XTC 7/24 – Viral Storytelling: “In a World” of Changing Storytelling …


In our second installment on Viral Storytelling, we look at how the world of storytelling has changed over the past few years, and the challenges that poses for storytellers. We also take the opportunity to drink our own champagne and invoke the first two chapters of the five-chapter mythic model of storytelling: The World Has Changed, and Change Creates Challenge. (See what we’re doing here? Nice, right?)

All storytelling has always begun with a phrase like “Once upon a time”, or if you’re a movie trailer voiceover buff, the phrase “In a world …” The best stories begin with a memorable opening, something that makes them stand out, but all of them accomplish the same thing—setting the scene. And in the world of tech PR, the scene consists of a number of different elements—technology, human behavior, business dynamics, regulation, and environmental factors. Or as I like to put it, platforms, people, profit, policy and planet.

The trick is, not everybody sees the world the same way, and therefore not everybody sees change the same way. So when we’re writing the first chapter of our viral story, The World Has Changed, we have to pick a lens and be specific about it. Better yet, we can look at a perfect storm of change and examine how the winds of change are combining to create all sorts of challenges.

And that’s how storytelling has morphed over the past few years. With the rise of social media we now have several communication tools that let us surgically segment our audiences not just by “demographic” but also by passions and perspectives. And that allows us to write multiple beginnings to our story and take advantage of more than just one hook. In short, we can be relevant for more than one reason, depending on which lens of change we want to use.

A perfect example is the electric vehicle. When the EV discussion was just getting hot again a few years ago, it took off in a global discussion because it was at the nexus of multiple perspectives—environment, economics, politics, and the transformation of the transportation industry. No matter what you cared about, you could care about EVs and EV infrastructure. That’s the play many tech companies are looking for today.

But then once you become topical in Chapter One: The World Has Changed, you now have to become emotionally relevant in Chapter Two: Change Creates Challenge. And again, in the old model of storytelling, you had to guess why people would really get involved in your story. Focus groups were conducted at great expense to help us guess what would resonate most with people who looked, talked and spent like the people we had on the other side of the one-way focus group mirror. Ultimately, we were still guessing and generalizing.

But now, with the rise of multi-channel storytelling, we don’t have to guess. We can describe the challenge as it feels to different personas, different kinds of peoples and different perspectives. And perspective is extremely powerful as a storytelling tool. How does the change we’re describing feel to a young, digital native consumer? To an older, more traditional business owner? To a progressive politician? To a mom-preneur? We can interpret and personalize the challenges from any number of perspectives and again give our viral narrative more than one way to reach the hearts and minds of our audience.

But then, of course, there’s a twist in the plot … how do we reunite all these different strings of story and weave them back into one coherent narrative? How do we prevent our story from careening off course into a chasm of customization?

That, dear reader, is the topic for part III in our series—“A Shift in Thinking”.