From Podcast to Platform: Re-thinking “Notre Dame Stories”

We’re changing our approach to podcasting.

We launched the Notre Dame Stories podcast in May 2018. Our charge was fairly open-ended: to showcase faculty expertise. We figured that would mean some kind of interview format, but it wasn’t long into our research before we learned that literally everyone was doing that. If we wanted to stand apart, we needed a wrinkle, some sort of twist. Our solution at the time was to blend these in-studio interviews with storytelling from the field, using natural sound, music, and interviews collected at the sites where Notre Dame students and faculty are conducting their research and activities.

As a result, the Notre Dame Stories podcast was always two shows in one. 

While the mixed format did provide a wrinkle that set it apart from the standard interview-only podcasts, other logistical challenges arose: studio space had to be reserved, for one. This meant coordinating schedules with at least three parties: us, our faculty subject, and the studio. Also, with rare exceptions, the field-produced stories were comprised of re-purposed video content, and while that extended the ROI of the resources expended in collecting that particular story, it wasn’t sustainable given the amount of video Strategic Content actually commissions. (We use video in only about a third of our stories produced for; our relevant video library was exhausted in the first season of Notre Dame Stories.) Moreover, analytics indicated some inconvenient truths: The two most popular episodes were relative outliers of the format. One was just a straight interview, the other was a show in which the interview and the storytelling were both framed neatly in the title of the episode. Subject matter synergy between both elements of the show was always the intent but was seldom attainable.

And then there was the name. Notre Dame Stories was billed as featuring interviews with experts contributing to some of the major news stories of the day, as well as stories of the people creating knowledge through research and scholarship. Obviously, that’s a mouthful to say when explaining it to someone. The truth is “Notre Dame Stories” is the colloquial name for the Strategic Content team, which produces the podcast. It wasn’t a great descriptor for what the podcast was, because again, we were putting two formats into one.

As these issues started to weigh heavily on our thinking, we set out to produce something rare in higher ed podcasting: a mini-series centered around a single topic told from the field with narrative, music, and natural sound. Tantur: Hill in the Holy Land gave listeners an in-depth look at the past and present of the University’s presence in Jerusalem, and benefitted from a clarity of purpose that was admittedly lacking in the overall Notre Dame Stories series. Tantur has been honored with a Platinum award from the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals, one of just five podcasts to receive that honor in the global Audio Visual Arts Digital Awards competition.

July 23, 2019; Dome of the Rock mosque, foreground and Church of the Holy Sepulchre (gray dome) in background, Jerusalem (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Perhaps most importantly, what producing Tantur taught us is that we can do both heavily produced storytelling and deliver compelling conversations, but it works better for us if the two are separate. And the more effort you put into the storytelling, the more rewarding and richer the end product can be.

After considering our options and the best path forward, we came to the conclusion that Notre Dame Stories will cease to exist both as the solo moniker for our podcast execution and the format it has heretofore represented. Instead, Notre Dame Stories will be an umbrella under which various series will be presented. Collectively, these series will be known as Notre Dame Stories Podcasts (as in the image at the top of this post). The change will give us more flexibility to give utmost consideration to the most compelling way to deliver content in this format.

The first series under this new organization was Tantur: Hill in the Holy Land. The next series, beginning Friday, March 13, will be known as Office Hours.

Office Hours will feature conversations with faculty in their offices. We’ll talk about their research…and whatever else we happen to find there. That’s the thing about offices: They tell a story themselves. If we can describe some of that in an interesting way, we hope to provide that elusive nuance to the standard interview format.

Office Hours will continue throughout the remainder of the semester, and likely will begin again in the new academic year. We have a couple of other ideas for series that we are currently working on, and are excited about the opportunities for storytelling they represent. You can see all our podcast series at All of these will be presented in the Notre Dame Stories stream, wherever you get your podcasts.

When in Rome

October 9, 2018; Colosseum in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

In October 2018, ND Stories, Video ND and Photos ND traveled to Rome to capture several stories that showcase the University’s presence and work there. These pieces will be published over the next six months on and our social channels. Here’s a quick preview:

“Cultural Maintenance”: A Notre Dame alumna is working at the Vatican Museums in the area of art restoration. (The Vatican Museums houses the largest complex of art restoration labs in the world.) She’s gaining an incredible amount of insight into how the Vatican maintains culturally priceless pieces of art. Publish date: Mid-November, 2018.

Historic Urban Environments (HUE)The Historic Urban Environments initiative within the School of Architecture has a new project: Cities in Text: Rome. It allows users access to rare travel guides from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries while exploring historic Rome. HUE/ND, comprised of librarians, architects, computer scientists, programmers, and students, has partnered with the American Academy in Rome to digitize, translate, illustrate, and map three historic guides and build them into a ‘research tool’ (website) and ‘discovery tool’ (mobile application) which allows users to understand the history of the city and how it’s been viewed and understood over time. Potential publish date: January 2018

The Rome Global Gateway: Inaugurated in 2014, the Rome Global Gateway provides the physical anchor of Notre Dame’s programs in the Eternal City. It is located steps from the Colosseum and is home to both the Rome International Scholars Program and the Rome Studies Program in the School of Architecture. It is a vibrant and dynamic hub of activity for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty who are pursuing various academic endeavors in Rome. Publish date: TBD

The Humanitarian Corridors Initiative: The Humanitarian Corridor Initiative seeks to allow refugees from African countries to resettle in Italy. They are being placed in Catholic faith communities, and Keough School of Global Affairs faculty are studying the role of faith in the resettlement process. We spoke with one family who migrated from Eritrea after government persecution. Publish date: TBD

The 50th Anniversary of the Rome Studies Program: In April 2019, the School of Architecture will mark 50 years of its students spending one year of their five-year program in Rome. We look at how and why the year in Rome has remained a centerpiece of Architecture at Notre Dame. Publish date: April 2019.

It goes without saying that the photos and video captured in Rome are stunning. We’re looking forward to rolling these pieces out. Huge thanks to staff and faculty in Notre Dame International and the School of Architecture who made story-gathering in a remote location so much easier. We were fortunate for their help, and are lucky to count them as colleagues.


BTS: Creating the 2017 Notre Dame institutional spot

Editor’s note: This post from director of marketing communications multimedia Beth Grisoli takes a look behind the scenes at the making of Notre Dame’s 2017-18 institutional spot, which debuted during broadcasts of Notre Dame football games and will continue running during televised athletics events during the school year. Marketing Communications Multimedia has produced the spot internally for the past four years. 

So you want to put movies on buildings for our 30-second spot? I don’t understand.

 Um, well, yeah, we think it will be cool.

And so went the meeting with our division vice president to pitch the concept of this year’s institutional message (I’ll explain why it’s not a commercial later). Lucky for us, he took a leap of faith and gave us his blessing.

So much goes into the planning and creative process for these videos. We only get 30 seconds, and boy that goes by fast. And we have to come up with something different and exciting every year. Oh, and millions, not kidding, millions of people of all ages will see it. But this year’s production will be one our team talks about for years like a bunch of old geezers.

Remember when we got those 30K projectors and shot overnight for three nights in a row?

 Yeah, and you fell asleep in your car and everyone was gone when you woke up?

 It took 30,000 lumens of light from two projectors to make the images bright enough on the buildings. Each projector is almost the size of a refrigerator on its side. It takes two hours to get them set up, converged and mapped correctly with the software on each building. They required a separate generator to power them. Our friends at ND Utilities helped us with that and also disconnected the streetlamps and entrance lights that would be in each scene. We covered others with black bags to cut the spill from them. We needed it dark. As pitch black as we could get it. And with Indiana on the edge of the Eastern Time zone, daylight never seems to end during the summer. So that meant not even starting until about 10:00 each night.

We begged some students who happened to be on campus this summer to show up each night around 10:30. ND students are always great – eager to help, polite, and these didn’t complain when midnight came and went and we asked them to continue staring at the buildings.

Night 1 – We began at the log chapel. Made a coffee run to the office – absolutely nothing else was open – and then moved to the Clarke Memorial Fountain (Stonehenge). There we cranked up the projectors again and wrapped up around 3:15 or so in the morning.

Night 2 – We set up at the Main Building. Had to go through the entire building floor by floor to make sure all lights on the front side were off and blinds were lowered. It actually took about 45 minutes to do that. Finished with the dome and then rotated the projector 90 degrees to throw the video onto the side of the Basilica. I may or may not have been caught sacked out on a bench by the end of that shoot.

Night 3 – The scene was the Hesburgh Library and rain was in the forecast. Electronics and water don’t mix, and these massive contraptions aren’t grabbed and rushed to cover with any effort that resembles speed. Our crew was able to set both up (stacked to cover the entire span of the library’s west side) inside the back end of the production truck. When the rain came, and it did with thunder and lightning, they rolled down the back door. Thanks to super wopper Doppler apps, we were able to get all the students into the library before a drop even fell. About 30 of them hung out, kept their usual good spirits and patiently waited out the storm to come back out onto the wet grass to finish the shoot. Did I mention how much I love our students?

We wrapped up the shots with them and needed to stay to shoot more of the video on the building. Maybe 20 minutes later, a sprinkler shot on near the library door. We all just looked at each other. We had painstakingly arranged for sprinklers to be turned off at all our locations. Believe it or not, they run in the middle of the night. Minutes later all the sprinklers burst on and we were hit. The projectionist and computer tech literally jumped on top of them while the rest of us scrambled to get the gear covered and to safety. If I’m ever in combat, I want these guys on my side. They got completely soaked. We were so ahead of the game preparing for the rain, but the lawn care gods almost did us in. They probably lasted less than ten minutes, and we decided it was a wrap. The very next day we started the geezer stories with our colleagues.

We learned a lot with this project. Used a new technique and had fun thinking about ND’s 175th anniversary throughout. When we showed the edited video to our VP, he smiled and said, “I get it now.” We hope the millions watching get it too. ND has this impressive history and still stands today, stretched well beyond the confines of that little log building, alive with smart, energetic students who will follow you into the wee hours of the night to help a cause they believe in.

And before I forget, it’s not a commercial because we don’t buy the airtime. Broadcast networks provide 30 seconds of airtime to universities during any telecast of their athletic competitions. They call it an “institutional message” and it has to meet certain criteria and be approved by the networks for content.

BTS: The Pearls of Africa

In 2013, Notre Dame hosted its first class of fellows in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a program run by the U.S. Department of State. The initiative brings young entrepreneurs from all over the continent of Africa to study at one of a handful of U.S. universities for six weeks during the summer. Each year since, a new group of 25 has come to Notre Dame.

For a storytelling unit, the opportunity for compelling content related to the program is deceptively challenging. Literally every one of the fellows selected has a remarkable story of determination, intelligence and savvy. They’ve all accomplished so much in their home countries by the time they arrive in the U.S. that selecting a single “success story” is impossible.

We set out to find a “proof of concept” story – a piece that could show how the knowledge gained here at Notre Dame was impacting and advancing the endeavors of the YALI fellows after their time in the States. Again, the choices were plenty. We ultimately decided to reach out to Eve Zalwango, a woman who owns a furniture making business in Uganda. Eve employs victims of landmine accidents, casualties from Uganda’s civil war (the conflict that prompted the “Make Kony Famous” campaign in 2012). Many of these people have lost limbs, and find it difficult to make a living in Uganda’s manual labor economy.

March 13, 2017; Landmine victim in Kasese, Uganda. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

When our writer and photographer returned from Uganda, we reviewed the images captured there. They were, simply, stunning. So much so that we decided to approach this story a bit differently than others. Whereas in the past the images served mostly to enhance and deepen the understanding of the text, we felt we would try the opposite approach: text as an enhancement to photos. Far from a typical photo essay, however, we wanted a certain chronology to the events and, where necessary, we wanted the pictures to move.

The result is an experience that follows Eve’s story from the founding of her furniture business to her encounter with landmine victims, to her future plans to establish a non-profit training center.

Of particular note:

  • This technique requires rigid adherence to a timeline. It sounds simple, but the flow of the story couldn’t be established without preparing the visitor for the next step. In feature writing, certain anachronisms are allowed and can even be useful. Not here. It was more challenging than we thought going in.
  • Notice the use of black. We used text on a black background mostly to allow key messages or facts to stand on their own, starkly, without accompaniment. The visual impact of white text on black is striking, and in this way we even used text as an “image” to tell the story.
  • The safari pictures were fascinating in their own way. That was an add-on to the trip; it wasn’t part of the original itinerary. There was a concern that including these photos in a gallery would seem too cliche. But interestingly, Eve said it’s rare for Africans to go on safari, in a way, the novelty just isn’t there. But she enjoyed the voyage as much as our crew.
March 14, 2017; A tour of wildlife in Queen Elizabeth Park with Kagera Safaris, founded by YALI fellow Miriam Kyasiimire. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

Telling this type of story this way begins with the images. In the future, we’d probably prescribe this output before we even set out to gather the story. But either way, the images must be incredibly compelling to warrant this treatment. Credit to the Notre Dame Multimedia’s Barbara Johnston for this work, as well as the writing of Brendan O’Shaughnessy.

Please Boomerang Responsibly

LimeBikes at Notre Dame
Click to see Notre Dame’s first Boomerang

We’ve all seen them. One second looping videos that show our friends stuck in a perpetual dance loop, or jumping up and down repeatedly, or winking at the camera exaggeratedly on and off for all eternity. Boomerang has become fairly ubiquitous on Instagram and other social media platforms since it was launched as a standalone app in October 2015.

When your friends use Boomerang it’s a fun way to show their personality, but we all know that your friends aren’t the only ones using the app. Brands like to jump on anything new, shiny and “hip” to try to connect with their audience on social platforms and have varying levels of success.

Some of these new, shiny objects can actively harm a brand – using Facebook LIVE too often or on mundane activities can cause your audience to unfollow you permanently even if they still like your page; Instagram Stories that don’t even remotely tell a story teach your audience to immediately swipe off your story when it pops up regardless of if your content is now worthwhile; and users will not engage with your Snapchat if there’s no objective or pay off for them. Suddenly that shiny new feature that was supposed to show your followers that you’re “cool” and “hip” on social media has left you with a less engaged audience.

But then there’s Boomerang.

On the surface, using Boomerang – the app that creates gif-like looping videos – probably won’t lose a brand any followers unless it’s the only thing they post, but its misuse is more glaring than any of the others.

Instagram is a platform where users expect compelling visual content from brands. Boomerang, on the other hand, is highly visual but in a less polished way. The aesthetic awkwardness that a bad Boomerang produces is jarring in relation to the beautiful images that surround it in a feed or bookend it in an Instagram Story. It takes just the right subject or just the right timing to make a Boomerang work.

The best Boomerangs either weren’t done in one take or they were perfectly positioned with an artistic eye to capture something that would only happen once … and yeah, sometimes you can get lucky and get a cool image without even meaning to (like I did with an airplane and the Golden Dome), but you can’t rely on getting it right in one take. Unless you can dedicate some time and energy to creating a Boomerang (and really, you should be dedicating some time and energy to everything you post on social media) it’s best to stick with the features available within Instagram itself.

The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t be using Boomerang, Facebook Live, Stories, or any other shiny objects that social networks roll out without first understanding your own brand and how these features fit into it. And you definitely shouldn’t be using them if you haven’t figured out how each social network that they attach to fits into your brand.

If you feel like you HAVE to Boomerang something, though, there are some easy tips that you should follow:

  1. Make sure you (the cameraperson) are not moving – if you AND your subject are moving the resulting jostling in the final video will be distracting at best and cause motion-sickness at worst.
  2. If at all possible, focus on something static – Boomerangs work best when the moving portion of the image accentuates the static portion rather than overpowering it.
  3. Clue your subject into your plans – Using Boomerang without the knowledge of your subject results in some awkward video loops. They should be aware that you are plan to Boomerang and should be doing something noteworthy – walking or running doesn’t generally lend itself to a good use of Boomerang.
  4. Take A LOT of Boomerangs and choose the best one – This is where people get hung up most often. Good social media –  just like good writing or good photography or good video – takes time. Sometimes you may get lucky and get it on the first take (and sometimes you HAVE to because something is only happening once), but even when someone nails it on the first take you should take at least two more videos to make sure that it’s the best take. (For example, the first Notre Dame Boomerang is the product of over 30 different takes in two different locations on campus.)
  5. Don’t be married to the idea of Boomerang – This goes hand in hand with making sure you have options. Sometimes you have every intention of using a Boomerang and it just doesn’t turn out like you were expecting. At that point you may have to scrap your plans and go with something else to tell your story on social media.

First Impressions

There’s always a balance of art and science in our work. As just one example, we put a fair amount of thought and effort into the ways our stories are presented in the initial touchpoint with an audience – whether on social media, or especially in the case of our flagship, Images, GIFs, videos and headlines have an enormous impact on whether a story is read, and ultimately shared.

In the case of headlines, we use a text analyzer that uses an algorithm to give each headline a score based on its emotional marketing value. Most readers react to headlines that elicit an emotional reaction, however small. Of course, most copywriters will find the idea that a headline could – let alone should – be written by a computer to be completely unacceptable. It’s important to note that the recommendation produced by this program is just that – a recommendation. In the case of “Steps,” for example, the analyzer wasn’t much help because it needs a minimum of four words to provide a score; yet there was little doubt that was the appropriate title of the story, alluding figuratively to the incremental nature of the research and literally to its application. The analyzer, then, is more of a method of honing and fine-tuning a headline that already has its central idea settled, in most cases. (In case you’re wondering, the highest scoring headline to date is the profile on a Russian artist serving a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study, called “The Art of Truth.”)

The imagery that accompanies that headline in a feature block or on a social media post isn’t always a clear-cut decision. In two recent stories, “Digging Deep” and “Super Speed,” the research being profiled did not lend itself to the immediate recognition factor we usually try to convey online. At least not yet. We opted instead for imagery that spoke to the subject matter in a more general sense, not necessarily the specific research being conducted. Did it work? In the case of “Super Speed” – which featured a jet airplane racing across the screen – the story outpaced by 20% the average number of page views for the first day of one of our features. “Digging Deep” – which featured a video loop of ominous looking waves – did not have quite as much success in its first 24 hours (among the contributing factors was a late-day publish, which often impacts page views), but has maintained a steady viewership and is performing well overall.

We continue to research and monitor our content across all channels to optimize its performance. Some of the results we uncover are unsurprising (photos of the Golden Dome yield a ridiculously high engagement rate on Facebook, i.e.), others force us to re-evaluate and hone our craft. But all insights are useful, especially when it comes to first impressions.

2016: We’ve been everywhere, man

Jan. 4, 2016; San Xavier Mission in Tucson, AZ.  (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Jan. 4, 2016; San Xavier Mission in Tucson, AZ. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

The University was active across the country and around the globe in 2016, and Strategic Content was there to document the work. All told, the team logged more than 34,000 miles covering Notre Dame this year. Here are some of the big stories that took us off campus:

A Transformative Journey: Notre Dame Experiences Life at the Border: Just two days into the new year, our team traveled with a group of Notre Dame students and faculty, as well as members of the South Bend community to Tuscon, AZ and Nogales, Mexico. The group participated in a community-based learning immersion seminar to examine the issue of immigration through the lens of Catholic social tradition. The story uses rich imagery and touches of movement – time lapses and video – to support the text that describes their journey.

Jan 21, 2016; At 4,850 underground at the former gold mine, researchers and staff board the shaft elevator to return to the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Jan 21, 2016; At 4,850 underground at the former gold mine, researchers and staff board the shaft elevator to return to the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

Unearthing the Secrets of a Star: A week after our team returned from the border, they headed north to South Dakota to a gold mine now serving as a high-tech laboratory. They joined a group of Notre Dame nuclear astrophysicists who are looking to replicate the reactions that take place during the formation of stars. The lab – the Sanford Underground Research Facility or SURF – is located approximately a mile underground, and is serviced using the infrastructure originally built to haul gold out of the earth. This piece captures the visual aesthetic of the mine, which is itself a character in the story – the researchers are doing their work in this setting to protect from the sun’s cosmic rays.

Fr. Jenkins Reflects: Our Compass Points South: In March, a photographer accompanied University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. who led a delegation to South America to build and strengthen relationships on that continent. The delegation visited Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our University photographer sent back photos, video and updates as the feature piece was built one day at a time. We repeated the process for a similar trip to Mexico led by Fr. Jenkins in July.

Crossroads of the Americas: We sent a team to cover a conference of Church leaders convened in Havana, Cuba by Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. The conference examined the significance of Pope Francis’ visits to the U.S., and for one ND student who made the trip, the journey had special ancestral significance.

October 27, 2016; Notre Dame and St. Mary's College Irish Dance Team rehearsal. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
October 27, 2016; Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College Irish Dance Team rehearsal. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

Steps in Time: In November, a team member joined with the Notre Dame – Saint Mary’s Irish Dance Team as they traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland to compete in the 2016 All Ireland Dance Championships. The story takes a look at the often unseen world of Irish dance, and its role in these students’ lives.

The StratCon team also turned up in Columbus, Ohio; San Antonio, Indianapolis and more to cover the life and work of the University. We’re already making plans to document the breadth of the Notre Dame experience in new ways in 2017, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Fighting For A Social Media Success

Fighting For spot To cure food allergies. For lasting peace. To explore the moon. To protect the innocent. For better cancer detection. For our veterans.

These are the things we fought for at Notre Dame this football season – the ‘What Would You Fight For?’ campaign’s 10th.

You’ve probably seen the spots. Every home football game at halftime Dan Hicks (and a few times this year, Mike Tirico) cues up two minutes highlighting a component of the academic mission of the University. And while this is aired to the millions of people watching at home, we’re not naive enough to think that everyone is glued to their television sets when there are bathroom breaks to take, halftime snacks to eat and an entire internet to peruse before the second half kicks off.

Enter: Social Media.

Since 2013, we’ve shared the ‘Fighting For’ spots across our Facebook and Twitter accounts to great success, but in 2016 we blew success out of the water.

3721% out of the water.

That’s the percentage increase in views in the 2016 campaign over the 2014 campaign across social media (we saw a 190% increase over the 2015 campaign). We also saw a 1247% increase in organic reach on Facebook over the same time period.

While a lot of this can be attributed to the outstanding team of Notre Dame and NBC professionals who work tirelessly for most of the year to concept and produce the spots (and they have some great stories which they chronicled in Notre Dame Magazine a few years back), we’ve also spent four years – especially the last two with the advent of Strategic Content (the official name of those of us behind ND Stories) – building our social media brand as a robust outlet that rewards those who click on our content with visually compelling, well-written pieces.

The ‘Fighting For’ spots are compelling in themselves. They tell a story and always feature a resolution to a problem, but oftentimes you can’t tell the whole story in two-minutes. That’s where we upped our game this year. Each spot was accompanied by a long form written piece which went in-depth into what problems our professors, graduate students and alumni are attempting to solve in the world.

Because we had this extra piece of content this year, we approach social media with a two-pronged attack – on Friday, we published the video component on, Facebook and Youtube and launched the piece on Twitter. This allowed people the chance to watch the video at their leisure even if they were heading to campus for the game on Saturday. Then, we published posts linking directly to the long form piece on without mentioning that the piece was a Fighting For or had a video component on Monday. Some readers commented “I saw this on Saturday during the game” on the Monday post, but quite often those who commented on Monday came to the piece cold and learned about our research completely removed from a football or Fighting For context.

After 10 years, the question of whether or not a campaign has reached the end of its self-life is inevitably asked. I think this response to our 10-year Anniversary spot, which aired during the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech match up on November 19 show us that we should be Fighting For things for years to come:



BTS: Stepping in time

Credit: Barbara Johnston
The ND-SMC Irish Dance Team rehearses before their trip to Ireland. Credit: Barbara Johnston

Our story profiling the ND-SMC Irish Dance Team’s trip to compete in the All Ireland dance competition was a change of pace for Strategic Content in a few ways. First, it focuses on an aspect of student experience at the University, something that we do not often cover. (Though when it is, the stories typically perform well. A Transformative Journey remains one of the top-10 most viewed StratCon stories of the past 2 years.)

In some ways, it’s one of the most involved pieces Strategic Content has done to date. Some tidbits:

  • 2 videography shoots – one at a normal rehearsal, one at a staged dress rehearsal at ND’s Washington Hall.
  • 1 photography shoot.
  • A web designer visiting a dance team rehearsal.
  • A StratCon team member traveling with the team to Dublin and Belfast, acting as both chaperone and brand journalist on the trip. (And he brought back iPhone video that was used in the package included in the story – a first for StratCon, for what it’s worth.)

The resulting story is a look at a small part of the student experience at Notre Dame and St. Mary’s. It’s also a brief recounting of the history of Irish dance in the context of Irish history. It’s a story about chapters of life amid the passage of time, and in a certain way, an interesting commentary on age. Irish dancers rarely compete on this stage once they reach 21 or 22 – the age of the team members who made the trip – as usually injuries or studies or both take their toll. The ND-SMC team competed in the “senior” division, if that’s any indication.

The design of the feature takes cues from The Book of Kells, and rightfully so, as explained in the story. We tried several video takes using the OrcaVue platform to capture some of the dancers’ footwork, though it proved difficult.

We called the story “Steps in Time,” a nod to the importance of music time signature in Irish dance and also an allusion to the chapter in life it represented for these students. It published December 22, and occupied the main feature block on starting January 3. Thanks for reading!