#Digital Storytelling – 5 Things You Need to Know (in 5 Minutes)

In today’s overflowing world, how can new tech tools create visual stories that entertain and grab your customers’ attention? How can businesses leverage these tools with the right content to surprise, incite and create compelling experiences for their potential users? How can you make digital stories that are alive with experiences, relevant and vivid?

The title of this JCP blog post #Digital Storytelling is also the title of the pocket-sized book by Dieter Georg Herbst and Thomas H. Musiolik.* Prof. Herbst is the keynote speaker at the Bertelsmann University international conference on the Future of Communication (#TheFutureOfComms), where I’m teaming up with Denkmotor colleagues to help run the show. Good moderators are always prepared, so I bought Herbst’s book to get a heads up on background info before the conference starts.

Tweet this: Learn 5 things about #digitalstorytelling and the guest speaker @profherbst at #TheFutureOfComms: http://bit.ly/2dOwF7e @Denkmotor

Here some key take-aways for how to use the incredible potential of digital storytelling for image films, commercials, and other corporate communication. And my blog title, with the 5 things? Well,  that’s a little storytelling fiction too!  There are so many more things you need to know to create really good digital stories. Herbst’s book is chock full of input, how-tos and many awesome links + tips.  For quick readability sake, I’ll reduce this blog text down to the major points. Then I zero in on the people subject, which interests me most. This is when Users become the storytellers. At the end of the blog, I’ll give you linked web examples of this kind of digital storytelling. All set?

  1. what's your digital story?Where do you find great story content? Become the “hero” or go on a quest for personal stories in your company. Take on the role of a story collector. Talk with people, staff from all levels, listen and experience your brand from their insider perspective. Let employees test your products. Let people talk about what they are good at and why working with this company is the best choice. Use the people’s voice to make your brand personal. To make the most of meaningful and relevant communication.
  1. Corporate storytelling with digital technologies gives you the opportunity to integrate 4 important features, that Prof. Herbst calls the “Big Four” of digital storytelling: integration, accessibility, connection and interactivity. These are 4 specific characteristics for this kind of narration. Use this mix, to author distinctive platforms that you can use to craft unique multi-sensory medial experiences that speak with the audience.
  1. Use the particular qualities of end devices! Anticipate your customer’s use when on a tablet, smart phone/watch, laptop or wearable. What particular qualities can be transported to which end-device when using digital technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, Bluetooth, QR codes or holograms? How can this distinctiveness be used to create a specialized story that moves our customer and generates more value for your business?

digital storytelling: make it interesting

  1. Don’t be boring! People love tension, conflict and the human touch! Use emotions to create a clear, “vivid” picture of how your particular product or service can help users solve a problem, fulfill a need or just plain be happy. People will store those story feelings as experiences. They trigger a kind of connective mental/emotive anchoring with the brand.
  1. Involve your customers as narrators or invite external experts to talk about their experiences. Siemens AG perfected this method in their digital Storytelling-Magazin “/answers”. A most unusual accomplishment in which everyday people are filmed in documentary style talking about their world-views, aspirations and social projects. All the stories have a clear link to Siemens technological products. And this the BIG POINT and crux; these new technologies helped all the everyday heroes fulfill  their particular missions without them even realizing it.

(Tip: For English subtitles, click the “CC” icon on the bottom of the video after it has started playing.)

Further examples of fascinating business stories are

  • the tales of the two young men who began a business knitting hats
  • and “S’Lebn is a Freid!” a wonderful tongue-in-cheek short film about Didi’s fruit stand in Munich. It is a kind of heartwarming parody on the genre of standard image films.

Mirror neurons are the biological explanation why we empathize so naturally with other humans (and animals!). When we experience real people close up, we as listeners empathize and feel in a sense, what they show they are feeling. Create the right medial mix, using the benefits of new technology to paint an interactive audio canvas where real people tell their stories! Ask yourself which unique, attractive experiences characterize your brand or future? How can you show (with your hero, customer or employee) these experiences? Feelings are contagious and strong. This affective power can be harnessed to make compelling digital stories that spark people’s attention and are remembered.

Innovative enterprises need to learn how to understand and leverage new technologies, social media and their corresponding platforms to their distinct advantages.  This involves finding and using content (stories) on the corresponding channels that mesh with the company culture, brand image and future potential.

— Karla Schlaepfer


*Dieter Georg Herbst, Thomas Heinrich Musiolik, “#Digital Storytelling: Spannende Geschichten für Interne Kommunikation, Werbung und PR“.  UVK Verlag: 2016

How Does Apple Make Us Love Their iPhones? The Roll of Empathy in 5 minutes.

Why are certain people better listeners than others? What is it about some of your friends that makes you want to talk with them when you’re feeling down? What quality do those special friends offer, who easily create a safe spot, a shoulder to cry on?  A space to share what’s on your mind and in your heart. Maybe they offer a consoling word or two. Or say nothing at all. Their supporting presence is deep even without talk. You feel it. They care.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. The ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and feel like they do (even if it is an approximate simulation).  It is a natural, instinctive kind of mirroring behavior. And it is actually wired into our brains. We all have “mirror neurons” that cause us to mimic the actions that we see. This triggers an emotional connection and rapport. And for many of us, it feels like the natural, instinctive thing to feel and do.

Kids empathyIt’s a kind of gut reaction

When we open ourselves to empathy, we are caring.  There are many examples of this. We see our kids helping each other. They respond when another child is suffering and sometimes even cry in sympathy with the little guy who fell from the swing. This resonates within us. We feel like we’ve experienced the same pain.  Or joy. Or both. How many times, have we found ourselves holding back  tears during a movie or while reading a touching passage in a book? It is a kind of gut reaction.  An imaginative leap into strong emotions. When we are empathetic,  we are identifying and engaging emotionally with another person, as if we were in the same situation. 

Woman are said to be more open to empathy

Is this true? Woman behave quite naturally looking after the welfare of others.  The large majority are caregivers and act as the emotional glue in a family.  But actually, this assumption is biased since not all women are empathetic.  And yes, men can be empathetic though they are more often sympathetic. This too is a kind of acknowledgment of another person’s feelings.  How valuable (and helpful) when you have a doctor who can relate with a patient because he or she has been in a similar situation! And talks about it. Don’t you feel like the doctor understands a little better what you’re going through?

pulse touchAffective empathy goes beyond sympathy; it is deeper. It is when feelings are emotionally experienced as one’s own. When we share what the other person is feeling. Both words are used similarly and often interchangeably (incorrectly so) but differ subtly in their emotional meaning.

We interpret emotions through body language

Social scientists speculate that affective empathy is a product of  social conditioning (nurture), our innate DNA (nature) and/ or a mixture of both. Women seem more aware of emotions, recognizing needs and are often more comfortable in communicating emotions.  Regardless of gender, our human capacity to recognize and interpret the feelings of others is identified first through body language and facial expression. Then through less direct inferences like tone of voice and finally content (it’s not what you say, but how you say it!).

According to motivation author Dr. Tony Alessandra,

“the basis for both sympathy and empathy is compassion. This is  a blending of understanding and acceptance of others enhanced by knowledge and wisdom. Compassion recognizes the “me” in “you,” the shared commonality of feelings between individuals. Both sympathy and empathy imply caring for another person, but with empathy, the caring is enhanced or expanded by being able to feel the other person’s emotions”.

Who else cares?

Design thinkers care. We cultivate a felt understanding of what another person is telling us at beginning of the design or innovation process. Even companies care. Innovative companies want us to delight us. They want to show us how they care by discovering our needs, desires and helping us to solve our problems. They want us to love their products. How does Apple (here the Karaoke video) make us love their smart phones?  So much so that we totally identify with it and feel as if it is a part of us? Do they look under the surface with empathy maps? Create detailed personas? Explore and test with prototypes? Iterate, iterate and iterate? All of the above!

Local store

Businesses more than ever before rely on anticipating customer needs.

Using data gathered with qualitative research methods is cutting edge practice. And it is standard practice. In Silicon Valley it is done by default. Interviewers observe people while they engage with the product, they ask open questions, they use empathy to put themselves in the lens of the customer’s emotional perspective. “Shadowing” people in real-time, talking with them in their environment are all part of the research necessary to understand how and why customers care. And what they need to be wowed. These enterprises approximate customer’s emotions, interpret signals using design innovation methods to motivate us to engage in a product’s vision. For me it is fascinating how today’s creative tech companies humanize their product designs.

And before we know it, we’re hooked and loving it!

P.S. Do you know this book by Jon Kolko; well designed: how to use empathy to create products people will love. Great read!

Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Radical Creativity of the Gorilla Girls!

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Creativity has many faces. Everyone can access their creativity to help solve problems, see different perspectives and feel more confident about trying new things. Creative minds are open (and messy!) and want to shape the world around them. Enabling your confident creativity lets you make the most of your experiences and be prepared to learn from mistakes as part of the process. But what about artists? Visual and preforming artists whose self-expression and probing minds create works of art that make us rethink who we are and what we stand for? Those radical creatives who challenge the status quo and, at the same time, our values. more “Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Radical Creativity of the Gorilla Girls!”

What You Never Knew About Introverts!

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Have you heard of Susanne Cain’s Quiet Revolution?

While doing some research for our book, I came across her intriguing work; Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Ms Cain is an activist, bestselling author, a former corporate lawyer and a self-described introvert. She claims that 1/3 to 1/2 of the population, or one-out-of-two or three people you know, are introverts!  That’s huge! A kind of quiet minority! more “What You Never Knew About Introverts!”

Der Island-Effekt – 3 Dinge, Die Wir Über Teamarbeit Lernen Können

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Waren Sie auch so überrascht, als der Fußballzwerg Island das Favoritenteam aus England im Achtelfinale aus dem Turnier der Fußball Europameisterschaft geworfen hat? Aber warum war die halbe Welt eigentlich so erstaunt? Nach welchen Maßstäben hat man denn im Vorfeld beurteilt, welches wohl das erfolgreichere Team sein würde? more “Der Island-Effekt – 3 Dinge, Die Wir Über Teamarbeit Lernen Können”

How the French Artist Fernand Léger Uses “Harassment” to Make Monumental Art

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“Let us take the time in this fast and ever-changing life which harasses us and tears us to pieces; to have the strength to remain slow and calm. To work outside the elements of disintegration that surrounds us. To comprehend life in it slow and calm sense. The work of art requires a temperate climate in order to develop fully. In this heightened tempo which is the law of life, to determine fixed points to hold onto them and to slowly work on the achievement of the future”

Fernand Léger – Das Figürliche Werk

Isn’t it stunning that these words were written at the beginning of the last century! more “How the French Artist Fernand Léger Uses “Harassment” to Make Monumental Art”

“For a Better Day” or The Shape of Things to Come

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Our JoinCreativePeople book project is no longer just an idea or project. Like something to talk about at cocktail parties … but a many interviews later, we have a book blueprint with a table of contents, a publishing contract (with the mid-sized, distinguished publisher Schäffer-Poeschel) and even a deadline for turning in the manuscript (October 1 – ouch!). more ““For a Better Day” or The Shape of Things to Come”

Why I Learned to Love My Messy Mind

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My mind leaks. No, gross stuff does not drip out! But according to creativity scholar Scott Barry Kaufmann, leaky sensors mean that some brains don’t filter out as much irrelevant stuff from their surroundings as others. Distraction is a result. And now the real surprise: these distractions can actually help inspire more creative insights. more “Why I Learned to Love My Messy Mind”