Digital media, storytelling and engagement are essential features that direct the future of public relations and related communications activities, claim the authors, advocating a so-called transmedia narrative transportation (TNT) approach. Being built on existing communications theories, TNT is described as a ‘unique fusion of ideas that can bring an innovative approach to the practice of public relations that captures four emerging trends.’
It is an attractive, well-motivated approach that adds to the transmedia storytelling a concept of narrative transportation. The authors claim that four trends are particularly important presently — digital channels, storytelling, stakeholder engagement, and co-creation of meaning with stakeholders –- so by being armed with a new ‘mindset’ that they promote the public relations industry should be able to accept and benefit from these trends. I consider that the approach could also have benefit to other industries and disciplines too with modest modification and application.
The article is well motivated and seems to have well-argued foundations. One attribute advocated is the use of storytelling – something that should come more naturally to everybody is storytelling. People can be shy about telling a story, despite the potential power and advantage it can bring. This can lead to greater stakeholder engagement (or realistic, interactive communications and response), aided by easier access to communications that is narrated in a more authentic, engaging manner.
We have probably been subjected to transmedia storytelling but not realised it, note the authors, saying that it is a relatively recent theory that explains shifts in the entertainment industry, whereby stories are told in many forms across many channels by various storytellers, yet united by one storyworld – ‘an overall story arc that unifies the media artefacts, creates rules for the relationships between characters and provides a backstory’. Various elements need to be present for transmedia storytelling – multiple media, a unified story, no redundancy between media forms, and numerous storytellers.
TNT could be viewed as a more intelligent, considered consolidation of current media activities, aimed for a specific and explicit purpose. It may not suit every occasion, or at least in its full-deployment, but multiple elements may still be joined together for great effect in most, if not all, situations. For TNT to work best, it is cautioned, stakeholders need to become part of the process by consuming stories and adding their own stories to the storyworld.
The article’s structure is derived around a literature review, delivering an innovative concept for public relations activities and delivery. It appears to have the potential to be a comprehensive, powerful addition to the discipline and others besides. It is quite clearly written, making it suitable for more than just an academic audience, and can act as a source of inspiration for the more-awake practitioner that is determined to be on the leading edge of their craft. Its utility is transformed from theory to reality with an illustrative case study.
Overall, it is a thoughtful, well-crafted and incisive piece of work.
Coombs, W.T. and Holladay, S.J., 2018. Innovation in public relations theory and practice: A transmedia narrative transportation (TNT) approach. Journal of Communication Management, 22(4), pp.382-396. DOI:10.1108/JCOM-12-2017-0145
A post-publication review of this article that appears on Publons.