Ever since man gathered around the fire and scratched cave wall drawings, stories unite, educate and inspire us. Storytelling is a PR person’s best device for sharing a message… and in the digital age, we tell stories weaving text, sound, video, photos, data, and emotion.
As public relations professionals, we know people consume messages and use media differently than in the past. In order to tell our clients’ stories in a more compelling way, we must shift our narrative away from selling (the press release) and toward more visually interesting, shareable digital content. By expanding beyond the written word, the standard press release, we can help our clients communicate in ways that are more memorable and actionable than ever before… a picture is worth a thousand words, after all. For great examples of digital storytelling, visit the New York Times or the Boston Globe for ways to shift beyond straight news reporting into the realm of storytelling.
Great digital storytelling happens in four steps:
1. Research: First, gather data and other story elements together and determine the best way to tell that story so it is shareable and interesting. Whether the story is best told via quality videos, photos, or simply a post on Facebook, let the content and its intended audience dictate what form the story takes. Create goals for this initiative that are measurable (ex. What percentage of the market would you like to reach with this story, based on budget or investment?)
2. Creation: Weave the story together expertly, bringing all these elements together in a typical story arc. Make sure all links and widgets are available so the story is shareable. Hire experts to achieve the highest quality story you can so that mainstream media have no reservations about utilizing your story on-air/online. Think clever Instagram branded videos, sharp shareable infographics, high quality photography… all means to tell your story.
3. Distribution and promotion: With client approval, share and promote your story quickly with your intended audience. If it resonates and is compelling and informative/entertaining, your audience will have no reason not to share with others. Use social media to tweet, post, pin and generally promote a great story.
How can we possibly shift from selling the story to telling the story?
It’s simple: stop talking like a salesperson, and think like a great storyteller you know. Focus on sharing the message in an interesting, engaging way and the “sell” will follow. Show the story to trusted colleagues and friends first – see if they attention drifts before your story is finished. If they can’t stay focused, a reporter won’t either. Video, audio, photos, quotes and testimonials are all great devices to keep our attention on the message beyond the written word.
How does digital storytelling relate to public relations?
It has always been part of our job as trusted advisors to research, listen and uncover the true gems hidden within. Although we are strategic consultants and not “spin masters,” a good PR professional intuitively seeks out the story, pinpointing characters, setting, theme and point of view, and then re-telling that true story to help communicate about the company and meet a business objective. Instead of a creative promo or ad campaign, movie, book or novel, a PR pro makes their company the hero of their own authentic story, with its own story arc (beginning, conflict/problem, resolution/solution).
Tips to great digital storytelling:
– Best tip: make your story shareable in every way, and design it around which channel you want the story to be shared. Imagine how it will look when shared… make it easy.
– Start your story with interactive data… without good data, there is no story.
– Think about creating a story around a visual: an interactive map, a series of video interviews.
– Sometimes the story creator is not the storyteller… find the best person to tell your story.
– Try to make your story emotional, timely, and easy to remember.
– Find the teachable moment, the moral or a theme to your story.
– Great visuals can be more affordable and easier to capture than you think.
– Make your story as short and digestible as you can.
– Be passionate about your story. If you are not excited about telling your story, no one else will, either.
Shareable, Usable Digital Storytelling Tools:
Storify.com Online content curation site pulling together text, search results, pics/vids, SM
Visual.ly Great resource for creating fast infographics
Tumblr Gifs/photos/text feed in short form (shorter than blogging)
Instagram Ongoing feed of photos (with filters) with social built in
Vimeo.com Video creation, curation, distribution – better than YouTube channels