The Four ‘I’s Of Digital Storytelling

My speaking slot on digital storytelling at DMX Dublin went very well indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed presenting the topic, and hope the audience got a lot out of it. Storytelling, combined with digital marketing, is a great, fun, interesting topic to speak about.

A few months before the DMX Dublin event, I discovered the Future Of Storytelling project, designed by Latitude Research. Aside from being a highly compelling read, the research findings focused attention on four principles, which help mould the future of storytelling in the digital age.

These four principles formed the backbone of my digital storytelling presentation in Dublin, and I wanted to expand on them further, and show how brands should think about using storytelling as part of their digital strategy.

Everyone loves stories. Stories are no longer ring-fenced around families, friends, cultures and campfires. The march of technology has allowed stories to come alive, and brands are now sitting up and taking notice, identifying how they can use technology to tell media-rich stories, and better engage with their target audience.

As I mentioned in my presentation, great stories are those that are human. Great stories are those that evoke emotion, and those that cause a reaction. If you are a brand or business that is thinking of using digital storytelling as a new tactic for engagement, consider the four ‘I’s of storytelling first. These are the four new principles that form the basis of the future of storytelling.

The 'I's of digital storytelling - Immersion, Interactivity, Integration and Impact


How deep does the story go? Can people veer off the beaten path? Do the characters have a back story? Immersion is not just about the characters though. It could be about the weather, the location, local food, clothing worn, cars, buildings…any type of information that could be used to help the reader / viewer go deeper into the story. Think about using different ways for the reader to learn new bits of information about the story and its characters.


One of the most important considerations is to ensure that content can be viewed across multiple screens and devices. Are you reaching the mobile viewer? When you read a book, it’s very rare you read everything in one go. You might read a few chapters, put it down,  grab a cup of tea, and pick up where you left off several hours later. The same idea applies to digital storytelling. Users may start the story on their desktop, and finish it at another point in time using a tablet or mobile. Also consider apps – is there additional content users can consume offline?

Multi-device, transmedia storytelling is incredibly powerful is our savvy, digital age. But also consider how the story could integrate with the real world. If a story is told through the medium of a video, is there a hashtag that viewers could use to chat about your story on another social media platform?

In my presentation in Dublin, I used the example of a recent ad. The video shows a nicely crafted story about James, a member. But there is no integration with other platforms or channels, no link to James’s profile, no hashtag, and in the end it turned out to be quite a flat, non-immersive story.


For me, this is the most exciting area for digital storytelling. Stories are great when they are authentic and human, but even better if they are interactive. Imagine being able to change or influence part of the story. Imagine being able to interact with the characters and others in the story. In a few of my previous blog posts on digital storytelling, I’ve mentioned some great examples of interactivity, including the Tippex Hunter Shoots A Bear, and Take This Lollipop. Even The Guardian has started making interactive features around news topics, such as the native woman fleeing Syria.

We are on the cusp of something great when it comes to story interaction. Storytelling which is interactive, and puts the user in the story, is a very powerful method of engagement. It’s more personal. More interesting to them. Take it further. Imagine we broke the linear cinematic experience and the audience had a chance to choose the ending to a film. Audiences crave more control, and interactivity provides the perfect platform to make it happen.


At the start of my talk, I asked the audience: ‘What makes great content?‘. Great content should cause some sort of reaction. Maybe the viewer wants to share the content. Maybe they want to interact with the content in some way. Or maybe they want to make a purchase or donation. The story should inspire the viewers to take action, in some form.

The recent John Lewis Christmas advert was a good example of storytelling that ticked those four principles. It was immersive in that you could carry on the story from the YouTube ad, and get a behind the scenes look at how the ad was made. It was interactive in that John Lewis created space in it’s stores for children to come and explore the bears cave, and have photos taken with the bear and hare. Both characters also had their own Twitter handles. It was integrated across all devices, and in the real-world. It made people act – whether that was to share the ad, make a parody of it, or go to John Lewis and buy Christmas presents.

And if you’re thinking “I don’t have £7m to spend on a digital storytelling campaign“, then remember there are much simpler, lower budget ways to tell your story. Take Best Western for example. They created simple videos, designed around staff stories, and uploaded them to their YouTube channel.

Last week, STIHL, a provider of power tools and safety equipment, launched a new advert where the viewer chooses the ending. Would you save the chainsaw or little Flossie the lamb?

For the full presentation, entitled ‘How Storytelling Is Changing Digital Marketing, And Improving Engagement‘, please click here.

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digital marketing digital storytelling DMX Dublin events future of storytelling prezi storytelling transmedia

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