Digital Dilemmas: digital storytelling

This month our expert explains why digital media has made storytelling an even more important and effective marketing tool.

Q: How does digital storytelling work for brands and what do marketers need to do to make it work?

A: Storytelling is fast becoming the shiny new marketing tool, but in truth, it’s been the stuff of clever commu­nication since humans were scraping shapes on cave walls.

The thing that makes storytelling in the digital age something worth talking about is the fact that, if done well, marketers are no longer limited by primitive kit or unpredictable audiences – they can get their voices heard in the right way, in the right place and at the right time.

But is there some kind of secret sauce that only the best storytellers have tucked away, or can anyone do this stuff? Speaking to some of the digital world’s best content-creators gave us the goods:

1. Be authentic. Always.
Content – be it editorial or branded content – needs to come from a place of truth. A story will resonate with readers only if it’s unabashedly honest. Audiences can sniff out a porky pie (even if it has been dressed up rather prettily) at 10 paces, and the sheer quantity of digital content out there means that readers have become increasingly adept at spotting a faker.

2. Don’t sit on the fence. It’s boring (and uncomfortable).
Content that comes from a great story has a point of view. It’s opinionated. It isn’t necessarily loved by everyone, but that’s all right. As we’ve established, there is so much content out there that marketers should never feel they need to please everyone when they embark on a branded-content campaign. Having a point of view fast-tracks engagement. It makes readers feel something and, inevitably, compels them to take action.

3. If someone else is telling your story, let them tell it their way.
The sad truth is that not everyone knows how to tell a great story. Give up and leave it to those who are great at it. Not only do they know how to spin a good story, the best ones have spent years understand­ing their audiences and knowing exactly how they like to consume content. Don’t give in to the temptation to meddle, trim or tweak. These guys know how to do it, so trust them.

Storytelling dates back thousands of years but it’s no longer a case of one storyteller, one audience, one channel. Storytelling in the digital age allows the marketer to amplify the message through immersion, interactivity, integration and impact. Eat your heart out caveman!

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