Storytelling for the ages.

Digital Storytelling

Storytelling is an ancient art form; it dates back to prehistoric times when cavemen told each other stories as part of rituals, delivered orally or through drawings on caves. Just as they did then, stories have many purposes. From traditional camp-fire tales that entertain to advertisements that corporations use to sell products, the art of storytelling has evolved with time. Traces of storytelling can be found in our day-to-day activities; found in a daily conversation with your friends, a rant about the TTC on twitter, or the songs that you listen to. With new technology at our disposal, our stories have become digital using images, video and audio, and can be shared instantly across platforms.

Writing is an intrinsic part of storytelling; it is similar to laying a blueprint for something you are building. Business proposals, recipes, screenplays or even love letters, all of them require putting your thoughts into words. At a time when we are bombarded with content from various social media platforms, what grab our attention most are the stories that are told creatively. The evolution of the medium has also caused a change in our style of writing. Twitter, with its 140-character limit, sharpens our writing; Snapchat adds a zing to storytelling with images, emoticons and other razzmatazz. And if there is a rant or lengthy rumination that we need to share, there is always Tumblr and WordPress.

Digital storytelling is the process of combining multimedia such as images, video, audio, text, animation and a narrative voice to tell a story. We come across a lot of digital stories in different forms every day. My digital storytelling class taught me that stories can be told in any format we want. I watched short films shot on iPhones, read about the first African-American woman in space on an interactive blog, and learned that you can use Bitstrips in your presentation to give life to a story. A bit of research showed me how digital storytelling has been adopted by many institutions, from schools and colleges to government organizations.

Studies have shown that content-related digital stories help students understand difficult concepts. This digital story, for example, uses animation to explain the microbes that reside within our body, helping to process the food we ate.

In recent times, many corporations have taken notice of digital storytelling and its importance in building a brand’s image. Brands look to tell a story that has a message in it, stories that form a connection with their consumers. Dove, the personal care brand, use digital storytelling effectively in sharing their campaigns. This video delivers Dove’s message that inner beauty lies skin deep. Digital stories are not just about selling a product; they are about forming a connection with their audience.

A digital story is not just restricted to videos; it can be just an image that conveys a message, or a tweet or blog post that a brand shares about a customer’s experience.

Have a message

Creating a digital story for a brand can be a fun exercise; the first step before creating a digital story is to figure out the message you would like to convey. A brand’s story should convey a message; it could be about the product or its vision. It should be honest and consistent in its tone; any sort of inconsistency across your brand’s stories will make you lose your customer’s trust.

Give your story a structure

Stories by default have a structure: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Brand stories, too, should feel complete. If you are looking to promote your brand with a story, ensure that you show your customers how your brand can be useful to them. Have a problem that needs resolution and make your brand the solution to that problem.

Create a character

Just because your digital story is for a brand does not mean that it shouldn’t have any characters. Creating a character helps your audience connect with the story. Instead of a coming up with a fictional character, you can also create buyer personas and tell a story from their point of view, have your product as a character or even someone working at your company.

Choose your medium

The medium you choose to tell your story dictates its impact. You can make a short film and share it on YouTube, or you can decide to make a podcast, or you can use choose to do something as simple as writing a blog. The platform you choose dcistates your story’s reach.

During the two weeks that I took my digital storytelling class, I got to sharpen my creative writing skills with various writing exercises. I listened to TED talks about content creation, played with video and audio editing tools, and also got to create my own short video using sound effects and images. The corporate world may seem regimented and intimidating, but our jobs need not follow a standard operating procedure. Writing is a creative pursuit where its purpose is to inform or entertain, from writing product descriptions to a designing a set of instructions or even creating a short PowerPoint presentation, we need to add a dash of creativity in our work, for we are storytellers.

Header image by Pawel Kadysz.

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