strategies to tell successful storiesStrategies For Successful Digital Brand Storytelling

Years ago I discovered there were secret strategies you need to know to tell successful stories. I produced an event with a Member of Parliament. I’d drafted an initiative that proposed using culture to engage the emerging electorate. We lived in an economically challenged area of Winnipeg, Manitoba that didn’t have any art galleries or coffee shops with poetry slams or pubs with open mic nights. After some spirited conversations, the MP offered to host a house concert at her home and I volunteered to perform. It all went swimmingly until the first people started to show up, and they were all elderly folks…very elderly, like wheelchairs and oxygen tanks. As a young musician and performer, the elderly always terrified me. My irreverent sense of humor and open-throated style of singing at the top of my lungs seemed destined to offend. I always imagined the grey-haired members of my audience were silently judging me behind their kind, knowing smiles.

Internally I freaked out and decided that the best course of action would be to explain, even over explain each song before I played it. I figured that even if they didn’t like the style of music, at least they might appreciate the story behind it. So that’s what I did, I explained every single song all night long, but generally speaking the night was a great success and evolved into the Artist Next Door TV series, which I ended up hosting for three years.

But the day after I got a phone call from Bob, a neighbor who had been at the show. Bob invited me to come down to his place cause he had someone to tell me. When I arrived we sat down and he said, “Rik, a preacher doesn’t trust his audience to make the necessary connections…a storyteller does. Be a storyteller.” That conversation changed everything for me as a presenter, performer, and producer and inspired the secret strategies you need to know to tell successful stories and digital brand storytelling. 

Strategies for Successful Digital Brand Storytelling
Recently I had the opportunity to be part of a project for Chevrolet Canada called, The Most Roadtrippable Town in Canada. The company chose 12 families from across the country. They also lent each family a brand new Equinox for a weekend. Finally, they provided a budget for expenses and activities and created an itinerary with the starting point being the city each family lived in and a destination city that would act as the finish line.

Families were required to create some original content to be shared on social media…specifically Instagram, but posts were encouraged on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Reddit and any other networks participants had. There was a content calendar with dates to share stories, along with some really general suggestions on what to say and how to say it. After our road trip, each family had a week to produce a 60-second highlight reel that Chevrolet Canada uploaded to their YouTube channel, followed by a two week voting period where a view = a vote. The three families with the most votes at the end of the two week period would go on to a final round where judges would pick one family to win a free Chevy Equinox.


The Power of Customers Producing Creative Content
Chevrolet understands the power of their customers producing creative content that features their product. People love stories…no one loves commercials. So the campaign was a smart move and using strategic creative content is something I encourage every organization to consider.

As a strategic content creator, this was a dream contract. It was a simple story about families, having fun, traveling in a fun and funky vehicle, seeing and experiencing different regions of Canada. Telling a story in 60-seconds is a real challenge. Every second counts and I wasn’t content to just put a montage of photos and video clips together over some music. Because that’s boring and barely even a story. (in my humble opinion)

I wrote an article called, A 1-Minute Story Direction Ended Up Being More Challenging Than I Thought detailing the storytelling decisions that I made to produce our 60-second highlight reel you can read HERE. But I wanted to share the process of the other storytelling elements that went into this project.

The first secret strategy you need to know to tell successful stories is…trust the value of telling a story! None of these video clips or memes were intended to feel like a commercial. Because no one likes commercials…literally, NO ONE. No one has ever been thankful that they had to wait 5 seconds before they could ‘skip ad’ and watch a youtube video. No one has ever wanted their TV show be interrupted every 11 minutes or that they had to sit in the movie theatre through 8 minutes of commercials before the trailers even start. To go back to Bob for a second…commercials are preaching…be a storyteller. 

The contest lasted for 14 days, so I created 14 short videos so that each day I had new content to share. All from the same overall ‘family road trip’ story, but funny scenes, sometimes the scenes were from the vehicle, but other times they were just places that the car took us. The car doesn’t need to be in every shot to be part of the story.

Fighting with the GPS and getting turned around in circles.

Kids eating in the car all the time.

As a professional songwriter, I wrote and recorded a little ditty.

As a slam poet, I wrote and performed a short Equinox slam.

Sarcastic things the kids said and the family banter in idle moments.

Matrix-Dragonball Z-inspired dodgeball.

These are all elements familiar to anyone who travels, especially families.

The secret to successful digital brand storytelling is the same for telling any great story. Identifying the tone of each story. For these videos, I wanted the mood to be light, positive and carefree with lots of laughter, because that’s the vibe I know Chevrolet wants families to associate with their car so they’re inspired to pursue their own adventure.

We took lots of photos and I used a number of them to engage my own audience to caption them and come up with memes. It was fun, engaging storytelling that invited participation of our audience. 

The secret strategies you need to know to tell successful stories, particularly digital brand storytelling, is to first and foremost focus on telling a story with an emotional center. Give your story a heart. Give it a personality. A sense of humor and some dialogue. Think about the stories you love, the books, movies, videos, the memes, the jokes and trust in yourself and your team to tell a story you’d be interested in reading or watching.

Questions? Comments. Let me know what you think!





Rik Leaf
Rik Leaf

As a Producer, Performer, TV Host, Author & Sommelier life is an odyssey of adventure and discovery that feels far too short to waste a single day! Contact: 250 896 2572