Why Digital Storytelling is Effective For Promoting Business Sustainability
As a content writer, my job is to tell stories. I use the power of narrative to sell via digital storytelling. Digital storytelling uses long-held storytelling techniques in combination with digital tools such as blogs, podcasts, videos, and social media.
For most content writers, telling stories is used to promote a given product or service. But for me, I look at my role with an additional purpose. I use digital storytelling to promote corporate sustainability.
Sustainability-related issues saturate the veins of most businesses, with a mere 25% of organisations incorporating a sustainable business model.
I believe that through the power of narrative we can create a global shift in how business is done.
In this article, I’ll explain why digital storytelling is effective at promoting business sustainability, and how you can get it right with 5 top tips on creating effective digital stories.
Join me and let’s start telling stories to create more sustainable businesses and a more sustainable future.
My story and the importance of presenting stats with a narrative
It had been a long day in the mountains. I was bent over my walking poles, calf muscles in a spasm, and sweat dripping down my forehead.
“This is fun” I chanted in the hope it would instill some sort of morale boost.
We were coming to the end of our 3-day trek, climbing down towards France’s largest glacier, the Mer de Glace in Chamonix, Switzerland. A slight detour to see the bold frozen expanse, cutting through 7km of Alpine rock.
However, what we thought would be a day of awe, was a day of despair.
The Mer de Glace is vanishing. The glacier started melting at the beginning of the century, but the loss has accelerated over the past 2 decades. This is a common glacial fate under a warming climate - natural beauty simply melting to nothing.
Since 1900 the glacier has shrunk by ⅓ of its volume, which is equivalent to 1.5 cubic kilometers of ice (equivalent to 500,000 Olympic swimming pools).
The above is my story. The moment when the extent of our environmental crisis truly felt too close to home.
Looking at the data, human activity is disrupting a natural climatic balance, pushing us into a future projected to be 39.38 - 40.64 °F warmer.
Now, let’s say I gave you the above information without the addition of my personal story. Do you think the statistic would have had the same emotional impact?
Does quoting figures in isolation detach from emotion and connection?
As a Content Writer, I want my words to be felt.
Although data gives the statistical backing needed to support my claims, to truly make an impact, I need a story.
The power of storytelling
Storytelling conveys events in words and images, often by improvisation or embellishment. They act as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instill moral values.
43,900-year-old paintings etched over cave walls in Indonesia are the earliest known evidence of human storytelling.
We’ve been telling stories for a long time. But why?
A new study in Nature Communications explains that storytelling is powerful for fostering social cooperation, teaching social norms, and receiving community support. Storytelling forges connections among and between people, conveying culture and values uniting society.
Can we not then infer that the stories content writers, leaders, and organisations tell can be used to solidify relationships, and alter behavior and values?
That is, using a story along with data can provide the perspective needed to ignite action. And I’m not just talking on a business-consumer level. I’m also referring to co-collaboration between businesses and bottom-up collaboration between businesses and governments.
This is exactly what I do as a content writer for Process Street. I tell stories in a digital space to promote business sustainability, and today I’m sharing my top tips on how you can do the same.
Promoting corporate sustainability using digital storytelling
Corporate sustainability refers to a company’s commitment to meet the economic, social, and environmental facets of a business for long-term stakeholder value. It’s about providing the same - if not better - opportunities, comforts, resources, and life-quality for our children.
Corporations are dancing on a high-line, chasing the elusive goal of economic growth. This is risking a sixth mass extinction event and a climatic bust of consumption.
As consumers, employees and business leaders, we must face a sobering fact. Without adopting a sustainable business model, the world will move to degradation and collapse.
A mere 25% of organisations operate sustainably. This statistic screams inaction towards an issue that threatens the very existence of Business and a healthy, functioning economy.
For those of us that understand the urgency to operate more sustainably, how do we communicate this effectively to other consumers, business leaders, governments and employees?
I believe the power lies in the form of digital storytelling.
The benefits of digital storytelling
Digital storytelling uses multimedia tools to bring narratives to life. Ancient storytelling techniques are melded with contemporary, digital forms of communication.
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” – Steve Jobs
Common forms of digital storytelling include:
- Blog posts: 55% of marketers state that blogging is one of their most important inbound marketing processes.
- Social media: 2.89 billion people are using social media to engage with their audience.
- Video: Humans process visual material x60,000 faster than text. Video is a great way to tell stories visually.
- Podcasts: 50 billion podcasts have been downloaded since Apple Podcasts was launched back in 2005.
Most forms of digital storytelling are part of an organisation’s content marketing strategy. It’s a tactic used by big names such as Apple, McDonald’s, and Google, with 10% of content marketers telling stories digitally.
According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey, 44% of global respondents felt ads depicting real-life scenarios stayed with them the most. The relatability of stories told made the brands all the more memorable for consumers.
Digital storytelling also:
- Builds connections: As previously mentioned, storytelling is useful for building connections among and between people. The same benefits transcend to digital forms of storytelling.
- Engages: Using interesting visuals, well-written text, and sound, digital storytelling stimulates multiple senses to improve participation and concentration.
- Changes perceptions: Saturation of information/facts can potentially disengage an audience. Once more, there seems to be an undercurrent of fake news and disinformation born from mistrust of reputable data. Distrust is a symptom of poor communication and a lack of connection which storytelling mitigates.
- Establishes emotional connections: Storytelling can bring certain emotions to the forefront. Admiration, amusement, excitement, nostalgia, sympathy, sadness, and intrigue are all instigated through storytelling, creating and strengthening the viewer’s emotional connection with your brand.
- Educates and informs: Without a story being told, you’re not informing your audience of anything. Instead, you're subjecting them to a random assortment of facts and information. With digital storytelling, you’re taking the audience through a journey, guiding them to the end goal of discovery - the question is, what do you want your audience to learn?
With these benefits, it’s easy to understand how digital storytelling has become a popular marketing strategy. But what if, rather than telling stories to promote a specific brand, digital storytelling is used to communicate the importance of corporate sustainability?
How to use digital storytelling to communicate corporate sustainability (5 top tips)
In essence, I’m talking about using digital storytelling to market sustainability as a brand.
And why not?
We find ourselves overshadowed by the corporate giants in our lives, and are told the story “we’re all connected and together”.
For instance, Pepsico - the corporate owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken - presents stories of family reunions dipping into buckets of Colonel’s finest chicken breasts. We feel nostalgia, warmth, and...connection.
But we’re not told the story of factory-produced chickens, lined up along conveyor belts, pumped full of antibiotics, stunned, killed, scalded, de-feathered, decapitated, bled, eviscerated, and dismembered by underpaid workers mass-producing 90-a-minute. Would our consumer behavior be different if we did?
The stories we’re told daily shape us and our behavior.
If we altered the narrative to present the true reality of business, we can start effectively treating unsustainability together?
I say yes, and to help you get started I’ve listed 5 top digital storytelling tips below used by me and the rest of the content creation team at Process Street.
Digital storytelling tip #1: Be prepared to face resistance
Not everyone will be fully engaged or on your side when talking about sustainability-related topics. It’s your job to convince your audience from the outset. Concentrate on…
- Engaging your audience
- Explain complex topics well
To engage, invite your audience to interact, and in some cases, become part of your story. Call your readers to action, for instance:
- How would you want to invite your audience in?
- Do you want your audience to comment or contribute content?
- How can you ask your audience to share information on social media?
- Can your audience follow your stories and blog through updates and alerts?
- Do you have a podcast your audience can subscribe to?
At Process Street, we use all of the above methods, asking our audience to comment on our blog content, accepting guest post submissions, sharing information on social media, presenting the opportunity for visitors to subscribe to our blog, and showcasing our podcast.
To explain complex topics well, at Process Street we use the mantra of explain like I’m 5. Which is pretty self-explanatory. Undefined jargon is avoided, and complexities of topics are broken down to their bare-bones, explained from the foundations to slowly build knowledge as the content progresses.
Tip #2: Draw on emotions
"People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic."
Emotional-led marketing builds an emotional connection with your brand to yield longer-term loyalty and profits.
“Emotional triggers drive us to react. Reacting can mean…feeling an emotion, and acting because of that feeling.” – Forbes, Understanding Five Emotions That Encourage Us To Spend
From a buyer’s perspective, when they purchase a product or service they are said to be acting on emotion. In emotion-led marketing, marketers draw on four key emotions:
Emotion is a relationship builder and a big driver of sales from marketing. But this time we’re selling sustainability.
Tip #3: Use a multitude of digital platforms
This century operates in a digital space, giving us a multitude of mediums to tell our stories at the tip of our fingers. From videos, social media, podcasts, and blogs - use them all.
The best stories are the ones that stimulate multiple senses. For instance, for the many articles that I write, I use GIFs, images, videos, sounds, and an interactive web design. It’s also important to consider using simplistic English to cater the suitability of the articles.
Tip #4: Document the process
To consistently create high-quality digital stories, you need a process.
At Process Street we document everything, from a writing plan checklist to a blog editing checklist, a video production checklist, and an image creation process.
Documenting our processes in Process Street means best practices are written into the core of the creation procedures. Entire teams can then follow the same processes creating standardisation and consistency.
Also, our processes create transparency of who is doing what and when, aiding teamwork for creative co-collaboration.
Documenting your digital content creation processes may seem a daunting task to get started. To help, consider the below steps:
- Identify and name the process, starting with the core processes first.
- Define the process scope, i.e. what steps are included in the process and what aren’t?
- Explain the process boundaries, i.e. where does the process begin and end? What causes the process to start? How do you know when the process is done?
- Identify the process inputs, that is, the resources necessary to carry out each process step.
- Brainstorm the process steps by gathering team information from process start to finish.
- Organise the steps sequentially to create a process flow.
- Describe who is involved and responsible for each process task.
- Note down exceptions to the normal process flow.
- Add control points and measurements. This includes identifying process risks or sustainability measures to monitor the process.
Follow the process and tell effective stories.
Tip #5: Be you
To tell your story, be you. Let your personality shine through your content. Talk to your audience as you would a friend. Building a personal connection is vital for people to stop and listen. Appreciate that not everyone will share your viewpoint, and acknowledge that that’s okay.
Issues surrounding our environmental crisis can be a sensitive topic, with environmental guilt nagging in the background conscious of many. Being yourself and telling your story shows your audience that you’re human with similar flaws, aspirations, worries, and hopes. This makes you more relatable and means your story will have a greater impact.
You’re not just selling your story on sustainability, you’re selling yourself, the human behind the story.
Tell a story for sustainability
Storytelling has been an effective form of communication across generations, used before the complexities of human language had fully developed. Digitisation has presented us with plentiful opportunities and means of telling our stories, from writing to visual and audio forms of communication.
Use the 5 top tips given in this article to create compelling stories that’ll promote corporate sustainability.
Once upon a time…with the inestimable gift of a future, we have a chance to rewrite it