2011 Conference

Multimedia and Social Storytelling: Capitalize on Content #heweb11

Elizabethtown’s Donna Talarico presented to a full room that had a backdrop of a glorious view of Lady Bird Lake and downtown Austin.

Donna’s very practical Web content workshop touched on these four main topics.

  1. What to do with the content that you have
  2. How to approach new content
  3. What to do when the well runs dry
  4. How to share across multiple channels

Existing content

Donna’s workshop had a “green” theme and so she talked about reducing energy by using excessive unused content. (For those of you who are familiar with video, this would be making the most of our your B-role.) Here are a few of her other tips:

  • Use existing content you’ve created for one thing, for another. Donna talked about a project wherein they interviewed staff across campus, they brought along a camera and a video camera. This way, their content providers could produce additional content in several formats for current and future projects.
  • At Elizabethtown, they have a database of alumni and student profiles and are able to feature them on sections of the site, according to topic. How did they gather these? All departments had to submit four profiles each of junior students, alumni and faculty creating a mine, or at least a solid base, of content.
  • Elizabethtown has a storytelling section of their site called “The E-town Experience” and “Be a Bigger Part of the World”. A must-check-out after this session is over.

According to Donna, “re-purposing content” is really “rethinking your content”. This leads us to…

Rethinking new content

There are so many ways to tell a story. Instead of producing content in the same manner and medium, these are the many elements that you can play with:

  • Point of view (Instead of talking about what your university does for your students, have your students tell that story)
  • Narratives (Employ more storytelling techniques as op
  • Powerpoints
  • Photos
  • Videos (High quality is not necessary if you’re targeting the YouTube generation)
  • Infographics (Highly shareable and digestible)
  • Audio (Podcasts is the form of a self-guided campus tour or a walking tour of the area in which your college or university is located)

Selling your school as if it’s a book

Can you describe your institution in the following formats?

  • Manuscript (Perhaps, the strategic and annual plans for the school)
  • Elevator Pitch (The verbal marketing version of above)
  • Book jacket (The written marketing version of above)
  • Tweet (The essence in 140 characters)

According to Donna, this is a good exercise for the communications group at your school to go through not only to have the story of your institution down-pat but also to have your story available in various lengths and formats.

Text isn’t good enough

Words are not enough (which saddens an author like me). Donna emphasized that you need to enhance written story with multimedia such as a video clip or photo slideshow.

Her tip: Why not create a multimedia event recap page? This is what Elizabethtown does after events such as homecoming utilizing video, photos, and social media snippets. That said, don’t create a “cool video” just to create a video.

What if you don’t have content?

Get to work:

  • Arm your storytellers on campus with cameras, a flip camera, a notepad or a smartphone so they can capture the campus pulse on the go.
  • Gather story ideas for later by taking notes in meetings, taking literature from around campus or have lunch with someone you don’t normally see on campus.
  • Make your content shareable. “If you make it (and it’s awesome), they will share”. How do you make it awesome? Make it funny, memorable, useful, easy and have an impact. And ask people to share. Nicely.

<h2>4. Creating a culture of sharing</h2>

Sharing is how you keep the story alive and how you allow the content to grow. So…

  • Keep communications lines open between all teams.
  • Request to be on the mailing list of any department that has a newsletter, electronic or print.
  • Share published content with those features or those who would it interesting. (A particularly good point.)

Story shortcuts

  • Create profile templates.
  • Create spreadsheet published stories for easy reference
  • Keep content you expect to have longer shelf-life “evergreen”.


All in all, this was a substantial session with practical advice and some inspiring examples.

View Session Description and Presenter’s Bio

Photo by John Kratz, Flickr.

Nichole McGill is Web Communications Director at the University of Ottawa, the largest bilingual university in the world where students study in French or in English. Content and common sense are her passions. She blogs at and tweets at @nicholemcgill.

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