GUIDE • 4 mins

What Is Digital Storytelling, And How To Use It For Your Brand

Stella Frank

Storytelling has been a vital and significant aspect of human nature and culture since the very start of time. Humans, at our core, are born to be storytellers. Although the crafted art of storytelling has changed over time, the purpose- conveying a message- has always stayed the same. In an increasingly modernized and technologically evolving world, digital storytelling in the 21st century is a way to share engaging and meaningful messages.

Simply put, digital storytelling is when a company, a group, an organization, or a person shares a sentiment through the use of different technology and multimedia platforms. The way that people receive and think about advertising, marketing campaigns, influencer mentions, or product reviews is shifting as the digital media industry rapidly grows and changes. With this changing digital landscape, public relations professionals are turning to digital storytelling to promote their products and brands. 

Digital storytelling is utilized through various platforms. Although there are countless ways to tell these multimedia stories, it is increasingly common to use different social media sites to engage an audience. Nearly 72% of United States’ adults use at least one social media site in 2018, according to a Pew Research Center study. Due to the immense amount of people that rely on and use social media, using multimedia storytelling on platforms like Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube, among others, helps reach a larger audience. Digital storytelling on any platform successfully integrates different media skills and digital techniques within a story. 

How does public relations relate to this well-used method of storytelling? Digital storytelling and the industry of public relations go hand in hand; digital storytelling is a tactic used globally by many public relations firms and freelancers. Digital storytelling is a way for a publicist to further present a brand’s image and shape the public perception and opinion. Digital storytelling does not always have to follow the same strategies or look, making it accessible to the creativity of freelance workers. In this evolving marketplace, freelancers have more ability than ever to utilize digital storytelling and shape it to their own work and personality. Digital storytelling in the form of advertisements and marketing campaigns are suitable for this fast-paced market. Digital storytelling does not rely on having a long-term contract with a public relations company; it only requires a strong vision and creativity for the project. Similarly, digital storytelling is in high demand, causing an increased need in freelance storytellers to make a vision come to life. 

How can you use digital storytelling to gain traffic, awareness, and respect for a company or product? Here are four examples of successful digital storytelling techniques that can help gain traction for your business.

1. Incorporate a strong narrative

The New York Times’ use of digital storytelling in “The Truth Is Worth It: Resolve” incorporates a strong narrative on uncovering the truth. This work features the depiction of a New York Times journalist’s investigation into the Rohingya genocide in order to highlight what the publication goes through to expose the truth. The advertisement takes the viewer on the journey of this intrepid journalist and creates a visceral experience by using enticing images, graphic treatment of words on the screen, and sound effects. The multimedia storytelling utilized in this ad allows consumers to notice The New York Times’ commitment to the truth and effort to rebuild a public sense of trust in their brand.

2. Share genuine, human emotion

Incorporating real emotion and feeling into your work causes the audience to relate to and connect with your brand and its image on a deeper level. “Courage is Beautiful,” a video ad in Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, embodies how emotion elevates digital storytelling. By depicting medical workers with marks, bruises, and scrapes on their faces through pictures, the ad draws attention to the inadequate supplies frontline workers deal with. The video utilizes different multimedia techniques as it connects a human face to the issue along with the healthcare worker’s name. The well-scored, somber instrumental music heightens the emotional pull of the ad. The video ends with text on screen that draws focus to Dove's charitable donation to Direct Relief, an organization driven to care for medical workers treating COVID-19 in the country. This example of digital storytelling evokes raw emotion, adding onto the human and personal aspects of storytelling, which resonates with an audience. 

3. Support one message through consecutive posts

Bandier, an athleisure company, is a perfect example of successfully utilizing different multimedia posts and platforms to convey one strong message. All of their content, ranging from short videos to campaign pictures to social media posts and stories, portray the brand in one clear message. Their motto, #pursuitnotperfection, is promoted throughout all the posts. Specifically, their consecutive Instagram posts utilize different pictures and elements to complement this message and to tell one story about the brand and the products. 

4. Utilize trusted opinions and thought leadership in your story

Influencer marketing is one of the more recent and commonly used strategies in the PR industry. Digital storytelling requires a sense of trust in order for the core message and the overall brand to be well-regarded by consumers. An example of a trusted influencer campaign is Danielle Bernstein’s partnership with FIJI water, where fans of Danielle’s lifestyle and personal brand, WeWoreWhat, were proven to be more likely to buy from FIJI. Although the fashion sphere of WeWoreWhat’s reach is very different from the beverage marketplace, their collaboration on different social media posts and workout videos was natural and perceived as trustworthy to many of her followers. 

Digital storytelling allows for consumers to organically come across and engage with a brand and their message, making it extremely relevant to the public relations industry. As much as digital storytelling tells the audience a story, it also enables people to make their own story and connection with the brand. These multimedia techniques allow companies to gain more attention and give the public an opportunity to form their own opinions through creative digital storytelling.

Overall, digital storytelling is a personalized, effective, and increasingly popular tool in all industries, proving to be compatible for the evolving freelance workforce. There is not one right way to utilize digital storytelling rather endless opportunities for creativity and imagination to build the best image for your brand.