I was chatting with Christian Payne, AKA Documentally, on Friday about his unplanned approach to storytelling. For the most part, Christian asks questions on the fly, teasing out a story as the interview (audio is his thang, but sometimes it’s video) unfolds. I want to try and use Christian’s approach with my project.
In my last project, based on communities of practice, I was told repeatedly that it’s best not to pre-interview someone and risk using up all their best quotes before you get to press record on the video or audio recorder. So how can you prepare if you’re not 100 per cent what the story is? And how can you get the story before you’ve spoken with the subject of that story? See my problem?
Luckily for me, my subjects are all bloggers so some of their story is laid bare on the web. But there are loads of unanswered questions and I won’t know what the answers are until I press record and start throwing out questions. Obviously, editing will help tell the story - whatever it may be - more coherantly, but what I also don’t know is how these bloggers will ‘perform’ when I’m recording. In past epxeriences, I’ve spoken with people who have great stories but they clam up when you start recording.
So my interviews will be more like an informal chat, with limited preparation beforehand. Christian says the difference between needing to plan for an interview, or not, is an interested interviewer. If the person asking the questions is interested in the subject, there’s no need to plan, he says. And if they’re not interested, then they’ll need a list of questions in front of them to get the best out of their interviewee.
That’s the first battle won, I’m interested. The second battle will be to tease out those stories in an engaging way so, when I edit out my own voice, they’ll stand alone and make some kind of impact.
And that’s when the ‘tentacle media’ approach comes into play, a phrase coined by Christian. He suggests using a combination of media - images, text, audio and video - to best engage your audience, with all the individual elements (the tentacles) linking back to one main blog post (the body).
The phrase ‘tenticle media’ describes positioning your content so your audience - even if they only stop by for a moment - leave with some grasp of the story you’re trying to tell.
So, start with an image to set the scene and a few words to explain what your story is about. Then include the audio, followed by more text which the visitor to your site can scan while listening. And even if they don’t listen to the audio they’ll get the crux of the story from the text. And video, if you choose to use this as well, sits down the bottom of the page as an added bonus.
Say the image is hosted on Flickr, the audio on AudioBoo and the video on YouTube, all of these individual elements of the story should join together in one blog post. And those individual elements should all link back to that blog post. And tenticle media is born!
So that’s my strategy, to produce a quality podcast series enhanced by images, text, links and maybe even video.
Huge thanks to Christian for chatting to me!