Digital Channels: Story Matters

21st Century Digital Media: Delivering the Message in a “Proper Sequence”

First, you have to get your audience’s attention. Once you’ve done that, you have to present your message in a clear, logical fashion–the beginning, then middle, then the ending. You have to deliver the information the way people absorb it, a bit at a time, a layer at a time, and in a  proper sequence. If you don’t get their attention first, nothing that follows will register. If you tell too much too soon, you’ll overload them and they’ll give up. If you confuse them, they’ll ignore the message altogether.

Paco Underhill – Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

What is very interesting about this comment, is that  even though we get information from many sources from a myriad of channels, in the end, it’s all about a good story. There are many stories to tell about a luxury brand: its history, its craftsmanship, its value and attributes.  No matter what channel you choose to use, people are responding to information in a sequence that is just like a movie, book or live performance:  its linear.  Good storytelling is key to a great  advertising and media campaign. It’s where art and commerce meet. We are multi-taskers, but in the end, our brains can only absorb so much, and really good marketing has to define the critical ways that this is best served. Our experience in this early 21st century world, is largely still based on 20th century idioms:  Plays, movies, books, novels, video.  All of these old ideas have one thing in common:  A story structure.

Where does a story originate, in our human experience? The story is based on a culture that has its root in the early Greek or Roman comedy or tragedy. The story is also based on human exchange of ideas. It’s the telling of tales passed from person to person and village to village in every culture.  Sometimes,  it is expressed in the visual mediums such as a cave painting. Let’s just say, that this was the first Facebook page.  As civilization moved forward,  a story found itself on a painted piece of pottery, embroidered tapestry, hand-written scroll or a history painting, which elevates the story again to finally arrive at the photographic image.  You know the rest. The telling of stories in new channels with different kinds of media is where we are now.  So, let’s think about the story and how it matters to us as human beings: What is its purpose?  To inform, engage, excite or entertain. This is an experience that reassuring. Without all the elements of a story, told in a proper sequence, the story is difficult to comprehend . This is becoming a bit of a bad habit in the digital world.

The story it turns out, isn’t such an “old  school” idea after all, it is in fact, the entire idea that drives all digital media technology along with the people who tell it.  It has become increasingly difficult for people to listen to an entire story with all its parts: Beginning. Middle. End.  They want a story that is “truncated” without all parts or facts.  This is when things become dangerous.  When stories, are sold as facts (with the critical parts left out) and real facts, are truncated to fit  short forms of  media; we really never get the whole truth. So, we’re left somewhere  in an “in between” sort of world;  a world where advertising doesn’t  really work because it lacks a story; where news stories are just that: stories, and not facts; where real stories are edited to fit short form media at the expense of the facts or parts.

I simply bring to everyone’s attention that as members of the media community, its our responsibility to make sure, that we do this thing right and move this monolithic thing called “digital media” in the right direction, keeping its purposes in mind.   I am hopeful, that its not too late.

Pikke Allen, Chief Content  Curator