All Articles Marketing Digital Technology Live from #SXSW: How to become a powerful visual storyteller

Live from #SXSW: How to become a powerful visual storyteller

4 min read

Digital Technology

Rain Dominates SxSW Interactive 2012Brand stories are no longer limited to blobs of text on “About Us” pages. Social media has given brands a platform to relay their story in multiple ways and to various audiences. At a recent South By Southwest Interactive Festival Panel, Becky Johns, CC Chapman, Charlie Wollborg and Karl Gude, spoke to educate the audience on how to build a visual storyboard that benefits their brands; in essence, how to not just tell a story, but how to tell a good story.

Here are several tips to communicate your story and connect with your audience using photos, videos and design.

  • Style matters. How you tell your story is just as important as what you tell. Karl Gude emphasized what he called “Theatrical Literacy;” when you see a movie, you want to hang onto the characters, cry your eyes out or laugh hysterically, rather than just watch images and hear dialogue. The same applies to telling your brand’s story. Become a character, portray emotions and use different mediums to instill them.
  • Don’t try to speak to everyone. Your story has to appeal to your audience, not the entire world. Rather than putting all of your focus into the tools to tell a story (YouTube/video,, poster, etc), figure out the story that your target patrons are going to listen to and how you can strike a chord with them. Know what you want your audience to relate and respond to and tell your story using those pieces.
  • Don’t tell it all at once. Serial telling is key when presenting visually, particularly with video. TV series are popular for a reason; they hook an audience and keep them coming back for more. Give your audience a piece of the puzzle and find ways to get them to “tune in next week.”
  • Use themes and story elements. The traditional story key points, plot, characters, climax, conclusion, etc, are vital when figuring out how to tell your story. Tickle their imagination, but keep them on an emotional yet organized roller-coaster ride. The Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad featuring Eminem did a phenomenal job following that. It was aimed at specific demographic, used elements of Detroit, conveyed a message and came to a conclusion. The ad was a great example of theatrical elements used well.
  • Use your supporters. You love what you’re doing, but do others? In order to humanize your story, draw passion from people who love your products and brands and create ambassadors. Be so powerful that people tell your story for you — that’s when you know storytelling has been done right. If you’re already trying this, but find you’re getting the same story over and over, use B roll, photos with unusual focuses and try asking different people different questions. Show the different facets of what people have to say because we’re all drawn in by different things.
  • Obey the WIST principle. Charlie Wollborg gave the audience the best take-away for creating content and gaining attention. Before you post, think WIST: “Would I Share This?” That’s a large part of the success of the recent Kony 2012 video. It tugged at emotions, told a story well and gave a call to action — all the elements necessary for people to share items. Too often we post too quickly without thinking, and we end up giving our audience content without a story. Try not to make this mistake and always ask yourself if what you’re putting out is worth sharing from your personal profile to your network.

Remember, the best told story will always win, but don’t be afraid to trip and fall learning how to tell it. Comedians don’t get standing ovations during their first improv night. Journalists have editors for a reason. Continue searching for ways to get your message out to the right audience in the right way, and you’ll figure out how to bring out the storyteller in you.

Constance Aguilar is a social media strategist and account manager at Abbi Public Relations, where she oversees client strategy on both social media channels and through traditional media relations as well as event producing. You can follow her on Twitter@ConnieAguilar and read her blog posts at The Abbi Agency Blog.

Image credit: Geoff Livingston