The Evolution of Storytelling 3 - Storytelling for Business
In previous blogs (here and here) we discussed how storytelling and narrative are evolving. The rise of VR, virtualized Escape Rooms, Twitter chats or interactive television are all examples of this evolution. But as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. A good story makes ideas more memorable, it creates a bond between those ideas and the listener and between the storyteller and the one experiencing the story. Even in this rapidly changing world, intimacy and engagement are still key, but how we achieve them is changing.
Stories and narrative help define who we are as a person but also as a group, organization or even as a culture. They also frame how we work together, how we collaborate and communicate our ideas both amongst our peer group and to others. That’s why storytelling is central to business, and why business needs to embrace the new storytelling.
Within a few years, we can imagine many of these new forms of narrative will be mainstream and some already are. VR/AR, more advanced interactive experiences, and social platforms mean that storytelling is changing radically, strongly influencing how we interact and even how our societies function. For early teens, the go to search platform is Youtube rather than Google, and many of them already upload content there. User Generated Content is becoming even more prevalent and is being seen as a normal way of communicating, transmitting information, even at a personal level.
Social media, gaming and online media tend to be the vanguard of our interaction and communication. With a few years lag, business and professional communication methods follow private/personal communication methods. There would be no Slack or Microsoft Teams without Facebook and no Lync without Skype. The use of video for business purposes has always been spurred by User Generated Content and currently the same can be said for VR and 360 video.
Today, we can see this evolution in any business setting, the exact same ideas and/or information presented in a report will tend to get less engagement than if they are presented in a video. Clients no longer want to see that you understand the business they operate in, but rather they want to see that you understand THEM and THEIR business, which is itself also partly a result of the new realities of hyper-personalized social communication.
Currently in media, transmedia, interactivity and user generated content are becoming dominant. In terms of revenue, gaming surpassed Hollywood a number of years ago. No blockbuster movie is complete without a social media campaign and a game. Amongst younger generations, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat rule. Attention spans have decreased. At the same time the demand for personalized content that feels “authentic” and more intimate and personal, rather than or as well as professional, continues to increase. And users typically consume multiple sources of media simultaneously and require immediate gratification and instant reactions.
So what does this mean for business?
- Fast, sound bytes that attract attention
- Content that is targeted and personalized, crafted for each stakeholder, whether it be a client, an employee, a customer or a member of the audience
- Interactive hands on or simulated hands on training using interactive media such as VR
- Intra-organizational communication using social media-like tools and gamification
- Multiple formats, each having a different focus/function, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media, blogs (or vlogs), video, webinars as well as the traditional format of email, reports, presentations.
All of those provide us with the tools to present our story, personalized and crafted depending on the client/customer and occasion. Social media provides us with a window on our stakeholders like we’ve never had in the past. As well, face to face hasn’t gone away but is also evolving. Workshops need to be fully participatory, interactive and gamified and built around stories that resonate.
But that is what is happening now. Where it gets more interesting, and more difficult, is imagining how some of today’s forms of storytelling will impact the business world tomorrow. Interactive movies and series, transmedia* campaigns such as those around a new movie release, gaming, narrative based AR and VR (including location-based VR and Escape Rooms), Instagram Stories, crowd sourced content are all examples of narrative forms that are common, or are becoming common, but that haven’t really made it into business in a big way.
AR and VR are already being used for training. But what about location-based VR-like systems for demonstrating products and projects? In the coming years virtual technologies will be able to simulate senses beyond sight and hearing including movement, smell, temperature and touch. Virtual meetings where the client can actually feel the texture of your new product or walk around inside a new design from the other side of the world.
- Instead of Powerpoint and video, using personalized and contextualized interactive videos and presentations for communicating with clients.
- Reporting of events, workshops, meetings can be made more personalized and intimate through the use of Instagram Stories-like technologies.
- Using crowd sourcing and gamification as a way of gathering large amounts of data, for example depth scanning of entire cityscapes.
- In the coming years rendering techniques, perhaps combining real images with CGI, will allow avatars of sufficient realism for businessmen to feel comfortable having virtual meetings between avatars.
The power of a good story is as old as civilization and a well told story creates a valuable bond between teller and listener. And now, new social, interactive, and immersive technologies are allowing us to tell stories at scale in far more personal ways. Businesses that learn to take advantage of this will have a huge advantage over the laggards, both in terms of reaching clients, but also in attracting talent amongst the younger generations coming into the workplace.
* Transmedia is the use of multiple media formats such as video, blogs, games and social media in a coordinated way.