Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling is the method of using computer-based techniques to tell stories. After traditional storytelling, most digital stories focus on a specific topic and contain a particular point of view. Digital storytelling describes a simple, creative method through which people with little or no experience in computer film-making gain skills to tell a story as a two-minute film using still images, moving videos and voiceover. These films can then be streamed on the web or broadcast on television. Digital stories usually contain some mixture of computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. Digital stories can vary in length, but most of the stories used in education typically last between two and ten minutes

A digital storyteller could be anyone who has a desire to document life experience, ideas or feelings through the use of story and digital media. Usually, it is someone with little experience in video production but with time to spend a few days attending a workshop and developing a story with creative support and technical assistance from compassionate, experienced facilitators.

Digital Storytelling ranges from personal tales to the recounting of historical events, exploring life of one community to search for life in other corners of the universe and everything in between. Telling a story is an essential part of our humanness. It allows us to feel part of the community that knows our story, and it fosters empathy for those that surround us. Story is a powerful force in shaping mental models, motivating and persuading others as well as teaching the lessons of life. Telling a story extends back to a time when oral history dominated the tools of communication. And now the flood of technology tools that allow for instant communication has spun us back into a golden age where story again dominates the media landscape.

The uses of digital storytelling range from a means to express creativity, to a research method for local health issues or a means of preserving a community’s identity and a form of oral history. As a method, digital storytelling combines techniques to develop literacy and storytelling skills with an introduction to basic Information and Communication Technology (ICT), using group exercises and individual processes that develop confidence and build self-esteem.

On the surface these digital stories are all singular, personal audio-visual accounts of an individual’s story, yet the making of them is shaped by the collaborative experience in the workshop. Each story shows how someone envisages their place in a personal and a public world.

Digital storytelling allows participants to: tell their own stories, learn digital media skills, build confidence and self-esteem. The method places the stories under the control of the storyteller

Participants find digital storytelling fun: it is a way to reach people who think that education is ‘not for them’; it can help to develop language and literacy skills through storytelling and script-writing; it can give people a kick-start in developing their skills and improving their chances to gain employment; it offers a way to engage thoughtfully with experience.

Digital storytelling has been used in health and teacher education for developing students’ professional identity, and as a tool for self reflection whereby students make and share digital stories about their practice experiences.

Digital storytelling workshops typically begin with a story circle, creating a trusting atmosphere and getting to know each other through activities. Story prompts are given eliciting concentrated thoughts as to the most powerful elements to be developed from a lifetime of memories. Storytelling exercises introduce methods and encourage the sharing of material. Participants are then introduced to the principles of narrative: narrator, voice, background. They also learn about camera work and film technique. Short scripts are written, following which the voiceovers are recorded. Participants scan photographs from albums or take new photos of people and objects. Others make images through drawing, make simple stop frame animations or computer software animations such as Adobe Flash. Participants then move to editing. The imagery and animation is built into a film editing software where it is combined with the voiceover. The results are then shared in the form of group shows, exhibitions in public spaces or online.

 The seven elements of digital storytelling are:

  1. The point of view element focuses on the purpose and perspective of the story.  The purpose of a story or narrative could be to inform the listener about a specific idea or phenomena or it could inspire the listener to action. These stories can be first-person personal and reflective or third-person historical and analytical.
  2. The dramatic questions are the key enquiry that holds the listener’s attention. This involves the inner conflict or problem the protagonist that is trying to overcome. By the end of the story, this question should either be resolved or the listeners should have been provided enough information to resolve it themselves.
  3. Each story should include an aspect of emotional content that connects to its listeners’ feelings and evokes a response, whether visceral or subliminal. These written narratives should effectively convey emotions of humor, empathy, fear, anxiety, solitude, amongst many others. This element can be challenging as it requires authors to deeply consider the perspectives of their listeners because what may be interpreted as humorous to one person, may be offensive to someone else.
  4. The narrator’s voice is a gift that must not be taken for granted, but rather recognized and nurtured as it is the vehicle that delivers the story’s message. It carries varying degrees of richness, context, character, and personality that can strengthen a story. Distractions such as an ambient background noise, repeating statements, and a low tone of voice can affect the interpretation of the story, no matter how well-written. If an author has a thick accent or mild speech impediment this can also affect and enhance how the story’s message is interpreted. Successful mastery of the “Your Voice” element suggests the student has practiced the art of oration and can effectively deliver a clear presentation.
  5. A digital story should be no longer than three minutes. With this in mind, a written narrative should not be any longer than one and half pages double spaced and less than 400 words. If the narrative is any longer than three minutes, the author takes the risk of losing the listener’s attention. The art and craft of editing and revision are needed to economize the salience of a narrative.
  6. Pacing is connected to the inflection, cadence and clarity of an author’s voice. The best practice is to record the entire narrative in one take, without any interruptions or digital edits. Authors should pause for each comma, semicolon and period that they read while seeking adequate breath control when recording narratives. They should infer inquiry when reading a sentence with a question mark and project excitement when reading a statement with an exclamation mark. To master the pace of a digital story requires both patience and practice, yet, most importantly; it requires authors to listen to, and feel comfortable with, their own voice.
  7. A digital story’s soundtrack can include music or other sound effects that amplify the emotionality of subject matter or support the story line. However, this element should be approached cautiously as musical soundtracks add an additional layer of information that can be distracting as it competes with the audio of the author’s voice. Moreover, issues concerning copyright and attribution affect the use and appropriation of a soundtrack. It is advisable that authors, especially those with limited digital storytelling experience, ensure that their “Gift of Your Voice” element is flawless before proceeding to add an additional soundtrack.

How to Build Great Digital Stories:

1.   Know your brand story

Determine what your organization stands for, what is the brand value, what is the purpose. This is usually developed in the early stages of the company, but marketing teams must know this definitively upfront. With this information, marketing can weave consistent narratives that showcase those values. Company values are what help guide marketing voice, style, and creativity. It can influence everything from writing style, design, advertising, product innovation, partnerships, and much more.

Paying attention to customers, prospects, and employees about the company brand, products, and services. While copying your competition directly is not a good look, you still can monitor how they position their brand and where the marketplace is going.

2.   Find your audience

Your digital storytelling won’t work in your company’s favor if you have no clue about the audience you’re targeting. Things like what their pain points are, what interests them, where do they look for information online, how do they consume information, etc. You have to generate a brand story with long-time value, so you can focus on the consumer to the value your company brings to them beyond a quick solution. Create content that audiences can glean value from even if they have never used or purchased what you have to sell. Your values and mission are important to the story, you have to build trust and create fans even if they aren’t purchasing your services or product immediately.

3.   Connect with customers more often

Your customers are paying for your product or service and trust your brand. This gives you the perfect opportunity to learn what resonates with them most and where you might be missing the mark.  Gather all the insights you can, whether good or bad and use that to help amplify your storytelling efforts to attract more positive attention. Usually, everyone has a unique taste. Brands that look outdated, communicate like a monotone top-down robot do not resonate with audiences as they might have in the pre-digital pre-social market.

Organizations have pivoted to humanize their marketing by casting the customer-user-prospect front and center as the protagonist of the company values.

In a sense, you could call this strategy “inductive branding”, starting with specific human experiences, and letting the audience infer the general principles of your brand.

Besides having your marketing team write, create, and share more like a human being. It means getting customers, executives, and employees more involved too.

4.    Humanizing with employee advocacy

A great way to get employees involved is include them in company announcements, videos, and social posts by utilizing an employee advocacy program and strategy.

Now your employees are creating and sharing their unique thoughts, engaging with their trusted social network of family and friends and thus reaching more audiences than most general brands might via company social profiles alone.

Employee advocacy is a great way to get your people more involved, humanize your marketing, and improve digital storytelling.

Methods and practices used by people in digital storytelling :

  1. It permits a competitor or a member to recite their personal stories, grasp required digital media skills, develop self confidence and self determination along with self esteem.
  2. Several participants find this digital based storytelling so exciting and fun for them. Such as for people who think that education is not for them, it seems to be a way to reach people having such thoughts.
  3. It also helps to enhance language and literacy skills using storytelling and scriptwriting.
  4. It also helps people to incite them in boosting their skills and enhancing their chances to gain employment for them.
  5. It also provides people a way to engage themselves thoughtfully in this work.
  6. This digital storytelling seems to be used in various fields of education such as health education, education for teachers, etc. in order to develop a student’s professional identity.
  7. It also serves as a tool for students to build and enhance their self reflection so that they can create and share digital stories related to their practice experiences.
  8. Digital storytelling seems to be a practice which helps to encourage high order thinking skills, expands digital literacy and serves as the combining element that has the ability to transform the students into the true learners of the 21st century.
  9. Workshops for digital storytelling generally start with a story circle that creates a credulous environment and let each other know through different activities. Digital storytelling tastes introduce several ways and inspire the material that is shared.
  10. After this, all the participants are made known to the ethics of narratives such as narrator, voice and background. Here the participants also learn about the working of the camera, i.e. how the camera works and various techniques of the film.
  11. The scripts which are short are written followed by the voiceovers which are then recorded. Participants simply take new and fresh photographs of the subject and objects or they can also scan the old photos that are available in the album. Several other people also create photos with the help of drawing followed by simple stop frame animations. They can also use computer based software animations such as adobe flash, etc.
  12. Then the participants move for the editing process. In the editing process, the images and animation are combined with the voice over. The results obtained are then shared in various forms such as group shows, exhibitions in public places or maybe online also.

Two types of testing you can use for storytelling effectiveness:

  • A/B testing: This method involves creating two different versions of your story with slight variations. You then release multiple and monitor them to see which performs better.
  • Focus groups: This involves recruiting people from your target audience to view your campaigns and share the review back. You can bring in volunteers or offer to pay participants for this.

Once you understand how digital storytelling can impact your marketing, it’s easier to work effectively. Technology hasn’t changed the need for stories. It has provided new different mediums, formats, and platforms you can use for this technique for the marketing strategy. Images, videos, social media, interactive websites, mobile applications, and even games are some of the channels brands can take advantage of.

Apps such as Guru, use technological advancements like augmented reality to enhance experiences for visitors in museums and other attractions. This is a powerful engagement method as visitors are immersed in the exhibits, creating connections with and enhancing understanding of the featured objects.

Storytelling is also effective for increasing brand awareness. If you look at ‘viral’ commercials, you’ll notice that many of them incorporate some kind of narrative. This could help you appeal to audiences with increasingly shorter attention spans. And therefore by building an emotional connection with your audience, you can start to create a loyal community of customers.

Digital storytelling provides paths for brands to build cohesive connections with the audiences, but it takes practice to use strategies effectively. There are practical reasons to include storytelling elements in your marketing campaigns. By first understanding your customer base, you can create narratives that resonate with them, appeal to their emotions to build loyalty, and use various digital platforms to share your campaigns in a voice consistent with your mission and values as stories generate empathy with the brand.


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