6 things content specialists can learn from Game of Thrones 

Game of ThronesFans of Game of Thrones are eagerly awaiting Series 6 which will show on April 24, while those viewing on DVD in the UK got access to Series 5 today.

As a fan of the TV series, I also decided to read the books by George RR Martin which the programmes are based on. These are seven huge novels, ranging from between 500 to 900 pages each.

Having just finished book five, I’m now on the sixth. From a communications point of view, I can see some useful principles to draw out from the Game of Thrones books and TV series. Though set in a medieval age, many of the communications tactics used to influence and persuade, mirror modern day good communications practice.

Here are six things communicators can learn from Game of Thrones:

Use bite-sized content

Looking at the books, one of the first things you notice is that the books are divided into short chapters. Each chapter takes up the story from a different character’s point of view. Use of this device means you can dip into the books, even if you only have a small amount of time to spare, and still get what you need. Bite-sized content is easy for readers to consume.

Exercise tight editorial control

If a character wants to enhance his reputation, and assuming he can afford it, he employs a singer. The singer witnesses the deeds of his Lord and crafts a song, telling of the brilliant things his employer has done. This is a bit like sponsoring a media partner – you spend money and expect to get a high volume of favourable coverage. But sometimes the singers go rogue or off-message. Clearly, it pays to fine-tune your messaging and exercise tight editorial control.

Use of drone footage

Wargs have the ability to get inside the minds of people and animals, to sense what they sense and to see what they see – even control them. The Wildlings use a warg to get inside the head of an eagle during the assault on The Wall which proves very useful until it is destroyed by Mellisandre. The warg could monitor the movements of the Nights Watch by receiving aerial images. This is the medieval equivalent, and cheaper version, of drone footage. For modern day communicators, this is also a great technology to use when building your promotional videos.

Owned channels have their place

Jamie Lannister records the deeds of the Kingsguard in the White book which is held in the White Sword Tower. It serves as an official history of “every man who has ever worn a white cloak.” Jamie, as Commander, is the author and as such, has power over how facts are interpreted. While the book does not seem to get widely circulated, it is still an authoritative source of information which others may borrow from. The old adage comes to mind, that ‘he who holds the pen, holds the power’.

Typos in Game of Thrones

The problem with working so closely with content is that I’m always looking for typos. I’ve found a number of these errors in each book. Does it matter? In the grander scheme of things, it probably doesn’t. And some of these books are almost 900 pages after all, so that’s actually not bad going. However, it also goes to show that even the most successful writers in the world make mistakes, and it’s a communicators’ job to weed them out. Assuming you’re not an international best-seller, spelling mistakes don’t usually help engage your readers.

Face-to-face communications beats email

Westerosians don’t have access to email so when they send a message they use a raven. However, this is not always a great method of communication, because their enemies will occasionally shoot down the ravens, and intercept the hand written notes. The senders have no way of gauging the communications success either, and they certainly don’t have ‘read receipts’. When the stakes are higher, they send a messenger on horseback – and not just because of the arrows. Face-to-face communication beats email when you have something important to say.

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