Become a Better Digital Storytellerby Mallory Wood
ESTIMATED READING TIME: 2 minutes
Stories have been with us for more than 20,000 years. Even before we had spoken language, we had stories in the forms of drawings. As human beings, we are wired for story, and we’re still discovering the ways in which story affects and shapes us at psychological, emotional, and neurobiological levels.
Digital Storytelling Provides an Immersive Experiences
Digital media allow storytellers to immerse audiences even more fully in our stories by integrating and weaving audio and video, photography, virtual reality, user-generated content, and long-form narrative throughout the story.
“A thought triggers the same regions of the brain that would be activated if you were actually experiencing the event in real life.”
— Carmine Gallo, “The Storyteller’s Secret”
And neuroscientist Paul Zak says, “A compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry, making us more trusting, understanding, and open to ideas.”
This is important because people who hear our stories can connect with them and almost live vicariously through them. As storytellers, we must always consider what type of emotional connection or reaction we want our readers to feel. And to do this, you need a keen understanding of those readers.
Develop Empathy for Your Audience Before You Write
mStoner’s Mythbusting Admissions report, a joint research project with Chegg (now NRCCUA), revealed:
- Print is the best way initially to capture a prospect’s attention.
- An institution’s website remains the most important and trusted source of information throughout the admission process.
- Students are both market-savvy and inundated with materials — so reaching them, getting their attention, and igniting their curiosity is harder than ever.
This is exactly why stories matter in higher education. Stories connect your prospective students, alumni, donors, and other key constituents with people and the institution in ways that facts, figures, and similar content simply can’t.
Before you put a pen to paper or a finger to the keyboard, we recommend that you develop empathy for your audience as a way of helping to plan your story. When you understand how storytelling connects to the journey of a prospective student, alumni, or donor, you can create stories to support that journey.
“Empathy is about understanding … what’s going on in a person’s head and heart … and acknowledging her reasoning and emotions as valid, even when they differ from your own.”
— Indi Young, “Practical Empathy”
To ensure that you approach writing your stories in a systematic way, here’s a planning checklist we developed, inspired by Ann Handley’s book “Everybody Writes.”
- Whom am I writing for?
- What do I want them to understand or learn?
- What’s the narrative arc of my story?
- What part of the experience or journey am I supporting?
- What thoughts, feelings, and actions am I addressing?
- What opportunities am I taking advantage of?
- What actions am I inspiring?
- What channels am I going to use to share this story?
Become a Better Digital Storyteller
“Stories themselves are universal. The way we tell them changes with the technology at hand. Every new medium has given rise to a new form of narrative. … People want to be immersed.”
— Frank Rose, “The Art of Immersion”
At mStoner, we’ve helped thousands of higher ed enrollment, advancement, and marketing professionals tell better stories. And we’d like to help you, too.
Tomorrow we’re launching an eight-course series, Digital Storytelling in Higher Education.
From the comfort of your desk chair, you’ll learn the essential components and elements of a great story, principles for using storytelling to build your brand, measurement considerations, and so much more.
You have two options:
- Ready to go? Sign up for the course today.
- On the fence? Download Digital Storytelling 101, for free. If you like what you hear, you can register for the full online course afterward.
After you complete the eight-course series, you’ll have concrete tools and tactics for producing, deploying, measuring, and optimizing story content.
Questions? Don’t hesitate to email me.
We’ve all got a story to tell. Let’s tell it beautifully.