Digital Storytelling for Social Impact

Digital Storytelling for Social Impact

Humans make sense of the world through stories. When we share experiences we don’t just give numbers and facts and figures, we tell stories. Thanks to advances in digital technology, the shape and delivery of stories has shifted significantly. Conventional journalism and long narratives now must complete with messages of 140 characters or fewer and simple images. There are more ways than ever to reach audiences, but with so many messages being thrown at consumers it is more difficult than ever to cut through the clutter and really get the message through.


Instead of pushing messages out to consumers, marketers should really be focusing on pulling customers in with engaging content. One group that can benefit from this practice is non-profit organizations. These groups make the kind of impact that produces true and engaging stories. But the fact that they are non-profits addressing social issues isn’t enough to make their storytelling strategies stand out. A report on “Digital Storytelling for Social Impact” from the Rockefeller Foundation and Hattaway Communications considers the role that digital technology can play in elevating the practice of storytelling and highlights critical issues to be considered:

Strategy: Before crafting the best story, organizations must first develop clear goals and objectives, and make sure they understand the interests and motivations of the target audience. These guidelines are necessary to develop effective content with the right platforms to reach the right people.

Capacity: Even though they may not be the most skilled storytellers, the most meaningful stories often come from people with authentic and insightful experiences to share. Professionals with specialized creative and technical skills know how to take these stories and make them into high-quality content, but not every organization has these storytelling experts. There are plenty of tools out there to do this job, but not everyone knows the best, most effective way to use them.

Content: Compelling and motivating stories serve a strategic purpose while at the same time cause emotional resonance and human connection that drive people to take meaningful actions. These stories must show people as active agents of change, who play a crucial part in creative solutions to the problems they face. This encourages empathy and inspires support from others.

Technology: Due to the large number of tools and platforms in existence, organizations struggle to understand which to use to most effectively engage the right audiences. Most organizations need guidance on best practices for utilizing common platforms as well as access to data that can help them target the right audiences.

Evaluation: Organizations that accurately evaluate the impact of their storytelling can learn what’s working and take that information to elevate success. Organizations just need to know how to set metrics for digital storytelling and use readily available evaluation tools.


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