Strategic Storytelling: Maximum Impact in a Digital World

Columbia Business School

How long?

  • 4 days
  • online

Columbia Business School

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Who should attend

Digital Storytelling Strategy is designed for senior-level executives who want to understand what immersive digital storytelling is and how to leverage its potential.

Whether your field is brand marketing, corporate strategy, or media and entertainment, this program will help you understand the digital media landscape and assess how your organization can take advantage of what it has to offer.

About the course

Storytelling has always been central to human experience – it's how we explain and make sense of the world. But today, as media-savvy audiences begin to tune out advertising messages while searching for ever-more-immersive entertainment experiences, the way businesses and professionals need to communicate is changing. Led by best-selling author Frank Rose and offered in partnership with Columbia University School of the Arts, Strategic Storytelling introduces the concept of “narrative thinking” and shows how it can be used to achieve maximum impact in a digital world.

Narrative Thinking

As a member of Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab, Rose is helping to pioneer a new understanding of narrative and its role in the digital age. Research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology has shown that stories are typically more effective at changing people’s minds than rational argument. This means that people — leaders in particular — need to view the world in narrative terms, not as a thesis to be argued or a pitch to be made but as a story to be told. Because stories provide a structure for reality and a key to understanding, because they play to the emotions and rely upon empathy, narrative thinking is a powerful tool.

Strategic Storytelling builds on these insights to show how story is used by entertainment industry professionals, by leading brands, by B2B providers, and by non-profits—and what each of these can learn from the other. Over the course of two days, you will engage in a mix of deep learning and hands-on workshops that will leave you with a thorough understanding of the digital media ecosystem as well as the expertise you’ll need to communicate strategically within it.

The Strategic Storytelling Model™: Four Levels of Engagement

You will learn to employ the Strategic Storytelling Model™, a simple suite of visualization tools designed to help manage the complex narrative ecosystems that audiences are coming to expect in a highly interconnected, digital environment. Developed by Faculty Director Frank Rose and Senior Fellow Paul Woolmington, this model shows how a hit television series like The Walking Dead will spawn not only spin-off TV and Web series but also interactive online quizzes, highly participatory multi-player video games, and even real-world experiences like the AMC Zombie School. Together, these four levels form a self-reinforcing network that deepens the connection of existing fans and brings new ones in. This strategy, and the model that describes it, can be applied not just to entertainment properties but to all sorts of communications, including marketing and journalism.

Impact

With every new communications technology, the way we tell stories has changed. Now it is changing again, to a new form that is profoundly different from the one-too-many broadcast model of 20th-century mass media. Digital technology is blurring distinctions between content and advertising, author and audience, fiction and reality, while at the same time provoking new and challenging expectations among audiences and consumers alike. Columbia’s two-day intensive will supply the understanding and context you need to navigate this new world as well as the skills you’ll require to turn these developments to your advantage.

Through a series of lessons, case studies, and highly participatory workshops, this program will explain:

  • The central role of stories in human experience
  • How storytelling is changing in response to transformative technologies and why these technologies are having the effects they do
  • The role of social media in storytelling strategy
  • The need for authenticity and the appeal of user participation.
  • The allure, and the limitations, of virtual reality and other cutting-edge techniques

By the end of the program, you will be equipped to:

  • Express your brand’s or organization’s appeal in narrative form
  • Leverage universal storytelling techniques while embracing new rules and strategies for the digital age
  • Satisfy the desire—particularly strong among Millennials—for immersive experiences and participatory engagement
  • Make the transition from simply telling stories to creating rich and immersive environments that people can enter and make their own

Program Structure

Strategic Storytelling connects narrative concepts and strategies with actual case studies. Participants will work together in small groups to address real-world challenges that require innovative thinking as well as a thorough understanding of narrative technique. You will leave with an essential grounding in immersive storytelling strategies as well as a conceptual framework and a set of tools you can put to use right away.

Day 1 begins by delving into the art and science of storytelling—why it’s effective, how it works, why it’s changing today, and what that means for anyone with a story to tell. We look at how Hollywood sells its own stories, showing how movie studios and television networks have moved over time from a highly restrictive marketing strategy to one that embraces digital media, fan involvement, and immersive participation. We show how this goes beyond story to involve the construction of “story worlds” that audiences can project themselves into. And we introduce you to the Strategic Storytelling Model™, which provides a pair of simple yet powerful conceptual frameworks that will enable you to easily visualize the complex narrative ecosystem that such an approach requires.

Day 2 breaks down these techniques into a point-by-point methodology, detailing the role of such key ingredients as authenticity, purpose, and voice. We will show how such strategies have been adapted and deployed by organizations in a wide variety of fields, from entertainment to consumer goods to B2B. Guest speakers from the worlds of media and commerce will explain how they have employed these tools and what pitfalls they have encountered, while a series of hands-on workshops will enable you to put what you’ve learned to the test in real-world scenarios.

Experts

Frank Rose

Frank A. Rose is a senior fellow and the co-director of the Security and Strategy team in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. He focuses on nuclear strategy and deterrence, arms control, strategic stability, missile defense, outer space, and emerging security challenges. From...

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Strategic Storytelling: Maximum Impact in a Digital World at Columbia Business School

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