What’s the Story? How Social Media is Changing the Art of Storytelling


This post first appeared as a guest post I wrote for Daybydan.wordpress.com

The art of good story telling is a vital part of your tool kit whether you work in PR, broadcasting, journalism or sales.

But the way we tell our stories is changing. It’s no longer enough to write a press release or a newspaper article with accompanying photo. Things are getting seriously mixed up and a lot more fun, with the introduction of social media and live elements into the way we present stories.

When I started at the BBC, the radio news package was the standard reporting form and it was an exquisite thing. A series of high quality interviews woven together with atmospheric sound and relevant effects, like honking traffic or twittering birds. It could take as many as three engineers to put it together properly. This type of broadcasting looks like a Caravaggio now – beautiful but a thing of past.

Today we have neither the time nor the money to spend days on a mini documentary. We need to get the news out there fast. Getting the key players in a major story on the end of a telephone is probably still the quickest way to broadcast breaking news, but in a social era when we acknowledge that the journalists don’t hold all the cards, we can be more creative than that.

This is why I am very excited by some of the multi-media reporting I have seen lately from people like the BBC and the Guardian.

The BBC provided an excellent service during that weird period after the election last year when the nation seemed to have no government. Using a live news page on the BBC website they were able to pull together the best breaking news facts, blog posts, expert opinion, public comment via their own forums and Twitter, together with rolling live coverage of press conferences and any exciting comings and goings. It felt as though rolling news had come of age.

Over at the Guardian, reporters have been getting their readers thoroughly involved in things like travel pieces by using Twitter – sometimes in real time. Look at this example of a collaborative piece in which the journalist asks readers to recommend their favourite hidden spots in London. He then checks them out, using photos and videos to add that fashionable “homemade” feel.

Increasingly traditional media is getting into story curation, pulling in diverse elements, including the best of what we have to say. And the punters are steadily moving centre stage in all this. There is a new tool being developed called Storify which makes linking together existing content simplicity itself so that anyone can curate stories as they unfold. It is still largely under wraps but some influencers have had a go at it – here are some examples.

and here;

Since last autumn 10,000 Storify stories have been created, attracting 4.5 million views – they recently got a $2million investment boost from Khosla Ventures so I am sure we will be hearing more about them.

Interestingly the company’s co-founder Burt Herman is a former journalist so he knows what he is talking about.

For me it is not about adopting the new for the sake of it, but about looking at which media people are using, how they like to get their information and what they do with it. Then you can start deciding how to use that to make your stories more relevant.

2 responses to “What’s the Story? How Social Media is Changing the Art of Storytelling

  1. Hi Lucy,

    You make a really interesting point. The difficulty for us as a marketing company is educating our clients. Some of them have only just cottoned on to sending out press releases!

    What I’m seeing is the media changing and adapting at a tremendous rate and businesses unable to keep up with it all. I was teaching a workshop about social networking this morning and whereas three or four months ago businesses were all over this medium and thinking it was the best thing since sliced bread wanting to know more, today there was a general apathy about it with comments such as “it’s difficult to keep up with it all so I’m not going to bother” coming out.

    Perhaps with overload comes this apathy and there is a balance between too many changes in technology and the speed with which the business community get to grips with things.

  2. Hi Helen, I have seen this from some small business owners too and it is such a shame.
    If they are thriving then perhaps they can afford to be dismissive – for now – but if they are feeling any kind of chill wind at all then they can’t afford to lose the marketing edge that social media brings. A travel client I work with has increased bookings by 50% since embracing social media and I personally would find it a bit odd if a hotel or holiday house was not on Facebook and Twitter! How long can small businesses get away with ignoring social media? The generation of consumers growing up now expect it and will simply choose not to use the grandma and grandpa services who fail to move on. This is one of those huge upheavals which come up fast and change things forever – my advice is to grab hold of that dragon’s tail and ride!

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