Digital Storytelling for Impact

I am going to tell you a story.

In 2012, a woman wearing a kimono stood on a street. She held hand-written cards up to a camera. The woman flipped through the cards, which told facts:

  • She was a musician.
  • She had spent the last four years writing songs.
  • Her record label said her next album would cost $500,000 to produce.

Her band parted from the record label and needed help to finish their passion project. The woman posted the video on Kickstarter.

She raised $1.2 million dollars in 30 days.

Over 24,000 people pre-ordered the album, bought artwork, or simply donated money.

The album was a massive success. The band went on tour. Her story went viral on social media, and she turned her art into a valid, profitable business.

The woman was Amanda Palmer, former singer for punk-cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls.

She gave a TED talk, in which she tells the story. The talk has reached over 7 million viewers.

Every day we face a barrage of corporate jargon, acronyms, buzzwords, marketing content, facts, figures, links, bullet points, ideas, and data. Our brains sense the information, but are we absorbing it? Retaining it? What connects us to the cacophony?

What story are we being told?

Stories Tap Into All of Our Senses

We are hard-wired to record every moment of our lives.

When we listen to a data-filled presentation the words float into our ears. The part of our brain that processes language is activated, and words are decoded into meaning.

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If we listen to a storyteller, read a story, or watch a performance, our ideas, thoughts, and emotions change dramatically. Not only is the language processing part of our brain activated, but other parts of our brains are activated as well. We decipher the words the storyteller is saying through the visuals they describe.

The sensory parts of our brain perks up, and words that describe smells, like “fresh cut grass” or “hot cocoa” prompt a response from the parts of our brains devoted to dealing with smells. This is an example of storytelling where words tap into other sensory emotions. The sensory part of our brain also delves into motion responses (“The car lurched.”), and touch responses (“The surface was slimy!”), turning the storytelling into livable moments for everyone.

This means it is far easier for us to remember stories as opposed to stand-alone facts. Our brains are able to make distinctions between profound experiences made real through storytelling, and the mountains of facts that we gather every day.

The Art of Storytelling: The Human Experience

Stories play a central role in the human experience. A well told story might make us laugh, cry, understand complexities, or drive our imaginations into ideas. They can prompt us to take action, buy a product, or cultivate change.

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The art of storytelling has been used to guide us on behavior, history, identity, and values. We tell stories to make a point. They connect us by showing us the similarities between ourselves. They almost act as “touch points” by driving the sharing of knowledge, instigating action, and influencing thought.

Our ancestors used narrative, crude drawings, songs, or dance to visually emphasize important parts of a story and make them memorable.

The Digital Transformation

Today, storytelling is profoundly different.

Storytelling is done through a new and powerful means of communication: digital media. Instead of trying to memorize and recite prose, we can use an array of technologies such as graphics, typography, video, film, animations, marketing collateral, and more.

These mediums, because there are so many of them, give more people a voice. It educates them and creates an opportunity to share more messages. Visual storytelling is expanding the ways in which we reach audiences and blurs the lines between fact and fiction by re-shaping and changing expectations.

Moreover, with the accelerated emergence and accessibility of digital technologies, it has never been easier for storytellers to reach audiences. We are living in a mobile-driven economy. For brands, that means leveraging digital storytelling to tell the best story about your brand and delivering it on the best platform to reach millions of people.

The Moral of Your Story

Remember, you are not out to produce a digital story or video that you think would be “cool.” You have a message. You have a product. You have a clear identity. However, what emotions do you want to elicit? To answer this, you must know your audience.

Know Your Audience

Answering these kinds of questions will help you determine the best way to emotionally connect with your target market.

The Tools

Online video is a great way to reach large audiences, but if it is not done well, it can harm your brand. Some content requires a higher production value, while other content might not. It all depends on your audience.

The first (and best) tool you can use is a team of professionals.

A good producer is a visual storyteller. They can envision your story elements on-screen, and they know how to build your story. They do this by using the right professional tools from script to screen.

It is easy to quickly shoot some video with a smartphone or tablet then upload it to the Internet. The problem is that footage from these devices can be shaky or dark. The audio often sounds bad, and no real thought or strategy is put into the crafting of the digital video.

A professional video production company will give you clean, well-lit footage. They will know the lighting needs to highlight and illuminate the subject, how to create light that flatters your subject, and how to set a mood. They know how to capture clean audio correctly so it does not drown out or distract from your message.

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It is clear that visual storytelling is seeing tremendous growth, and there is no sign of it slowing down. Finding success through authenticity and relevancy is key.

Struggling artist Amanda Palmer did it. Her story has been seen by millions of strangers through video, a Kickstarter campaign, social media, and a TED Talk. Her success tells us that the art of storytelling can build art, careers, and businesses.

What questions do you have about digital storytelling? Or maybe you have your own video success story. Please share below.

ABOUT CATMEDIA:

CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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Amy Ferzoco

About Amy Ferzoco

As Director of Creative Services for CATMEDIA, Amy brings limitless energy to every project she manages. Amy is hands-on in all aspects of pre-production, production, and post-production. This includes creative development, scripting, videography, and editing. Her strong record of accomplishment, and 10+ years of experience in video production give her an in-depth understanding of the production process; the ability to visualize a script; and to assure elements are properly staged, acquired, and assembled.

View all posts by Amy Ferzoco

Creative Services, Digital Media, Storytelling, Video, Video Production

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