COM0014 – Blog #2: How to tap into the power of storytelling

Source: Pixabay.com

Storytelling is a universal language. Humans use stories to connect, regardless of the medium. The “language” we use is critical to our understanding of the world around us. We all have the power to mold and shape our ideas to drive action and deepen understanding.

As I develop my own storytelling voice, the following five approaches from this week’s lesson resonated with me.

Define your purpose. Answer questions such as: Why am I telling this story?, Who am I writing for?, What response do I want? What action do I want them to take? Why should they care?, What value can I offer? or How can I inspire or motivate them to take action? Thoughtful answers to these questions can help you tap into your audience’s emotions and make is easier to write.

Use the appropriate structure. There’s a lot of competition online. You only have only a few short seconds to get your audience’s attention. Put your main ideas front and centre, followed by more details. Your audience will decide whether they want to engage deeper into your content.

Elicit action. Use active language to engage your audience. Sentences written in active voice are easier to understand, clearer and more concise.

Check your work. Have you ever been immersed in a good book or article then visually tripped over a misspelled word or grammatical error? Your experience can quickly become soured and colour the author in a bad light. Take the time to double check your work for spelling, punctuation, grammar and style errors to avoid damaging your credibility. This GrammarGirl podcast offers some great tips for proofreading.

Practice. Learn and grow from your writing experience. Review your work over time to see what’s working and what’s not. Ask more questions. Is your audience finding value in your content? How can you approach things differently? Keep creating content.

I am comforted by the learnings in this week’s lesson. In my experience working as a graphic designer, I tell stories on behalf of my clients. I use many of the approaches we’ve discussed, only using different elements.

Writing online is relatively new to me. I am a private person and need to learn the best way to share my stories with others. This is my challenge.

“You know you have a world of knowledge to pass on – but you have no idea how to wrap it into an exciting package your readers will love.” says Alex Limberg of SmartBlogger. His post also beautifully illustrates the power of storytelling.

Do you have any stories about your first experience publishing content online? I’d love to hear from you.

References:

Quick and Dirty Tips . (October 20, 2006). Proofreading Tips [Podcast]. Retrieved March 16, 2019, from https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/proofreading-tips.

SmartBlogger. (March 1, 2019). The Blogger’s Guide to Telling Stories That Win Hearts and Minds [Blog post]. Retrieved March 16, 2019, from https://smartblogger.com/storytelling/.

COMM0014 – Personal Reflection

After analyzing my skillset from beginning to end in this course, it became glaringly obvious that there were some gaps in my abilities to effectively convey a story to an audience. Using my newfound knowledge, I am able to quickly identify my target audience and implement an appropriate communication style that will reach them in the right way. To elaborate, using demographics and psychographics, I can make assumptions about those I am communicating to and will tweak my strategy of conveying message based on my findings.

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Why is storytelling crucial to creating great Digital content?

Whether it be in person, online and numerous other mechanisms of storytelling, you are always trying to sell people on an idea and have to implement the right strategy in order to get them interested. When approaching a story in person, there are many factors that differ compared to digital content. You can see peoples reaction, make judgement based on these findings, and therefore create your story based on what works. With digital content, you are making an assumption about those who you are telling a story to and have much less to work with. Often with digital content you must be overly cautious of the things you say in order to not offend any group you are trying to reach. For example, when creating great digital content that on the political spectrum, it is much to do prior research and analysis to determine if your target audience leans more left or right. Through this research, you can then tailor a story that will appeal to the group you are reaching and do not risk offending as many people. The creation of great content takes lots of trial and error but is certainly possible with the right amount of effort.

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How will your content be guided by story?

Content is guided by story no matter what approach you take. Think about companies who are selling a product and provide a backstory or use a tag such as “Established in 1942.” These are all part of telling the story in order to intrigue consumers into buying something you are selling. Whether it is a social media outlet, a business, a Facebook group, or any sort of digital platform, you ability to succeed and stand out from others depends on your ability to tell a story effectively. Look at Twitter as an example. Everyone has the same amount of characters per tweet to convey a message and get people interested in what they are selling. However, we can see that some people are able to thrive on this platform while others have issues with the restrictive threshold of words. I always despise the posts with 10+ “tweets”, assuming that I will ever take the time to read through all of them to understand a message they’re putting forward. I believe the restrictive nature of Twitter is one of the best aspects of the platform given it forces people to tell their story in a a very brief manner. Those who thrive are always the ones who grab their target audience’s attention quickly and get to their point immediately.

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What kind of stories do you want to tell?

After rambling on about people who do not tell stories quickly enough, I realized that I am already over the word count, so I will keep this brief. The types of stories I will tell depend entirely on the audience at hand and the message I am trying to convey. One of the most crucial parts of thriving online is adaptability and I believe that this is a skill we are always working on. Hopefully with more practice I am able to pinpoint my skillsets with online storytelling and will learn to cut down on unnecessary words. For now, I am simply trying to learn more about myself and tell my stories thus far on experiences I’ve had over my short lifetime. This course has been fantastic for self-introspection and I believe I learned a lot about who I am as a storyteller throughout it.

Strong Storytelling

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay. https://bit.ly/2QQZT9r

The key to excellent storytelling is clear and concise language. Authors construct straightforward sentences with active voice and use the inverted pyramid scheme to grab the reader’s attention. They also consider the interaction they want to have with their audience and how they will engage their readers.

As stated in this week’s readings the attention span of the average reader is waning. This leads to more inspectional reading with skimming, and superficial reading becoming more common. Brian Clark describes the four methods for reading and understanding text as elementary, inspectional, analytuval, and syntopical.

Grammar and spelling play a major role in making sure a blog, or social media post is considered professional and worth reading. Common grammar mistakes should be avoided and rereading and editing everything is key. It is also important to consider what action you want your audience to take and make that action as easy as possible. Creating sharable links is very important. One of the websites I like to use to create links is bitly which creates smaller and more manageable links for websites like Twitter.

The other major take away from this week’s lesson is not to “bury the lead”. In other words make sure that the opening paragraph of a blog or article has the most important information with details and context in the following paragraphs.

 

COM0014: Post 7 – Personal Reflection

Storytelling is one of the key pieces of the pie to creating successful digital communication. Your storytelling must engage and draw your desired audience to want more. It is a major building block for starting a relationship with the targeted audience and also to gain more followers to spread your story throughout the social media world.

There are many factors to consider when storytelling. Demographics play a very important role whether it be gender, age, income or even personal interest. One key element is to match your type of transaction to your potential client. There are three basic classes, starting with B2C which is your business directly to the regular everyday consumer on the street. The other classes are B2B meaning business to another business along with B2G business to government. You must research continuously for your target audience in order to keep updated with changes.

When composing a story you must make your audience want to read more and to provide enthusiasm in order for them to ask questions, making them feel a part of your writing. Listening is another major component and is a necessity in order to have a story line that flows naturally along with the style and message you want to relay. Stories can be used for many purposes whether it be marketing your business or product to a personal story about what you did on your last vacation.

Consistency can make or break a terrific story but always remember, no two people relate exactly to the same story. Some view the glass as half empty while others see it as being half full!

 

 

Assignment #1 Blog #6.. Do People Know Your Story?

Assignment #1 Blog #6.. Do People Know Your Story?

I work in the relocation business which means we can be responsible for industrial, retail business, municipal and provincial organizations along with the everyday person looking to move from one location to another. We are a trusted company that goes that extra mile to make our clients experience worry free. Meanwhile there are some moving companies out there that are looking for that quick dollar and they have no shame on how they acquire it!

One morning late last year I received a phone call at work from Wendy wanting to ask a few more questions about her move that she just booked with our company. I replied to her that this was the first time we had spoken. She asked if my name was Olivia? I replied saying no my name is Cheryl. She then asked for Olivia which I informed her there was no one by that name working here. She then told me that our affiliate company by the name of Red Maple Moving & Storage based out of Mississauga gave her a rate to move her this morning and took her credit card number for deposit. I immediately informed her we do not have any affiliates and to call her credit card company and hopefully any funds would still be in the pending stage.

As soon as I got off the phone with Wendy, I contacted the manager of our main website provider at Site Dudes and let her in on what has happened. Some how our main contact email was hacked though their site. We immediately changed our passwords and Site Dudes set up a sting hoping to catch the culprit. Red Maple Moving & Storage was contacted and asked for their address which was found to be a UPS store located in Mississauga.

I have a friend that is a manager at Toronto Crime Stoppers and I contacted her giving the information that was collected including Wendy’s contact info. She filed a report and found out that Toronto Police are currently investigating the company Red Maple Moving.

Below is a link to Red Maple Moving out of Mississauga, Ontario.

Mississauga Moving Company that said they are affiliated with All Ways Moving Company in Smiths Falls

Fortunately Wendy did reach her credit card company in time to remove the pending charges to her credit card. We did book her move, she also came into the office to personally thank me for the quick thinking and action taken. Red Maple Movers are on the police radar and have been charged. My employer was very proud of me on how quickly a disaster was turned into a positive outcome.

What more could one ask for for a Happy Ending!

COM0014 – Blog 2 – Storytelling & Communication Styles

When I hear the word “storytelling,” I immediately think of Grampa Simpson spouting off nonsensical ramblings about wearing an onion on his belt during the war.  While this is a form of storytelling, it doesn’t translate well to a blog post.  In social media, storytelling is all about communicating a message in a concise, meaningful, easy to understand, and familiar way.  When using storytelling on social media, there are few important things to keep in mind…

  • Your writing needs to be clear and concise – You’re not Margaret Atwood. It is important to get to the point in your first few sentences, and be clear about what you want to get across. Make sure your writing is interesting, and always lead with your most important information.  Readers will skim titles, and the first few sentences, but will only read on if it is appealing to them
  • Make sure you check over your writing before posting it; read it out loud if you need to. Spelling and grammatical errors will turn off readers, and lessen your credibility in the subject area.  Remember there is always a keyboard warrior out there ready to pounce on your mistakes.
  • Keep your audience engaged by writing in an active voice, as opposed to a passive voice. Write as it comes naturally to you, and keep your tone positive; readers will respond accordingly.

After you have hooked your audience in with a catchy title, killer opening, and well written copy, you can’t just leave them hanging. Always include a call to action; this is the reason why you have written your piece, and what you want them to do next.

Concise writing has always been difficult for me.  It has become more natural for me the more I do it, but I often feel like I am not putting enough in.  Do the rest of you share this struggle?  How do you keep your word count down, and still get your point across?  Share your comments below.

COM0014 – Blog #2: Storytelling and Communication Styles

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Storytelling is the most basic form of communication.  Although we are more advanced from a technological perspective, we are still using storytelling as a primary method of communication.

Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet, primitive people did.

Okay, so maybe primitive people didn’t invent the actual Internet, but they did use cave walls much like how we use the web, as a way to capture information and share it with a larger audience.

In more modern times, the printing press introduced mass distribution and the wide reach that we continue to experience today through tv, movies, books, and of course, the Internet.

Content is rooted in story and the ability to tell a great one.

Bottom line: you need to be a great storyteller.  Given the volume of content available, many readers are skimmers.  You need to captivate your audience from the get-go with your title. Have you ever read an article that you normally wouldn’t have only because you were grabbed by the title?

Know your audience.

Content should be engaging, inspiring, motivational, and entertaining.  To accomplish this you need to know your audience.  Who are you writing for?  What do you want them to take away from your piece?  How do you want them to engage with you?

When you know your audience, your content is more likely to be shared.  Always be true to yourself and use your voice—there is only one you, and you are interesting.  (See what I did there, I’m being motivational!)  You will attract like-minded readers and increase your following organically.

Short and digestible.

Looking back at some of my other blog posts (I’m a book reviewer for various publishers), I quickly realized that the best ones are in fact the shorter ones.  These posts chunk the content into small paragraphs which plays right into the skimmer personality, which I think is what most of us are becoming.  How many times have you gotten a huge email, only to stop reading early on because it was too wordy and visually overwhelming?

You want engagement and buy-in.  By arranging your piece using short paragraphs, someone can quickly and easily read your post and look forward to reading more from your blog.

COM0014 – Blog #7: The end of this chapter

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As we have read over the course of our lessons, storytelling is important to creating great digital content, because it is so intrinsically a part of human nature. For as long as people have gathered, they have been telling each other about their thoughts and experiences. And they have sought to do that in a way that will be influential  and engaging, so that their stories will be shared and will last.

One of the keys to effectively telling a story is giving your listeners a sense that there is a real person telling it to them. As I noted in my last blog post, there is still a hesitation within government to use language like ordinary people on social media, and to humanize the public service. But that hesitation is slowly…slowly…giving way. It’s indicative of a culture change within government – a change that means understanding and embracing our human need to tell and be told stories that appeal to us emotionally and intellectually.

I think that the movement towards storytelling in government, and letting the people within government tell their own stories as part of that overarching narrative, will continue. I don’t think it will ever get to the point where the telling of those stories aren’t centrally controlled; where, for example, multiple individuals are allowed to issue their own posts on government social media accounts under their own names (and certainly not individuals who aren’t at the most senior levels of the department). However, even with this centralized structure, I think there is room for telling the kind of stories I would want to tell: clear, plain language stories about how government policies and programs work, and what people need to know to use and enjoy them. Stories of the people who actually have used these policies and program, and what they can tell others about it. Also, I want to push my clients and senior management to tell stories that thoughtfully and transparently acknowledge the mistakes that government has made, and help them fight their instinct to hide their flaws.

Keep it real!

COM0014 – Blog #2 Telling My Story

I have been telling a story my entire life, looking at me from the outside people saw a strong, confident woman who had it all together.  Only I knew what was on the inside and it was everything my outside wasn’t.  I had no idea what “Your Special” meant, did I have super powers that I hadn’t even discovered yet.   I was adopted when I was only 3 months old, at 10 I learned that I was “Special”.  Unfortunate the only super power I had was putting up a shield to let no one in so they wouldn’t see the real me, and it worked for awhile.

You can make people believe just about anything if they feel your story.  Not knowing who I was let me create different facades, window dressing helped a lot too.  Being able to sell myself made me who and what I am today, strong and confident.

As time moves forward being able to tell a story will require new methods but the same framework will remain.  With anything we create, we first plan it, then we create it and finish it off with a cherry on top.

What do you believe is the best way to tell your story and why would I read it?