Digital storytelling – or telling tales online

Published on Business stage: Scaling, Starting

Laura Brown, Digital Consultant and runs Social Bot, a digital storytelling company for events. 

Events are about telling stories, but don’t limit yourself to the people in the room.

Telling a story is something we assume we’ve left in our childhood, crouched together on the mat in school, gently dozing off in the afternoon. In fact, storytelling is something we do every day. We create narratives around who we are, what we’re doing and who we’re working with.

Storytelling has its place in business.


Because telling someone a story is the easiest way to pique their imagination, to make them think, get them inspired and make them listen. Picture every time you stood in front of a room of people and got them round to your way of thinking. How about when you explained why your business is the best one for the job to an important new client? You told them your story. It may not have begun with “Once upon a time…” but it was a story nonetheless.

We need to get better at storytelling. With the wealth of social networks at our fingertips it’s easier for us to tell our stories in creative, engaging and enthusiastic ways, to get people onside, to teach them about who we are, what we believe in and why we want them to be part of it. The problem is, we often don’t do it at the right times. Or, we don’t do it in an engaging way.

Take an event, it could be a conference or a launch, whatever its form, the purpose of the event is to help you engage more effectively with your target audience. These may be people who know already, or those who’ve never met you before. The work you’ve put into this event, the effort has all been part of crafting and honing that projection of yourself. It’s easy to fall back on those Reithian principles of inform, educate and entertain but in essence that’s what we do when we engage. We tell someone something they didn’t know before, we offer a fresh perspective, a new experience and we place ourselves as the ones who are the authority, the conduit for the new knowledge.

So why do we limit ourselves to the people in the room? When we’re telling that all important story about who we are and what we do, why do we focus all of our energy on the people already coming who, let’s be honest, probably know us fairly well (they said yes, didn’t they?) or if it’s something new people who are already quite warm leads. It doesn’t give us an opportunity to reach those who can’t come because of geography, because they don’t like events or because the way we've sold ourselves through the event makes them think it isn’t for them.

These are valuable people too!

This is where digital storytelling comes into its own. Capturing and sharing an event in real time through social networks help to cross off a lot of those boxes; for those who can’t make it they can follow online, for those who don’t like events they can stay fairly snug behind their smartphone and keyboard. For those who possibly didn't think it was for them it can add more context, a greater flavour and encourage them to reconsider their initial thought.

We put so much thought into the event itself we need to start giving more consideration to how the event can be positioned and received by those who aren’t in the room. Twitter, yes, but also Storify, Vine, live blogging, instagram, even snapchat for those who want to create a little buzz. We can tell the story of who we are via social networks and reach people who might not be wearing a lanyard but can be primed as to what our story is all the same.


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