Friday, November 16, 2012

unConference Session: The Future of Storytelling

Presenter:    
Alena Gribskov, @alenarg

“Storytelling” is a big buzzword these days, especially in the realm of marketing and social media. But, do people even know what makes a good story? Do they know how to deliver one? This conversation covered a variety of topics and viewpoints. What follows is a collection of sound bytes that pose some interesting questions.
Presenter Alena Gribskov with several storytelling enthusiasts – continuing the conversation after the session

Starting Questions:
How is technology changing the future of stories – content and delivery?
What does this mean for us in terms of how we tell stories and get our messages across?

We’re at a really interesting point in the evolution of “story technology.” Today’s storytelling tools include ebooks, visual storytelling, social storytelling, collaborative and curated storytelling, and audio and video.

More and more, the need for print versions of stories is declining as people consume more stories via digital channels. Companies use video to convey critical parts of their brand story and boost viewer engagement and time-on-page ranking. Creative individuals, journalists, and brands are using audio formats like online radio and podcasting to deliver stories at new touch points – you can “read” a book while training for a marathon or catch up on the latest industry news while raking leaves.

Stories are being woven into our lives in new and interesting ways.
  
Does the quick fix nature of the social media mindset reduce our ability to tell stories? Are we losing the ability to develop quality narratives?

Social media brings several interesting elements to bear on the nature of story:
·      Attention Span: The “sound byte” nature of social media trains us to consumer quickly and to focus on visual elements more than the words. To grab attention, stories have to have a really strong “hook” (visual or text-based) and, more often than not, be brief in order to keep our attention.
Two-way dialog: Social gives the person listening to the story a chance to interact with and even redirect the story. Less and less frequently is there a single, authoritative narrator. Social stories naturally become collaborative storytelling experiments as they are passed from person to person. This is similar to oral storytelling traditions that adapt and change a story through sharing – each person adding new context and value.

What makes a good story?
·         It’s related to a current social or cultural theme.
·         It has likeable characters.
·         The listener can see him or herself in the story –they can relate.
·         It relates to one person’s experience vs. an ensemble.
·         It provides an emotional connection between the writer and the reader.

This is a tough question to answer. What makes a good story for one person may not always be the same for another person – it’s based on perspective, personal experience, personal mindset, and the context of the moment. A story that grabbed me yesterday may be irrelevant to me today because my circumstances of mood have changed.

Short-form vs. Long-form Stories
Are people really only interested in “snackable” content, or is there a place for longer form content that engages on a deeper level?

One way to think about it is to create “appetizer” content for the short-form channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) but link that to the “main course” content that lives on your blog or in an ebook or at a webinar.

We can also create hybrid long-form narratives over time by linking many small pieces of content. You can see this happening on a blog that has a consistent set of topics. Facebook’s Timeline is another example of a narrative-over-time approach.

Legacy Content vs. Trendy Content
Is it better for brands to stay consistent and put in the time and investment to create “evergreen,” foundational pieces, or should they focus more on the quick hit to grab new eyeballs?

The right solution is probably a mix – tailored to the needs of the audience.

“The future of storytelling is that storytelling is the future.” - Gregg Armitage @greggarmitage

Something’s got to happen (is happening) to enable the sharing of “real” stories vs. just the sound bytes. People are looking for content that changes the course of how they view their day or even their life outlook. The trendy pieces may entertain in the moment or inform at a superficial level, but the longer-form pieces are needed to forge connections and build real relationships. 

Remember – there are two parts to a story:
1. The person who tells the story
2. The person who listens to the story

The problem with social media is that your readers can walk away at any time. There’s no guarantee of making contact through the story.

Is much of today’s “storytelling” simply “documentation?”
How many of the “stories” out there are just descriptions of something that happened? How many stories actually have all the elements of a true story – story arc, plot points, conflict, resolution?

Documentation informs people. Stories connect with and move people.

Is the craft of storytelling at risk in this digital age? How do we teach storytelling as a craft?
We learn great storytelling through intentional study and through observation of others. We listen. We read.

The future of storytelling
There is so much content out there today. Everyone is producing and publishing “stories.” The power of that word has been diluted by the low quality of much of the content that crosses our screens.

To stand out and earn a reader’s loyalty and undivided attention, people need to improve their storytelling skills and their writing. They need to dig deeper into the craft and learn the makings of a good story.

Regardless of the medium, good storytelling will always captivate, move, and inspire. Today’s challenge is learning how to use all the technology at our fingertips to our best advantage.

Additional Resources - Examples of Good Storytelling:

What do you think makes a good story?
What’s your favorite source for good stories?
What’s your go-to resource for how to create a good story?


Jamie Wallace helps clients create resonant brands, standout content, and loyalty-inspiring customer experiences at Suddenly Marketing. And she makes sure they have fun doing it.
Twitter: @suddenlyjamie

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