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Transmedia storytelling: a potentially vital resource for CSR communication

Timothy Coombs (Department of Communication, Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 26 February 2019

Issue publication date: 23 May 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The focus of this paper is on developing a rationale for the use of transmedia storytelling in corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication. Transmedia storytelling involves telling stories across multiple platforms by multiple people that are still united by a central theme. The purpose of this paper is to develop a rationale for the application of transmedia storytelling for CSR communication and illustrate how Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You Mom” campaign demonstrates how transmedia storytelling can be found in the current CSR communication.

Design/methodology/approach

The first part of the story is theoretical development. The idea of transmedia storytelling is developed then translated into how it can be used in CSR communication. The key ideas are that the engagement with messages created by transmedia storytelling is the idea for capturing emotions in CSR messages and avoiding the backlash created by some CSR messages, such as advertising. Transmedia storytelling provides a lens for understanding and guiding the use of various social media channels in the distribution of CSR communication. A case study is they conducted to illustrate how P&G used transmedia storytelling in its “Thank You Mom” campaign. Qualitative content analysis is used to identify the plot lines in the stories and the overall storyworld that is being developed thereby illustrating how the concepts for transmedia storytelling can be applied to the case.

Findings

The results illustrate how transmedia storytelling can be applied to CSR communication and the potential benefits of this application. The primary yields are theory development for CSR communication and the insights from the case study.

Originality/value

The extant literature on strategic communication in general and CSR communication specially have shown only a passing interest in transmedia storytelling. This paper provides a very detailed rationale for applying transmedia storytelling to CSR communication and illustrates the utility of this approach with a case study. A detailed application of transmedia storytelling to CSR communication is new and can help advance both theory and practice.

Keywords

Citation

Coombs, T. (2019), "Transmedia storytelling: a potentially vital resource for CSR communication", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 351-367. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-11-2017-0114

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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