Storytelling – A History & What I Learnt About It

Photo by Lady Escabia from Pexels

What I learnt this week was that to write good content, we have to learn and understand the history of storytelling and that there is a method to good storytelling. Like the “Inverted Pyramid Writing”.

Of course I knew that humans have been telling stories since ancient times, but I think we rarely think about that in our daily lives.
Even printing books is fairly knew if you think about how long humanity exists.

1450 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and made books widely available for the common people.

And as mentioned this week, now we have radio, movies and the world wide web with which we can share our stories.

All that happened in the last 100 years. I think sometimes it is hard for us humans to catch up with all of that. Especially with social media and how fast it develops and changes.

Like I mentioned earlier, I had never heard of the “Inverted Pyramid Writing” before.

Algonquin College – Digital Communication Course

But when I think about the many articles that I have read, then I can see that the writer used the Pyramid to create good content.
I will keep this in mind and try to do the same for my blog posts.

What did you learn about good storytelling and the history of it? Let me know in the comment section!

COM0014— Blog #3: Teachers as Target Audience

image from giphy.com

For the past year, I have been developing a workshop for teachers titled, “Film 101 for Teachers: Developing Global Competencies.” This is a project which combines two of my passions; film studies and education. I have realized (and then confirmed through research) that most teachers only use film in the classroom as support material or as a reward (i.e., it was a good week and its Friday before the March break). My workshop shows teachers how to use film as an educational tool to develop global competencies which the Council Ministry of Education of Canada is encouraging teachers to develop with students. These include critical thinking, creativity, communication, learning to learn and sustainability. As such, through the creation and marketing of this workshop I need to constantly think about my target audience, intermediate and secondary level teachers. 

Teachers at the intermediate and secondary levels already have a strong background in education as it is part of their profession, and are very familiar with the curriculum and pedagogic strategies. As a result it was important for me (someone who is not a teacher) to also become familiar with educational methods and school curriculums. I’ve also asked the help of a teacher who has been in the profession for over 30 years. This has allowed me to ensure that my workshop is tailored to the needs of my target audience.  

image from giphy.com

To communicate with my target audience, there are many educational organizations such as IDELLO who are looking for workshops for teachers, which I can contact to pitch my workshop. I can also directly communicate with specific school boards to see whether their teachers would be interested in Film 101 for Teachers. Many school boards and educational programs have newsletters which are sent regularly to teachers detailing upcoming workshops and events, and by contacting them I can get in touch with teachers through the newsletter. There are also film organizations such as the NFB, TIFF, and VIFF who offer educational programs to teachers as well. I can contact their educational department to set up a meeting to present my workshop. They also have contact with school boards and teachers where they send news of upcoming events. 

I am lucky as I already have contacts (friends) who are teachers. This has allowed me to gauge whether my workshop appeals to them and whether it would be useful. I am looking forward to completing my workshop and to start communicating with my target audience.

COM0014— Blog #2: Active and Passive Voices in Communication Styles

Image from giphy.com

This week’s module, Becoming a Digital Storyteller, has presented multiple communication style methods and techniques. However, in this blog entry I’d like to concentrate on active and passive voices. As mentioned in the module, when writing, many people use a passive voice. While this is not a grammar mistake, using a passive voice can lead to an unclear sentence and a miscommunication between the author and their readers. I, myself, often use a passive voice in my writing. So I thought I’d take the time to explore these two voices in this blog.

To start what is the difference between an active and passive voice? 

On aje.com, Mariel Wolfson explains “the active voice emphasizes the person or agent who performs an action, in short, the ‘actor.’ The passive voice emphasizes the recipient of the action or sometimes the action itself” (2020). Here is an example:

Active: “The dog chased the cat.”

Passive: “The cat was chased by the dog.”

As explained by Wolfson, in this example, the active voice is better in this case. It communicates the message well, it is short, direct and strong. However the passive voice is unnecessarily long and clunky (2020). When telling stories, it is often better to use an active voice to communicate clearly with your audience. 

However, Tim Corson and Rebecca Smollett illustrate how the passive voice can be used effectively in “Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It.” Here are the instances when a passive voice might be preferable:

  1. The actor is unknown or irrelevant.
  2. You want to be vague about who is responsible. (This is common in bureaucratic writing.)
  3. You are talking about a general truth.
  4. You want to emphasize the person or thing acted on.
  5. You are writing in a scientific genre. This genre usually uses a passive voice. 

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve often used a passive voice in my writing, especially when voicing my opinions because, for me, it felt safer (less vulnerable) to do so. I have noticed in the past that this has led to some miscommunications between me and my audience. However, I am learning to use a more active voice in my writing, as it is more easily understood by readers. If you are interested in learning more about Active and Passive voices here are some great resources:

Which voice do you tend to use the most when writing? How do you feel it contributes to your communication style?

Personal Reflection

This course on Digital Communications has really taught me a lot about the importance of not only finding your voice, but having something important or helpful to say with it. Storytelling and figuring out what your stories can offer others was a really important lesson for me as I was unknowingly struggling with that. I think at the end of this course it is now clearer to me what my story is, who it could resonate with, and how I can use my voice to better get it across. 

Storytelling is important to creating great digital content because it gives you an authentic way to connect with others. You get to share a piece of yourself that in some way should benefit you, and your audience. Storytelling is the way humans communicate with each other, back and forth we share stories in order to find connection and understanding. To bring that into the online marketing world makes perfect sense. People may not relate to a hot dog selling business, for example, but, if you give it a heart and a personality, an audience will form. 

I think my content has already been guided by my story, as I write about living my life as a farmer. There is room for my content to expand into other ways of story telling, however, and I will explore those other ways going forward. I want to continue to tell my story as a young farmer in Canada and do my part to help highlight Canadian farming as well as bring something back to our community that can strengthen it. Whether that comes in the form of entertaining distractions or solidarity in mental wellness I still need to work out but, storytelling is definitely the way to achieve both. 

Adding Value Through Shared Experiences

John Jantsch in his article ‘Do People Know Your Story?’ Asked the question: What experiences can I share that will help my audience?

To answer that question I need to understand what my audience needs help with and what my experiences offer in terms of a solution for that. Throughout this course I have been going through a serious identity crisis with my personal brand. Is my audience who I thought they were? Am I wasting my time on the wrong audience? Am I somehow steering away from the original path I had set out on with my message and my audience? 

My experiences are those of a young awkward farmer who just wants to help the agriculture industry in some way. I think somewhere along the way I lost sight of how that could help my farming community. I originally started making these specific comic strips and sharing them online to relieve stress, and hopefully help others relieve stress by having a laugh. Farming is stressful. Mental health is a serious issue in our rural communities and there is a massive need for ways to help with that. 

In the past (and I mentioned this in my last blog), my strips have been associated with the mental health movement in agriculture and at that time it wasn’t really something I was interested in because I thought it wasn’t really part of my brand. Now, as I mull over John’s question, I feel like I couldn’t have been more wrong, and the answer to his question was staring my in the face the entire time! 

I made comics as a teenager to vent my frustrations or anxieties about things that were going on in my life. I make comics to escape problems, I make comics to work through problems, and I can now make comics to share those problems with others who may be going through similar things. Especially in the farming community, where mental health is a crisis. They face hardships daily that could effect whether they have enough money to pay their bills. This past year alone, personally, my farm experienced a flood (so the crops went in late), followed by a drought (so the crops didn’t grow as nicely), an early snow (so the crops couldn’t be harvest on time), 10% of our herd was not pregnant, and Ontario’s largest processing facility was shut down making it impossible to sell our weaned calves leaving us with fifteen extra mouths to feed through the winter. That’s not even all the struggles we faced in 2019, and this year isn’t looking much better. 

I know my farm is not the only one going through these troubles, and there are different struggles for different groups. What I can offer is my experiences dealing with these issues through my strips that will hopefully help my audience find a positive way to get through their own struggles. I need to focus on the people I belong with, and how I can give back to our community. This is the best way for me to do that, and these experiences could be their experiences, so I shouldn’t keep those to myself. 

My Target Audience

Before I get into who my target audience is, I should first explain what it is I’m trying to get out to them. I am a comic artist and I post daily strips that give vignettes of the life of a modern farmer or rural person. Every day I try to post something I’ve experienced that was humorous in the hopes that it will bring other people joy too. Strips about doing chores, working with family, strips about the culture, about my childhood and strips about city life compared directly to country life. 

The immediate audience that comes to mind for such content is automatically farmers. My strips are relatable for them so it must be for them. I came to the conclusion early on that due to many factors that might not be the case. 

Farmers make a very small portion of the online community, most opting not to use it at all. It is a niche, but it’s almost too much of a niche to become anything profitable. When they are on social media, farmers are inclined to use Twitter or Facebook and use those platforms to get the news or stay updated with friends. They don’t tend to use Instagram because that doesn’t serve either of those purposes, and Instagram happens to be the best platform for my type of content.

Farmers are very supportive, friendly, and want members of the community to succeed. They can appreciate what I do and offer words of support but, that is essentially where it ends. These are people who have all their finances tied up in the work and don’t have a penny to stretch for something that isn’t practical. Supporting an artist via Patreon or KoFi would be something completely foreign to them and not justifiable in their minds. 

My actual target audience is young and mostly urban audience. My brand of humour speaks more to the younger generations who just want to be entertained and experience things. I create the strips so that any young person could find something to relate to in it, but it’s still highly farm or country focused. This way, my audience can see that we are all the same in the end, despite backgrounds being so different. For example, my country versus city strips call out in particular are differences and makes a joke of it, but in the end those two people are best friends. 

country vs city strip

The goal of my business is to highlight farming and farm culture through my visual storytelling. I believe the best way to do that in a successful way is to tell the stories to people who don’t already know it. I want to connect with those people and share with them the story of agriculture in a language they are familiar and comfortable with, that doesn’t teach at them but rather laughs with them. Millennials and Generation Z’s also seem to be more open to supporting artists than other generations. If they like your work and your personality they are more likely to subscribe to a Patreon or buy a piece of your work. I’m not necessarily saying farmers wouldn’t do that, but from a business perspective I have to go with the more likely bet.

Long story short, my audience is the young, urban, Canadians of today. The people living through their social media platforms and giving what they can to support people they appreciate. In doing so, I give back to the farming community in a more meaningful way. Even with my strips focused on pleasing a very different audience, they are still relatable to those farmers out there who need a good chuckle too. 

Farmer on Vacation

The last vacation I took was a year ago. I didn’t actually start taking vacations until I met my husband. We come from different worlds, like country mouse and city mouse. He went on family vacations every year and I did not. My family didn’t have the time, the money, or the ability to leave the farm. I could go my whole life without going anywhere, if I’m honest, but my husband wasn’t having that life so here we are.

Our last vacation was to Costa Rica. We went to a fairly new resort near Liberia and had a really great time. My style of vacationing involves lying around, reading and eating too much or drinking too much. My husband on the other hand prefers to explore, see all the sights and do all the things. We often meet in the middle. Half the time spent by the pool or on the beach, and half the time trail blazing.

On that trip we went zip-lining over mountains, which was terrifying and beautiful, but most terrifying. We also went horse back riding which is something my husband always talks about doing, but I personally hate horses so I usually avoid it. Growing up, my farm had a total of twenty-four horses. I’ve had more than enough experiences to last me a life-time, but for him we went for it. I’ve never ridden a horse that so desperately didn’t want to be ridden before. It was almost comical how desperate she was to get back to the barn. We also had dinner on a mountain top, went to a hot-springs, and went down to the market beach for a day trip. 

Around the resort was interesting. There was a really cool black sand beach, but the ants and monkeys were too much to enjoy it. The monkeys were actually brutal there, like hungry racoons around a campground. Nothing was safe from them. The staff there were also really great, they did a weird dance at the end of the day that I’m still humming the tune of. They always had fun events and night too, it was never boring there. 

All in all the experience was great. I would go there again. Farmers don’t often get to take vacations so it is a real luxury that I am able. I definitely wouldn’t suffer if I didn’t go away though, I’m very happy with the little patch of paradise I have here in rural Ontario. I’m truly a lucky duck to have both options. 

In the spring we are going on a cruise through Spain, France and Italy for our delayed honeymoon. Fingers crossed we can still go! Pretty up in the air these days.

Has anyone had their travel plans cancelled because of the virus outbreak? Should I plan for the worst?

Blog #3 – COM0014 Running into your Audience

I’ve recently taken up running and have decided this is the year to run a half marathon. But in order to get myself ready for it, I have been doing a lot of online research to make sure that I am training properly. The same methods of research can be applied to finding out who my target audience is for people interested in running.

Running is a very popular activity/sport that can encompass everyone from the casual runner to the full blow marathon junkie, and it doesn’t discriminate in age or sex. But in looking at running stats for half marathon races, women seem to be dominating the running world and its popularity seems to be global. The following article, The State of Running 2019 has a great explanation of the state of running as it breaks down the stats of men vs women, age, speed and geographic location. In looking at these figures it gives a great insight into how I could select my target audience and where I personally fit into these stats.

I’m one of the ones who fit in the age category of 49-55, first time entrant to a half marathon and more than likely one of the ones that will slide into the slow finish category. But that’s okay because there is a lot of training help out there to keep us encouraged. It seems like every running store will offer training tips on their websites or post blogs where you can ask an expert. There are also running forums where you can talk to other runners and post questions about anything from what types of shoes are the best to help with injuries.

Runner’s World is a magazine that has stepped outside of the published version to an online article that has different topics of interest to any runner and has even created specific Facebook groups you can join and post questions or offer helpful advice on it addition to their general Facebook page which is an amendment to their website and articles.

The Running Room also runs a successful campaign with their running clinics and online coaching programs. You register for the type of training that you want to accomplish whether it is a 5k, beginner or half-marathon. I have a co-worker who has registered twice for the half-marathon and 10km training clinics and has very positive comments about the programs and the camaraderie all the runners in the programs share.

So as I continue my training, I am thankful for the others who have come before me and are able to share their training advice and tips to help me make my way through successfully, upright and still breathing. Power to us older ladies who keep on moving!

COMM0014 – Blog #5 – Experience is what sets me apart.

I am an artist that likes to wear a tie, the quiet gentlemen that listen to metal music. I am the pacific guy that trains to fight every week and a couch-potato that runs ultra marathons. I am patient and easily gets excited with new projects. When you hire me, you are not only getting a photographer, you get a partner that will help you realize your project and document it in a way that will write history, your story.

My experience is what sets me apart. I had the honour of working as the official photographer to the Governor General for 4 years (2007 to 2010) and, now, I continue to work as a photographer, documenting our Mounties.

I have photographed countless of historical events, including a number of state visits, the Olympics in Vancouver, the aftermath of the Earthquake in Haiti and our troops in Afghanistan. I got to bring my camera to over 26 countries and most of our own country and to photograph many known and unknown personalities.

One thing that I am the most proud of is the exhibit that I had the pleasure of putting together for Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada. Click here to see it. 

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This panel explains what the exhibit is about and a little more about me.

Considering that I continue to be staff photographer for our federal police, I am fortunate that I do not need to promote myself very aggressively. It fits well with my brand, to be discreet and make noise with my megapixels.

COMM0014 – Blog #4 – Problem solved.

Earlier this year, Amanda Lindhout was invited as a guest speaker at work. After going through her her biography in the event invitation, I felt the urge to read her book before she would come. Since I read at an extra slow speed, I decided to look for the audio book version on Audible . In only 2 days I managed to “read” the book, just in time before her visit. My reading speed was not an issue anymore; problem solved.

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My picture of Amanda Lindhout used in a Social Media post from work on Facebook.

I was hooked. Suddenly my commute was more enjoyable, and I could go through a book in less than 6 months! While I was not very keen on another monthly subscription, Audible’s initial offer was very generous; 3 audiobooks for free over 3 months.

They followed up with an email strategy that worked where other had failed; they were sending me personalized suggestions of book to read with the possibility of sampling them. With over 5 millions followers on the Audible’s Canadian Facebook page, they are truly engaging with their audience effectively. In this article from Mediakix , they explain how Audible is using Influencer in marketing campaigns on Instagram and Youtube to encourage new clients to try Audible and feed the discussion. Audiobooks are like movies in a sense that they are easy to share and comment on and the company can easily afford to have influencers do that for them.

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Personalized suggestion from Audible received via email

When my offer came to an end, I decided quit to save money. Once again, they had an offer that was hard to resist and to this day I am still with them and have gone through many books since. I believe their marketing is very effective and not aggressive but yet generous. At least it works for me…

Here are a few of the books I have been listening to. Which one was your favorite?

Can’t hurt me – David Goggins 

A house in the sky – Amanda Lindhout

Here I am – Alan Huffman

The Operator – Robert O’Neil