Husband-and-wife team Peter and Nicole Lander invented Battlefield Live – a live-action re-enactment of popular computer games that does away with painful paintballs and improves on laser tag because it can be played outside. They now export the technology and business model to 33 countries around the world. Josh Mehlman speaks to Nicole about how she uses every available online channel to tell the company’s story and how she manages to speak to many audiences in their own voices.
Broadcasting on all channels
From the outset, the web was Battlefield Sports’ main channel for getting the message out to potential Battlefield owners and fans around the world.
The company’s online empire now spans seven websites, a Facebook fan page, Twitter, a blog, a MySpace page, and dozens of online video clips.
“Our whole business is about the gamers; they’re the ones who make the entertainment happen,” Lander says.
“Instead of going to the movies and having a vicarious experience, if they’re engaged, they’ll have a better entertainment experience.
“There are two tiers to my audience: the Battlefield owners and the gamers. I write for both. I see my role as a storyteller. I tell them how fun it is through the medium of our websites.”
Working across multiple online media can be time-consuming, although lately, Lander has worked on interconnecting the various channels so that if she posts on the blog, for example, Twitter and Facebook are instantly updated.
Even with automation, Lander estimates she spends at least an hour a day on social media, but “the more interactions we can have with fans, the better”.
“I think it’s about energy in, energy out. The more excitement you put out to people, they give back to you.
“I love telling people stories and selling. I think of it as a game. The more sales we make, the more stories we tell, the more people who love our stuff – that is winning the game. It’s just like Civilization, you start with a little village and build up to a city and go out and make more cities and take over the universe.”
When it comes to taking over the universe, Nicole Lander is especially enthusiastic about the potential of online video.
“We’ve just finished producing 67 mini-movies, short video clips from 30 seconds to three minutes, and they are online briefings so people know what
they’re going to play in the forest,” she says.
“Video really whets people’s appetite. The whole point is suspending disbelief, forgetting your troubles at work or whatever, and really getting into the game. With authentic uniforms and good-quality videos, people can say, ‘I really want to play that game’.”
Feeding the masses in the fanbase
Lander also writes a blog, updating Battlefield owners and fans about what’s going on at HQ. This has fallen off in frequency as Facebook and Twitter have taken over, but Lander still updates it “at least once a month and it’s got to have photos or video”.
“Because we have so many people out there who are fans in our community, they post to me,” she says.
“For example, I got photos from some guys in Wales who run a Battlefield and just won a huge tourism award. I got an email from a Battlefield in England that did an event with some guys in wheelchairs and the smiles on their faces were amazing.”
To keep in contact with the 200 Battlefield owners around the world, Lander produces a quarterly online magazine called Lock & Load. Around 6000 customers have also subscribed to the magazine.
Battlefield owners also have a password-protected area of the website called Battlefield Sports University.
“The Battlefield owners can log in and it’s got an image library, a video library, templates for media releases,” Lander says. “It’s like a smorgasbord, they can pick out what suits them. It also has technical stuff like a user guide and videos on how to change an emitter.”
One striking aspect of all these online channels is how Lander moves seamlessly between them.
“I see the different channels and ways to tell our story,” she says. “Whenever something exciting happens, I post it on Facebook or do a Tweet or put it on the blog.”
However, when Nett suggests that Lander is skilled at adopting a slightly different personality depending on the audience, perhaps drawing from her university studies, she becomes modest.
“We definitely identify different audiences and write for them, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a separate personality,” she says. #