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Fostering Diversity Through Digital Storytelling


April 1, 2014

In this new age of content overload, consumers are deluged with a never-ending supply of news, information and data. Content overload challenges even the savviest PR pro to produce new and shiny ways of delivering an organization’s message.

Not only do you need to be strategic and demonstrate measurable results of your efforts, but you also must ensure that you are earnestly conveying every stakeholder’s voice and perspective.

Digital storytelling combines narrative with media that includes images, sound and video to create a short movie. This technique is commonly used in the classroom to encourage the storyteller to effectively communicate a single, poignant topic to a specific diverse audience.

This method of creating what linguistic scholars call “moments of agency” via digital storytelling can also be a powerful way to break through the clutter.

Understanding the trends

Forbes’ Jaysen DeMers states that there are seven social marketing trends that will dominate our attention in 2014. Three of these that are particularly interesting include:

  • Investment in social media will become a necessity, not a luxury.
     
  • Image-centric networks will see a huge
    success.
     
  • We’ll witness the rise of micro-video.

Sharing and engaging online in real-time through the use of visuals reinforces the significance in self-expression, self-representation and in the establishment of identity.

As more social, image-based platforms like Pinterest, Slideshare, Vimeo, Vine and Docstoc gain traction, the concept of the audience’s story creation versus PR pros’ narratives will become more commonplace.

PR practitioners should consider becoming message sherpas, where we guide our stakeholders through the process of incorporating their voice and perspective to our organization’s overall message.

Creating moments of agency

In scholarship, societal influences and how a person navigates through those influences can justify the way that he or she acts and incite behavior that affects themselves and others.

Moments of agency takes one’s historical and cultural path into consideration, helps explain how people assign relevance and significance to things and events, and can be exercised by individuals and communities.

Agency considers all aspects of one’s past, present and future to explain their way of existing in the world. Agency also enables a variety of voices to be heard.

An example of the use of agency through digital storytelling is Dove’s eight-minute short, “Selfie.” The film explores how social media is shaping the way that people perceive beauty by filming teenage girls and their moms taking photos of themselves that highlight their insecurities about how they look, reavealing their true, individual beauty.

Knowing the basic themes

Though digital storytelling and agency may be new to you, the concept of telling a compelling story is not.

In fact, author Christopher Booker contends that there are only seven archetypal themes that recur in every kind of storytelling. His book, “The Seven Basic Plots,” examines how the narratives of  “overcoming the monster,” “rebirth,” “quest,” “journey and return,” “rags to riches,” “tragedy” and “comedy” underscore all of the stories that we, as humans, are “programmed” to imagine.

Knowing and understanding the seven basic plots can help frame an organization’s story while also using digital techniques and your stakeholder’s source of agency.

Sharing your story

Consider how you can reframe your organization’s message.

The thoughtful use of multimedia, understanding the common plots that appeal to audiences, and acknowledging your stakeholder’s moment of agency will result in your ability to produce inspiring and genuine content for your organization.

 

Dionne C. Clemons, Ph.D. Dionne C. Clemons, Ph.D., is a strategic communications thought leader and educator. She currently serves as Director of Communications and Community Engagement for the United Planning Organization in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @Drdcclemons.



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