Neil Gaiman’s “A Calendar of Tales” – Collaboration Sparks Creativity Sparks More Collaboration

Neil Gaimans A Calendar OfNeil Gaiman is the author of such diverse and popular works as the Sandman graphic novel series, the miniseries and novel Neverwhere, and the Hugo award-winning Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife.” He’s considered by many to be one of the greatest sci-fi and fantasy writers alive today. He’s also a tremendously influential presence on social media. So when Neil announced a new collaborative project on his Twitter account in early February, the world sat up and took notice.

For 12 hours, at the rate of about one per hour, Neil posed questions to his followers, each one revolving around a month of the year. “Why is January so dangerous?” and “What would you burn in November, if you could?” with the corresponding hashtags #JanTale and #NovTale. The response was overwhelming. He retweeted dozens of his favorite responses to each question, and pored through hundreds more. Then, when it was all over, he chose one from each month, to write a story about. The finished product was to be called A Calendar of Tales.

Within a few days, the stories were completed and posted on a website, where the world could come and see the fruits of this massive Twitter collaboration. But the collaboration didn’t end with the calendar. Once it was posted, users were invited to create and submit their own content—videos, photos, drawings and more—based on Neil Gaiman’s stories that were, in turn, based on their suggestions.

A Calendar of Tales is a textbook example of what content marketing is all about—creating content that people aren’t merely willing to look at, but can actually get excited about. By getting them involved in the process so that they’re invested in the content, they’ll want to know more about it, and, most importantly, they’ll share it with their friends who will get invested as well.

And of course, it didn’t hurt marketing-wise that the entire project was sponsored from start to finish by BlackBerry. In addition to the monthly hashtags, Neil tagged each tweet about the project with “#BlackBerry10” as he posted from that very device. All the content, both Neil’s and the fans’, is being hosted on the BlackBerry website. And fans were encouraged to follow @BlackBerry on Twitter, in order to be notified of updates on the project. A company that, in the wake of iPhones and Androids, has somewhat fallen by the wayside recently, suddenly BlackBerry was in the spotlight again, the subject of a torrent of social media buzz by proxy.

Still, this was more than just some slick ad campaign, or a sneaky plot by BlackBerry to force their brand back onto an unsuspecting populace. Though their presence has been felt throughout the project, they’ve stayed largely, dignifiedly in the background, making the content itself front and center. That’s the key to success with content marketing. Providing content that people will want, and letting it speak for itself. The excitement that content creates is the best publicity a brand could ask for.