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Part 1: before you pick up a camera

Trying to create a communications strategy for something you’ve already made means all the opportunities from pre-production and the shoot have been missed.

It's also a potential red flag for future investors or broadcasters that you may have put all your focus on making the work, rather than thinking about who is going to watch it.

(If you’ve already finished your online original and you’re reading this, don’t panic. There’s still lots you can do.)

When you’re set on the concept for your online original, take a couple of hours to do this simple exercise with your creative team, imagining your title has already been made and published.

Who is your audience?

  • Who is watching it? Create a picture of them. Consider age, gender, background, sexuality, education, political and social views, hobbies and interests, income and where they live (remember it may not be Australia!).
  • Where and when are they watching it? Do they watch it on their phone during their morning/evening commute? Are they on the lounge watching it on their smart TV while eating dinner? Are they sitting at work watching it on their computer at lunchtime? Does it matter if they discover your content three years after you make it?
  • How much do they watch? For long-form, do they watch it in parts or straight through? For episodic, do they have to watch from the beginning or do episodes work in isolation?

"I back people that know their audience. I die a bit when someone says 'it's for 8 to 88-year olds'," – Sally Regan

  • What else do they watch? What are their favourite shows? Think online, TV and film.
  • What communication channels do they use? What social media are they most active on? What news media do they consume? Where do they find out about new content? What search engine do they use?
  • How did they discover your show? Did a friend share in their Facebook feed? Did they read a media report on it? Are they a fan of one of the cast? Did they see an extract on Instagram? Did they see a meme or gif created using a scene from the show? Did they see a live show from the creators e.g. stand-up comedy? Are they familiar with the creative team’s work on previous projects? Was it recommended by another creator or industry body?

You might create three or four fictional audience members to help you visualise the above.

Who are your creative peers?

  • What other shows are most like yours? If someone watched your show on Netflix, what other titles would the streaming service be auto-recommending to watch next? Consider titles that are similar because of genre and country of origin, but also factors like duration, casting and publishing platform (e.g. YouTube vs TV).
  • How did they develop? For online original peers, go back and browse their content from the beginning. Notice the frequency of content publishing, the production values, the duration, the view count, where they publish video (e.g. did they add Facebook at some point?) and whether there was a platform change (e.g. they got picked up by ABC iview).
  • How did they market themselves? Google them and pay attention to where they appear in the search results. Do they have a website? Are they easy to find? Use the Google ‘News’ search to see if they ever appeared in the news. Scroll back through their social media accounts and see what they share with their audience and what gets the most engagement - views/likes/comments/shares. Remember to check the brand’s accounts plus cast and creatives public accounts. If you’re a fan of their work, how did you find out about their content?

Now you have a sense of who your audience is and the ways you could get your show in front of them. Not to mention a few genius marketing ideas from your peers you could adapt to suit your content.

You can now map out a basic communications strategy for your online original, addressing each of the channels listed previously.  You don’t have to do every channel straight away e.g. you may hold off building a website for now. Some channels you may skip altogether e.g. maybe live appearances don’t work for the nature of your show.

As you write your strategy, be very wary of changing your online original to fit with your communication ideas. Instead, the strategy should bring clarity to how your existing online original concept will get to an audience.

The strategy needs to be written with an end-game in mind. Potential success measures are detailed in the next section.

This guide is aimed at Australian online creators and is for educational purposes only, and does not replace professional advice. The guide cannot be replicated without written permission.