With digital storytelling still being a relatively new concept, you could be forgiven for being a little confused about what it is or how it could benefit your school and your pupils.
However, it has grown in significance as digital technologies have evolved at an incredible rate. Now, as social media impacts most facets of our lives, the ideals and desires of good digital storytelling are larger than ever. Hiring a Digital Storyteller (DS) is something to take under serious consideration.
What is Digital Storytelling?
Digital Storytelling is a method of sharing stories or events using digital media production. It is the marrying up of traditional storytelling with modern technologies to create content including: videos, images, voice-overs, soundtracks and animations, among other things.
A DS is the person behind the stories - a digital Dickens if you like. They are the authors curating your stories - just without all those words on all that paper. Where once the pen might have been ‘mightier than the sword’, it is now the likes of computers, tablets, software and apps that will help you win the attention and engagement of your community.
This new technology has already been fully adopted by the majority of your pupils, and their parents. It is now so integrated it into their lives that many cannot do without it.
They make use of sites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Boomerang the way previous generations watched TV, read newspapers, listened to the radio. Instead of getting out of bed and brushing their teeth, people are now reaching for their phones first thing in the morning. It is routine for them.
We have been spoilt by the consumption options available to us. We no longer just want words on a page or screen. We are now used to GIFs, soundtracks, short form text and memes.
Digital Storytelling achieves so much more than words on a page. It is content that is impactful, interesting and engaging. And it begs to be shared.
Why Digital Storytelling?
Here’s a philosophical question for you. Is it brands that create stories or is it stories that create brands? Very much like the chicken and the egg there is no real clear answer. However, from a marketing standpoint, the general consensus is this: if you want to communicate effectively with your audience you should be doing it through storytelling.
As a species we have been telling and listening to stories since the Big Bang. As cavemen we drew on our cave walls. Languages have come, gone and even today continue to adapt. While the method of delivery evolves in parallel to tech advances, our love for storytelling remains a constant.
Storytelling allows a post or series of posts, which may otherwise become white noise, to STAND OUT to your audience. It does this by evoking an emotion, providing authenticity to your brand and creating 'relatability'.
Good storytelling will keep people coming back for more.
With this in mind, the question becomes how can a DS facilitate these outcomes to benefit you and your institution?
Relatability: Humanising the Bricks and Mortar
As a school you find yourself well placed when looking to market to prospective parents. This is because most brands need to start their marketing journey by synthesising a brand and identity. They need to create a relatable personality.
With your school, all the personality and identity you could possibly need is already walking the corridors and eating lunch in your canteen.
YES - your pupils are the answer and focus of your digital storytelling content. They are the literal human facet and personality of your brand, and as such using #SchoolStories about them will go a long way in humanising the bricks and mortar of your school.
Suddenly your signage is not just another school emblem. Your motto has a face which prospective parents will use to picture their own kids attending your school. Through effective storytelling they will be able to envisage them playing for your sports teams, to see them laughing at lunch, studying with enraptured faces and becoming a part of your school’s culture.
Why a Digital Storyteller?
Digital Storytelling is proving to be an ever growing trend, with multiple benefits when used by your school and in an educational setting. It stands to reason that a dedicated DS can only be a good thing for your institution.
The person in question need not be an expert by any means, although for those interested, there are workshops dedicated to teaching the craft. The only prerequisite really is a little bit of tech savvy and knowing how to focus on the story without relying on bells and whistles.
What is imperative in your DS is how they can express your school's brand. It is brand that you want to communicate to students and parents; both current and prospective.
Your school's brand is a direct representation of what your school stands for. It is that special element that makes your school unique. All schools say they are special and one-of-a-kind, but most struggle to adequately get this message out to their community.
A good DS will take this brand and curate the stories that best engage your pupils and their parents. And through these stories you will see the difference between a post that is passively read to one that is actively shared (and word of mouth is always your top marketing tool).
By having a designated member of staff in the DS role you will have a brand champion; someone who is the glue - keeping content, tone, pupils and staff on the same page. This will mean that no matter where the source of content comes from - whether it’s a Snapchat of the football team’s latest win or a Youtube upload of a science lesson experiment - it will always appear in your school’s house style.
Beyond Marketing: Digital Storytellers in the Classroom
You can't be everywhere at once!
You may be reading this and wondering why traditional storytelling methods do not suffice anymore when it comes to engaging with pupils. Why can a post not be drafted with some text and a nice image? The answer to this is simple. Your intended audience are digital natives and they expect more from their content.
From an educational standpoint, there are many reasons you may want to adopt Digital Storytelling in your classrooms.
How much more interesting and innovative would a lesson be if that complex math theory could be explained via a video on YouTube? Or how real that debate will seem when tweet responses are being broadcast in class in real-time, with some of your pupils even taking part and Tweeting themselves? These are the educational tools that a DS can help unlock in the classroom.
With an increase in the availability of computers and tablets in schools, your school may want to take advantage of content delivered in lessons to pupil's personal devices (whether owned personally or provided by the school). By sharing content in this way, teachers can take advantage or the fact that students will likely prove to be more engrossed in tablet or phone devices than by focusing on white boards alone.
Further to this, there are notable benefits in allowing your pupils to be DS's themselves! Pupils are able to develop skills in a number of areas including:
- resource selection and synthesisation
- tech skills
- creative expression
As we consider what the future of school marketing - and marketing in general - will look like in the future, it is clear that nothing will stand still for long. As tech evolves so too does marketing remain in a state of flux. That is, and always has been, the nature of marketing. Newer, more innovative methods will be developed - and will likely need to be employed on platforms and on devices that do not even exist yet.
Again, school’s are extremely well placed in navigating these changes. Your student body will continue to be digital natives - each new generation already bringing with them the skills your teaching staff will need to adopt. In this, you will continue to see first-hand where your marketing focus should be next.