Back to School Special: Transmedia, New Media, and Strategic Communication

Last time, I shared with you the syllabus for my course on Cultural Studies of Communication. Today, I wanted to share the other class I am teaching this term — a class that explores contemporary forms of branding and PR strategies, for the Masters students in our Strategic Communication Program. The class is an interesting one for me to teach because it fuses cultural and communication theory (with a particular focus on transmedia, participatory culture, crowd sourcing and spreadable media, but also work on brand communities, culture jamming, and fan activism) with more applied perspectives coming out of the marketing literature. Our over-all approach is strongly informed by Grant McCracken’s concept of the Chief Culture Officer and especially by Robert Kozinet’s netnography approach. Our goal is to get future PR/branding professionals to incorporate forms of cultural analysis and the bigger picture of media change into how they approach their work. Along the way, they will be reflecting on their own relations to brands, analyzing campaigns that deploy these methods, developing their own hypothetical campaigns which apply these insights, and hearing from a range of professionals who are helping to manage brands or developing insights on media audiences. I co-teach the class with a Strategic Communication faculty member and industry veteran Burghardt Tenderich, who is in the process of writing a book on transmedia branding strategy. We met for the first time last night. Here are a few of the cases we explored in our opening session.

These videos represent examples of how brands attach themselves to an existing entertainment property:

These are a few examples where brands have constructed their own transmedia stories:

Campfire Media’s Deja View Campaign

JOUR 491: Transmedia, New Media and Strategic Public Relations/Communication

4 units
Spring 2015—Tuesday—6:00 – 9:20 pm

Instructor: Henry Jenkins, Burghardt Tenderich

 

  1. Course Description

We are in the midst of a period of profound and prolonged media change, which is impacting the ways messages are generated and circulated. The communications and marketing industries are now facing pressure to rewrite the rules around branding and strategic communication. At the heart of these changes are four core concepts:

 

Participatory Culture, as represented by dramatic shifts in the communication capacity of everyday people and grassroots communities, including the capacity to produce media that in some way challenges or revises messages produced by media companies, advertising agencies, and corporate communicators.

 

Transmedia Branding, as defined through the dispersal of core information and experiences surrounding a brand across multiple media platforms with the goals of intensifying audience engagement.

 

Spreadable Media, as characterized by the central role that social networks play in shaping how messages travel across the culture and get customized and diversified as they get inserted into a range of ongoing conversations.

 

Crowdsourcing, as witnessed by the increasing number of organizations cultivating online communities to solve problems, innovate products, and provide input that benefit them, bringing the collective intelligence of a crowd to bear on challenging opportunities.

 

Overall Learning Objectives and Assessment

The central concern of JOUR 491 is to help students navigate how public opinion and reputation are formed and negotiated at the intersection between top-down corporate communication and more grassroots and networked forms of expression. What does it mean to conceive of brand messages not as a monologue where brands speak to their audiences but rather a dialogue where consumers often speak back to brands? Our goal is to consider a growing body of literature that looks at the nature of consumption and storytelling within a networked culture in order to identify some core principles that might shape public relations practice.

 

Because of the rapidly changing nature of this media environment, PR professionals need to be able to map the ways brand messages get taken up, reshaped, recontextualized, and redirected by a range of different groups for their own purposes. They need to be able to propose new strategies that engage with rather than seeking to shut down grassroots discussions about their brands. The course further places current theories into action in the PR domain and thus tests their value for informing practice. Emphasis is placed on strategic problem solving skills rather than tactical execution.

 

While JOUR 491 Transmedia, New Media and Strategic Communication is offered within the public relations studies program, it is open to students from other programs who want to engage with these emerging accounts of branding and communication practice within the new media landscape.

 

 Description of Assignments

 

Participation and Class Discussion

In addition to making regular contributions to class discussion, students will be asked to post comments on a designated discussion forum on a weekly basis as they reflect on readings, class discussion and information obtained outside the classroom. These postings will be taken into consideration for subsequent class discussion.

 

Blackboard Postings

Students should share short reflections or questions on the materials read for each week’s session, which can be used as a springboard for class discussions. We particularly encourage students to identify contemporary examples of the branding examples being discussed. Ideally, these should be posted by 10 a.m. on the day the class is being held.

 

Autobiographical Reflection Paper

Select a brand which you find personally meaningful and describe how your relationship with this brand has evolved over time. What aspects of the brand appealed to you? When did you first become attracted to this brand? What impact have specific commercials or campaigns had on your relationship to the brand? How do you use this brand to express something of your own identity or to connect with other consumers? Using your own experience as a starting point, and drawing on our readings so far, discuss the issue of whether the meanings of brands originate with consumers as much as they do from the products or the advertising around them. The result should be a five page essay which includes a mix of autobiographical reflection and critical engagement with the course readings.

 

Mid-Term Deconstructive Individual Project

Students will select from recent history (i.e. the last five years) a transmedia or digital branding campaign. Dissect and analyze your topic by writing a 10–15 page case study in which you follow the guidelines of a strategic planning model, indicating: (1) how the company or organization developed the branding campaign; (2) your own analysis and commentary on each step of their approach, and (3) possible alternatives to that approach. Feel free to hypothesize in those instances where insufficient data are available to you, making certain that your hypotheses make sound intellectual and strategic sense. Be sure to cite your research sources and indicate those areas in which you are hypothesizing. Bear in mind that this is a deconstructive, rather than constructive, exercise. You are analyzing a program that has already taken place, not creating a new one (except to the extent that you offer suggested alternative approaches as part of your analysis). You may not use a case on which you have based a prior assignment.

 

Netnography Assignment

After the mid-term presentations, students will be assigned to groups for a course project with each group selecting a brand of their choice. The first assignment is to conduct a netnography research study to obtain audience insight based on discussions among members of online communities. Utilizing contemporary internet tools, including a social media monitoring site, students will identify the core audiences for the chosen brand and will seek to identify the ways these communities are making use of the brand as a cultural resource within their ongoing interactions with each other. You should take stock of websites, videos, and other media produced by advocates and critics of the brand as well as comments made about the brand through Twitter and other social media. You should also look at how content from the company or media stories about the company are being shared via social media.

 

Constructive group project

As groups, students develop a 10-15 page transmedia or digital branding campaign for a real organization (company, non-profit, product, etc.) of your choice, pending instructor approval. Groups will simulate agency or in-house teams tasked with proposing a realistic campaign for a brand, product, candidate or cause. The campaigns should be modeled after the strategic planning model with a particular focus on execution (strategies and tactics). Students are expected to utilize current, professional media and methods for their presentations. Each group will further submit a minimum 1,000-word paper detailing the proposed campaign.

Required Readings and Supplementary Materials

  • Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2013)
  • Daren Brabham, Crowdsourcing (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013)
  • Articles posted on the course’s Blackboard page
  • As students of strategic communication, it is essential that you closely follow current events, social attitudes, and lifestyle trends. You need to read general interest and business publications, such as the New York Times, The Economist, Wired Magazine and Mashable.

 

Course Schedule: A Weekly Breakdown


This outline of the class content and assignments is subject to change as the semester progresses based on student interests and guest speaker availability.

 

Week 1, January 13: Introduction

  • Self-introductions
  • Review of student and course goals; syllabus
  • Overview
    • Branding
    • Transmedia Storytelling
    • Participatory Culture
    • Spreadable Media
    • Crowdsourcing

 

Week 2, January 20: Understanding Culture

Readings:

  • Henry Jenkins (2006), “How Transmedia Storytelling Begat Transmedia Planning,” Confessions of an Aca-Fan, December 12
  • Grant McCracken, Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation (New York: Basic, 2009), 5 – 40
  • Malcolm Gladwell, “The Cool Hunt,” in Juliet Schor and Douglas B. Holt (eds.) The Consumer Society: A Reader (New York: The New Press, 2000), 360-374

 

  • Theoretical underpinnings
  • Why organizations need to care about culture
  • Alternative models for seeking consumer insights (cool hunting, ethnography, crowd-sourcing)
  • Guest Speaker: Todd Cunningham, former head of MTV research.

Readings and Assignments (all due next week)

  • Robert V. Kozinets (1999). “E-Tribalized Marketing?: The Strategic Implications of Virtual Communities of Consumption,” European Management Journal, 17(3), 252-264.
  • Scott Donaton, Madison & Vine: Why the Entertainment and Advertising Industries Must Converge to Survive (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), “Heyer Calling,” 25-38, “Producing an Answer,” 89-94, “BMW’s Powder Keg,” 95-106
  • Frank Rose, The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012), “This Is Your Brand on YouTube,” 221-256

 

Week 3, January 27: The Changed Media Environment

  • Robert V. Kozinets (1999). “E-Tribalized Marketing?: The Strategic Implications of Virtual Communities of Consumption,” European Management Journal, 17(3), 252-264.
  • Scott Donaton, Madison & Vine: Why the Entertainment and Advertising Industries Must Converge to Survive (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), “Heyer Calling,” 25-38, “Producing an Answer,” 89-94, “BMW’s Powder Keg,” 95-106
  • Frank Rose, The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012), “This Is Your Brand on YouTube,” 221-256
  • Participatory culture vs. the broadcast paradigm
  • Personal media vs. social media
  • Guest Speaker: Erin Reilly, Chief Creative Officer, Annenberg Innovation Lab

 

Week 4, February 3: Participation

Readings:

  • Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green (2013), Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, (New York: New York University Press), “What Constitutes Meaningful Participation?”
  • Bud Caddell (2008). “Becoming a Mad Man,” We Are Sterling Cooper
  • Bradley Horowitz (2006). “Creators, Synthesizers, and Consumers,” Elatable, Feb. 15
  • James H. McAlexander, John W. Schouten, and Harold F. Koenig (2002), “Building Brand Community,” Journal of Marketing, January, 38-54
  • Susan Fourier and Lara Lee (2009), “Getting Brand Communities Right,” Harvard Business Review, April, http://hbr.org/2009/04/getting-brand-communities-right/ar/1

 

  • Submit autobiographical reflection paper
  • What we participate in and why
  • Sub cultures, fan communities, brand communities: how cultures organize

 

 

 

Week 5, February 10: Participation and Crowdsourcing

Readings:

  • Daren Brabham, Crowdsourcing (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013)
  • Robert V. Kozinets and Stefano Cerone, “between the Suit and the Selfie: Executives’ Lessons on the Social Micro-Celebrity,” GfK Marketing Intelligence Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2014, pp. 22
  • Jonathan Fuller, “For Us and By Us: The Charm and Power of Community Brands,” GfK Marketing Intelligence Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2014, pp. 40 – 45.

 

  • Crowdsourcing
  • Participation
  • Darren Brabham, ASCJ Assistant Professor

 

 

Week 6, February 17: Transmedia Logics

Readings:

  • Henry Jenkins (2007), “Transmedia Storytelling 101,” Confessions of an Aca-Fan, March 22
  • Henry Jenkins (2011), Transmedia 202: Further Reflections,” Confessions of an Aca-Fan, August 1
  • Henry Jenkins (2011), “Seven Myths about Transmedia Storytelling Debunked,” Fast Company, April 8
  • Andrea Phillips (2012), A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling (New York: McGraw-Hill), “Introduction to Transmedia,” 3-40, “Storytelling,” 41-102
  • Ivan Askwith (2007), Television 2.0: Reconceptualizing Television as an Engagement Medium, “Five Logics of Engagement,” 101-116
  • Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green (2013), Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, (New York: New York University Press), “The Value of Media Engagement”
  • Andrea Phillips (2012), A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling (New York: McGraw-Hill), “Structure,” 103-162, “Production,” 163-222
  • Henry Jenkins (2009), “The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling,” Confessions of an Aca-Fan, December 12

 

  • Transmedia design principles
  • Transmedia as branded entertainment
  • Continuity vs. multiplicity
  • World-building as brand-building

 

Week 7, February 24: Midterm Presentations

  • Mid-term presentations

 

 

Week 8, March 3: Retro Branding

Readings:

  • Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green (2013), Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, (New York: New York University Press), “Reappraising the Residual”
  • Sam Ford, “ Roger’s Lessons for a New Generation,” Fast Company, December 27 2012
  • Stephen Brown, Robert Kozinets, and John F. Sherry, “Teaching Old Brands New Tricks: Retro Branding and The Revival of Brand Meaning,” Journal of Marketing, Vol. 67 (July 2003)
  • IGN (2013), “IGN Reviews: Disney Infinity”
  • Retro branding
  • Guest Speaker: David Voss, Mattel

 

Week 9, March 10: Netnography

Readings:

  • Robert Kozinets (2002): “The Field Behind the Screen: Using Netnography for Marketing Research in Online Communities,” Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. XXXIX, Feb., 61-72

 

  • Netnography as a method for market research
  • Midterm Presentations
  • Assign teams for course project
  • Guest Speakers: TBA, Fusion

 

Tuesday, March 17: Spring break. No class

 

 

Week 10, March 24: Spreadability

Readings:

  • Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green (2013), Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, (New York: New York University Press), “Why Media Spreads”,“Designing for Spreadability”
  • Johan Berger, Contagious: Why things catch on, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN4eDk1pq6U
  • James Gleick (2012), “What Defines a Meme?” Smithsonian.com, May
  • Limor Shiffman (2014), Memes in Digital Culture (Cambridge: MIT Press), “When Memes Go Digital” and “Defining Internet Memes”

 

  • Media Viruses and Memes
  • Influencers
  • The Spreadability Paradigm
  • Appraisal and value: what we pass on and why
  • Guest Speaker: Sam Ford, Peppercom

 

Week 11, March 31: Methods for designing spreadable media campaigns

Readings:

  • Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green (2013), Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, (New York: New York University Press),“What Went Wrong with Web 2.0”
  • Ryan Holiday: Growth Hacking Marketing, New York 2014
  • Ilya Vedrashko (2010), “Five Things ‘Jersey Shore’ Taught My Agency about Social Media.” Advertising Age, July 21

 

  • Growth Hacking
  • Web tools for creating spreadable campaigns
  • Guest Speaker: Ryan Holiday, author – Growth Hacking Marketing

 

Week 12, April 7: Augmented Reality

 

Assignments

  • Ellie Bothwell (2013), “Does Augmented Reality Work for PR?,” PR Week
  • Layar (2009), “Layar, World’s First Mobile Augmented Reality Browser”
  • Blaise Aguera y Arcas (2010), “Augmented-Reality Maps,” TED 2010
  • Pranav Mistry and Pattie Maes (2009), “SixthSense: A Wearable Gestural Interface,” SIGGRAPH Asia Proceedings
  • Matt Mills (2012), “Image Recognition that Triggers Augmented Reality,” TED Global 2012
  • Eric C. Kansa and Erik Wilde (2011), “Tourism, Peer Production, and Location-Based Service Design,” IEEE International Conference on Services Computing
  • Muki Haklay, Alex Singleton, and Chris Parker (2008), “Web Mapping 2.0: The Neogeography of the GeoWeb,” Geography Compass, 2(6), 2011-2039.
  • Space and place in transmedia branding
  • The possibilities of place-based transmedia branding
  • Challenges to augmented branding
  • Guest Speaker: B.C. Bierman, RE+Public

 

Week 13, April 14: Activism & Rumors

Readings

  • Phillips, Whitney (2009). “‘Why So Socialist?’: Unmasking the Joker,” Confessions of an Aca-Fan, Aug. 14
  • Turner, Patricia Ann (1994), I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture (Berkeley; University of California Press), “Introduction” 1-8, “Conspiracy 1,” 57-107
  • Henry Jenkins, “The New Political Commons,” Policy Options, 33, No. 10 , November 2012
  • Henry Jenkins, “Participatory Culture: From Co-Creating Brand Meaning to Changing the World “,GfK Marketing Intelligence Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2014

 

  • Grassroots efforts to spread messages and determine outcomes
  • The cultural analysis of rumors
  • Guest Speaker: Chris Gebhardt, Pivot/Participant Media

 

Week 14, April 21: Friction Points

Readings and Assignments

  • Henry Jenkins (2007). “Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content: The Case of FanLib,” Confessions of an Aca-Fan, May 22
  • Julie Levin Russo (2009). “User-Penetrated Content: Fan Video in the Age of Convergence,” Cinema Journal 48(4), Summer, pp. 125-130.
  • Suzanne Scott (2009). “Repackaging Fan Culture: The Regifting Economy of Ancillary Content Models,” Transformative Works and Cultures
  • Marius K. Luedicke and Markus Giesler (2007), “Brand Communities and Their Social Antagonists: Insights from the Hummer Case,” in Bernard Cova, Robert Kozinets and Avi Shankar (eds.) Consumer Tribes (New York: Butterworth-Heinemann) 275-295
  • Vince Carducci (2006), “Culture Jamming: A Sociological Perspective,” Journal of Consumer Culture, 6; 116 DOI: 10.1177/1469540506062722

 

  • When corporate communication and participatory culture clash
  • Culture jamming and Debranding

 

Readings and Assignments

  • Work on group project presentation and paper

 

Week 15, April 28: Project Presentation

  • Project presentations: 25 – 30 minute student presentations, with Q&A. Students are expected to utilize current, professional media and methods for their presentations

 

Week 16, May 7: Finals Week

  • Turn in group project paper

About Your Instructors

Henry Jenkins joined USC from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was Peter de Florez Professor in the Humanities. He directed MIT’s Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1993-2009, setting an innovative research agenda during a time of fundamental change in communication, journalism and entertainment.

As one of the first media scholars to chart the changing role of the audience in an environment of increasingly pervasive digital content, Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture. His research gives key insights to the success of social-networking websites, networked computer games, online fan communities and other advocacy organizations, and emerging news media outlets.

Jenkins is recognized as a leading thinker in the effort to redefine the role of journalism in the digital age. Through parallels drawn between the consumption of pop culture and the processing of news information, he and his fellow researchers have identified new methods to encourage citizen engagement. Jenkins launched the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT to further explore these parallels.

Jenkins has also played a central role in demonstrating the importance of new media technologies in educational settings. At MIT, he led a consortium of educators and business leaders promoting the educational benefits of computer games, and oversaw a research group working to help teach 21st century literacy skills to high school students through documentary videos. He also has worked closely with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to shape a media literacy program designed to explore the effects of participatory media on young people, and reveal potential new pathways for education through emerging digital media.

His is the author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, which is recognized as a hallmark of recent research on the subject of transmedia storytelling. In 2013, he published his most recent book, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, together with Sam Ford and Joshua Green.

 

Burghardt Tenderich is Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. Prior to joining the USC faculty, Burghardt Tenderich was executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at the University of California at Berkeley, where he lectured on technology innovation. He has over 20 years of experience in marketing and communication in the information technology and Internet industries, both in the United States and Europe. Previous positions include General Manager, North America, for technology communications consultancy Bite Communications; Vice President, Public Relations at Siebel Systems; and Senior Vice President and Partner at technology PR agency Applied Communications. He holds a Ph.D. in Economic Geography from the University of Bonn, Germany.

 

Comments

  1. This information as other found in the Blog helped me to plan my course on Multimeios, Multimídia e Transmídia (Multiple discrete media, Multimedia and Transmedia) in a Distance Education Program offered as a graduation course for high school and elementary teachers. Indeed, it brings a lot of food for reflection.
    This site as the one on Convergence Culture will be visited by my students. Could I plan a project to translate the books ito Portuguese since most of our teachers do not read in English?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Henry Jenkins says:

      In fact, both Convergence Culture and Spreadable Media have already been translated into Portuguese.