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Digital Storytelling – 5 Things You Need to Know (in 5 Minutes)

By Karla Schlaepfer
digital, storytelling, web 2.0, creativity, user needs

In today’s overflowing world, how can new tech tools create visual stories that entertain and grab your customers’ attention? How can businesses leverage these tools with the right content to surprise, incite and create compelling experiences for their potential users? How can you make digital stories that are alive with experiences, relevant and vivid?

The title of this JCP blog post #Digital Storytelling is also the title of the pocket-sized book by Dieter Georg Herbst and Thomas H. Musiolik.* Prof. Herbst is the keynote speaker at the BertelsmannUniversity international conference on the Future of Communication (#TheFutureOfComms), where I’m teaming up with Denkmotor colleagues to help run the show. Good moderators are always prepared, so I bought Herbst’s book to get a heads up on background info before the conference starts.

Here some key take-aways for how to use the incredible potential of digital storytelling for image films, commercials, and other corporate communication. And my blog title, with the 5 things? Well, that’s a little storytelling fiction too! There are so many more things you need to know to create really good digital stories. Herbst’s book is chock full of input, how-tos and many awesome links + tips. For quick readability sake, I’ll reduce this blog text down to the major points. Then I zero in on the people subject, which interests me most. This is when Users become the storytellers. At the end of the blog, I’ll give you linked web examples of this kind of digital storytelling. All set?

  1. Where do you find great story content? Become the “hero” or go on a quest for personal stories in your company. Take on the role of a story collector. Talk with people, staff from all levels, listen and experience your brand from their insider perspective. Let employees test your products. Let people talk about what they are good at and why working with this company is the best choice. Use the people’s voice to make your brand personal. To make the most of meaningful and relevant communication.
  2. Corporate storytelling with digital technologies gives you the opportunity to integrate 4 important features, that Prof. Herbst calls the “Big Four” of digital storytelling: integration, accessibility, connection and interactivity. These are 4 specific characteristics for this kind of narration. Use this mix, to author distinctive platforms that you can use to craft unique multi-sensory medial experiences that speak with the audience.
  3. Use the particular qualities of end devices! Anticipate your customer’s use when on a tablet, smart phone/watch, laptop or wearable. What particular qualities can be transported to which end-device when using digital technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, Bluetooth, QR codes or holograms? How can this distinctiveness be used to create a specialized story that moves our customer and generates more value for your business?
  4. Don’t be boring! People love tension, conflict and the human touch! Use emotions to create a clear, “vivid” picture of how your particular product or service can help users solve a problem, fulfill a need or just plain be happy. People will store those story feelings as experiences. They trigger a kind of connective mental/emotive anchoring with the brand.
  5. Involve your customers as narrators or invite external experts to talk about their experiences. Siemens AG perfected this method in their digital Storytelling-Magazin “/answers”. A most unusual accomplishment in which everyday people are filmed in documentary style talking about their world-views, aspirations and social projects. All the stories have a clear link to Siemens technological products. And this the BIG POINT and crux; these new technologies helped all the everyday heroes fulfill their particular missions without them even realizing it.

(Tip: For English subtitles, click the “CC” icon on the bottom of the video after it has started playing.)

Further examples of fascinating business stories are

Mirror neurons are the biological explanation why we empathize so naturally with other humans (and animals!). When we experience real people close up, we as listeners empathize and feel in a sense, what they show they are feeling. Create the right medial mix, using the benefits of new technology to paint an interactive audio canvas where real people tell their stories! Ask yourself which unique, attractive experiences characterize your brand or future? How can you show (with your hero, customer or employee) these experiences? Feelings are contagious and strong. This affective power can be harnessed to make compelling digital stories that spark people’s attention and are remembered.

Innovative enterprises need to learn how to understand and leverage new technologies, social media and their corresponding platforms to their distinct advantages. This involves finding and using content (stories) on the corresponding channels that mesh with the company culture, brand image and future potential.

— Karla Schlaepfer

*Dieter Georg Herbst, Thomas Heinrich Musiolik, “#Digital Storytelling: Spannende Geschichten für Interne Kommunikation, Werbung und PR“ UVK Verlag: 2016