Digital storytelling: brands, myths, superheroes and journalism

Fascinating presentation at a conference called Digital Storytelling ’10 a couple of weeks back from Molly Flatt, blogger and ‘word of mouth’ evangelist for agency 1000heads, on storytelling by brands and individuals online, the creation of myths and superheroes and how this affects storytelling/advertising/brands. [She features late on in this video, courtesy of the BBC College of Journalism.]

Social media sites, with the onus on individual user profiles, and blogging in particular mean we are all now the heroes of our own narratives, suggested Flatt. It’s no coincidence that gaming has flourished with the rise of social media, as so often the player takes the part of hero.

What we publish of ourselves and how we blog/write online is all a part of constructing an online persona, narrative or, indeed for a brand, myth. As an individual I probably do filter what I publish online though this selection is largely uncontrived; as a professional working for a brand, I know that we try to create a personality in our social media interactions e.g. making sure we reply to queries on Twitter, being irreverent as well as serious. Other news sites do this fantastically well – take a look at Channel 4 News and its behind-the-scenes blogger and tweeter.

Why should this matter to news organsiations? Identifying the stories that their readers or potential readers are creating online and trying to align themselves as closely as possible can lead to deeper relationships with readers. I’m not talking about editorial content per se [though the tone and style of this will play a part], but the identity that a news organisation constructs, or should be constructing, to differentiate itself online.

Crowdsourcing projects, Flatt suggested, show a personalisation of brands. Allowing readers to become heroes (citizen experts, eye witnesses, commenters, contributors), to let them take part in some element of the storytelling process will help them buy into the brand and its myth. Such a relationship can help sell products and services too.

Brands are telling stories more and perpetuating our self-image of that brand, said Flatt. And whether readers/consumers are talking about the myth/product/story and whether what they are saying meets the brand’s/news organisation’s expectations will be crucial in managing relationships with readers online.

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2 Responses

  1. It’s my (admittedly optimistic) thought that students are best placed to take advantage of the points raised in the post above. Because there’s the relative safety net of studying, students are free to experiment and seeing what does and doesn’t work when it comes to building a brand.

    Thus by the time they graduate they’ll have a fair idea as to which direction they should head, as well as having a fair amount of time to practice their writing with new media.

    One can hope!

  2. […] Digital storytelling: brands, myths, superheroes and journalism […]

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