profits can no longer be satisfied with a DIGITAL ONLY presence. To be talked about online, you have to be remarkable in the real world. You must act with purpose. And serve with intention.

It’s time for leaders to step up and own the space.

The french mime Jyjou*Creative Commons License jyjou via Compfight

Telling a Data-Driven Story

During the last election, I was constantly amazed by the way that politicians of all persuasions bored us to death with FACTS. It was as if they were following a mantra which was to wheel out fact after fact as though they would eventually convince us through the weight of their overburdened arguments alone.

We would hear about HOW many jobs had been created. Or HOW much debt had been accumulated. But hardly, if ever, would anyone dive below the facts to discover anything deeper. Once upon a time, journalists would have done the hard work of contextualising the facts – connecting the dots, explaining the WHYs and WHEREFOREs – and otherwise telling the story that the facts alone never reveal.

But in a world where journalism has been cut to the bone, telling the story or investigating the underlying realities is a luxury that media proprietors cannot afford. And worse, the public has been lulled into accepting the shrill, scant messages that flash across our Twitter streams as though it’s some form of dyslexic gospel. Hashtag #auspol. Hashtag #outrage.

But there is another way – and it requires a more comprehensive strategy than we have seen from our politicians. It’s also far more comprehensive than we have seen from the majority of the businesses vying for our attention and our wallets. It’s a strategy that puts a little joy back into the communications and the storytelling that we share. It reminds us that for all our grievances, aspirations and needs, we remain, resolutely and wonderfully human.

Inspired by another great Leslie Bradshaw presentation:

The data is useful, but only when it tells a story. What ever you do this week, don’t get lost in the digits of digital.

FingerprintsCreative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Lead Your Life the Right Way, the Dreams Will Come to You

One of the amazing things about the web is that we are constantly in a state of renewal. We read, consume, engage and move on. Great ideas, applications, innovations – and even people – come into our sphere of attention and leave. Sometimes without a trace. Or sometimes with only a line or two in our memory. A feeling. A sense of pride or loss.

I remember watching Carnegie Mellon University professor, Randy Pausch deliver his “last lecture” and being gobsmacked. I felt like this piece of content – this lecture from 2007 – would become “internet history”. I felt that it would somehow be automatically consumed by people as they engaged more deeply with the web, its abundant content and the bone achingly powerful stories that many share.

But I recently mentioned Randy Pausch’s last lecture and was met with a stony silence. I explained a little – to provide some context – about the world leading computer science professor famous for his work in human computer interaction. Still nothing.

In a world with an abundance of information, we continue to struggle to prioritise what comes into our sphere of attention. And in the rush to sort, file and proceed, we often – mistakenly in my view – prioritise the new in favour of the great. So today, I’d like to momentarily reverse that and suggest you spend an hour – yes a full hour – with Randy Pausch. It may just change your life.

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wil p via Compfight

 

Convergent Storytelling – or how to tell a mofo of a story

When we think of convergence, we tend to think of the obvious – of like things coming together. “Convergent media” for example is often seen as a force for disruption – yet for me, it’s far from disruptive. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it is assertive.

But what happens when the technology of production and the technology of distribution are brought to the forefront of the experience? What happens when the gaming and comic genres forcefully collide to produce new narratives and modes of storytelling? What happens when music becomes a mode of expression and commentary, doubling in on itself? And what happens when the viewer is drawn into the total experience, emerging gasping minutes later?

That what you get with the Biting Elbow’s official video for their song Bad Motherfucker (yes, don’t play it in the office without headphones).

So now think, what can you learn from the techniques, craft and approach? How would a tamed down version of this drive engagement with your customer base? What would it mean – and would you be ready for a luke warm take on this?

Biting Elbows – ‘Bad Motherfucker’ (Insane Office Escape 2) from Ilya Naishuller on Vimeo.

Brand Storytelling: Teradata’s Case of the Tainted Lasagna

Brand storytelling can be hard work. Not only are there all the internal hurdles to overcome, sign-offs and legal checks and so on – there is also the challenge of subject matter. What do you do if you have a complex product or solution that you are trying to explain? Which channels do you choose – and how do you incorporate social media into the mix.

I was recently speaking with a financial services industry CEO who lamented that they have the most boring product in the world. He couldn’t see how it would resonate with a social media-savvy audience.

But social media is not broadcast – especially in B2B (business-to-business) marketing. You’re not trying to reach and engage millions of people – you are (or should be) focused on the buyer’s journey and helping to ease your customer’s decision making process. That means selecting the most appropriate channel – and delivering content that provides very specific value to your customer at their point of need. And brand storytelling can form a very powerful component of your content strategy and lead nurturing program.

Still unsure of how this might work for you and your brand?

Enterprise software vendor, Teradata, have been experimenting with brand storytelling for some time and have taken a novel approach that you may want to steal (I mean “learn from”). Tapping into pop culture’s interest in forensic analysis (a la CSI), they have created a series of videos that take a new approach to case studies and product/solution brochures. The “Business Scenario Investigations” or “BSI” team dramatize business problems and then showcase how technology can be used to “solve” the problem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaXpsNATecc

Each of their videos can be found on the BSI: Teradata Facebook page as well as the YouTube channel. They cleverly provide a powerpoint version of the scenario via Slideshare and share the storyboarding process from problem definition to casting through to resolution.  And while the case of the tainted lasagna may not be to your taste, it’s likely to be very appealing to those CIOs and CMOs wanting to understand how data can transform their businesses. And that’s tasty. Very tasty indeed.

51: CSI: Investigates! Kit via Compfight

What Facebook’s Year in Review Reveals About Us

facebooktrendsAus The promise of big data is that it can reveal to us the truth in our behaviours, not just our beliefs.

Just think, for example, about your internet use over the last year. Or month. Or even week. What did you do? What sites did you visit? What did you click on? Why did you share a page or two, a link or a video? Now, imagine if we did the same thing for your friends – if we knew what they looked, liked and loved?

facebookstories2 And if we did the same with their friends, and their friends’ friends.

If we could overlay that in some way to create a visual tag cloud, we may just get a sense of what is important to our communities. We may garner some magical insight into what it is like to live in this rapidly changing world.

Well that’s what Facebook Stories is doing. Of course, it works best if you are a heavy Facebook user (I’m not), but it’s an interesting experiment that shows everything from your own personal timeline stories through to the trends that impacted us by country and by category.

But, for me, the most interesting thing that Facebook Stories reveals is where the pulse of our humanity lies. Take a look at some of the trends – you’ll see what I mean.

Here’s to the Curious

What did we search for in 2012 – and more importantly, what did we find? Google’s Zeitgeist 2012 reveals the remarkable personal, international and social events that brought us together. And those that tore us apart.

In Every Presentation, the Story Starts With You

Over the last month or so I have done a lot of public speaking. It can be one of the most terrifying activities that you ever willingly put yourself through. Or you may find it exhilarating. But no matter whether you fall into one camp or another, you will quickly realise that you face a challenge – and that is to tell a story.

How do you do it? Where do you start?

Simple.

You start with you.

Samantha Starmer has created this great presentation on the nuts and bolts of presentations. She suggests you start with your own story – why are you speaking and what do you want people to remember. From there it’s about understanding the environment for your presentation and getting a feel for the space and the audience; structuring the presentation well and rehearsing.

Sounds simple, right?

The reality is much more challenging. But if you follow this approach, you’ll be well on your way.

The @MarsCuriosity Rover Has More Personality Than Most Brands

When NASA’s Curiosity Rover hit the ground on Mars, it was minutes before we knew its fate (see infographic below). It takes some time for light and data to travel the 35 million miles between Earth and Mars. And yet we sat glued to the streamcast of dozens of people sitting at desks at Mission Control – hanging on every disembodied word from the flight controller – effectively living moments that had already happened.

Meanwhile, across the twitterstream, the @MarsCuriosity account was brimming with enthusiasm and pithy one-liners. One of my favourites is below.

It makes me wonder … why can’t brands adopt social media with such passion and interest? Why can’t they embrace an attitude that engages their audiences?

But it’s not just Twitter that NASA has mastered. They have open sourced their imagery and data – allowing anyone to design their own NASA-focused infographics (aka the social media expert’s tool of choice). After you have created your own infographic, you can then upload it to be shared with the NASA audience – giving you more than just a touch of space nerd celebrity.

At a guess, NASA have followed this path for a strategic reason – to drive a powerful emotional connection with a global, passionate and technically-literate audience. And at some point – around budget time – that audience will be called upon to help sway the thinking of penny-pinching politicians.

And if NASA – can orchestrate this type of sophisticated global engagement program – why can’t brands?

MarsCuriosityInfographic

When Your Brand Tells My Story – P&O’s 175th Anniversary

About four years ago I started looking at the future of brands. I wanted to explore in a series of articles what I felt was coming down the track – and to think through the implications from a branding point of view. I decided back then, that there were five key aspects that marketers would need to address:

  1. Play – how do we bring a sense of playfulness and engagement to brands – particularly in the “digital” space
  2. Micro – understanding the power of small interactions and the way these customer interactions crush the slow moving “big idea”
  3. Performance – what does it mean for a brand to “live” in a digitally-connected, always-on world
  4. Content – how content is at the heart of your brand (whether you know it or like it – or not)
  5. You – the personal dimension of branding – and what I now call “the social way”

Interestingly, I still hold these elements in my mind when I look through various campaigns and digital programs that flash across my various screens. And for better or worse, most advertising or the digital equivalent leaves me cold, detached, emotionally vacant. Every now and then I do, however, see cause for hope.

The P&O microsite celebrating 175 years of cruising history is one such ray of hope. There’s a touch of playfulness (and even some elements of the P-L-A-Y content model), micro interactions in the form of passenger stories and images, the potential for commentary and interaction, and a nice easy-to-use microsite.

Edge_P&OCruises_175 Years_Image3 copy

But this is still seems to be a brand under management rather than a truly “social brand”. Surely there are thousands of stories of P&O passengers that have already been shared on social sites like Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr or YouTube – could it have been possible to tap into what already exists? Perhaps orchestrating the permissions etc was beyond scope or budget … and yet, I wonder how a more open platform might have seen the number of submissions leap ahead – or generate more buzz around what is a great storytelling idea.

ThisIsSydneyNow

Contrast this, for example, to vibrant immediacy of the visual storytelling offered by This is Sydney Now. Drawing on the Instagram API, it shows in real time what is being tagged and shared on that photography-inspired platform. It’s voyeuristic, messy and highly addictive. To have your photo appear, all you need to do is to take a photo on a smartphone and include the geo-tag location information (a simple on/off option in the Instagram app).

Now imagine if there was 175 years of that sort of storytelling available? Now that would be a story to blow your mind.