Lasa’s Miles Maier on how your organisation can get started with digital storytelling and show the world in under five minutes why what you do matters
Digital storytelling combines narrative with digital content, including images, sound, and video, to create a short movie or set of slides, typically with a strong emotional element. It is a powerful and low cost way for charities to get their message across.
With many charities working hard to stay afloat, you might well feel you do not have time to spare for digital stories. Equally, you might wonder if your senior managers would support you spending time on what might be seen as non-core activity.
Why is digital storytelling important
However, digital storytelling provides charities with a powerful way of demonstrating impact without the need for big budgets. Increasingly, charities are having to justify what they do, particularly the budget for comms work. For example, Paul Berstow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, recently questioned why the body that investigates MPs’ expenses is spending a ‘large amount of money’ on communications officers.
Now, more than ever, comms professionals need to ‘show, not tell’, what their charities do to give their organisation the best chance of thriving in such challenging circumstances. The most direct way to deliver that is to hear about it from the people we support. If you are not convinced you have the resources to do it, be reassured by the examples of small charities like the Child’s i Foundation and the Family Holiday Association. They have made great use of digital storytelling to raise awareness and funds.
How to tell your digital story: key points
Be clear about your message, who it is aimed at and what you want them to do – ie donate, sign a petition, spread the word, etc.
All good stories need a structured plot for the audience to follow. Your digital story should fit in three to five minutes, so use storyboards to figure out who and what you need to tell your story.
With a clear message and structured plot in place, write the script, making sure you leave plenty of space for the picture to tell its story.
Low quality recordings may sound ‘authentic’, but can also irritate, so invest in decent recording equipment, such as the Edirol R-09. It will also make editing easier.
Think of good opening and closing shots and take several shots of each ‘thought’ in your story. Try to avoid too much posing – get people looking natural, then follow their lead and shoot. Your subject shouldn’t be in every shot, so have a good mix of photo types eg wide angle, mid range and close up. Landscape images tend to work better than portrait.
If you haven’t taken the photos, check what permissions and credits are needed, along with copyright clearance. You may also need consent forms if working with children.
Some digital stories use background music to set the mood. Royalty free music is widely available from sources such as Getty Images Music.
- Museum of Childhood: A Snapshot of My Life. In a project led by photographer Gideon Mendel, pupils from Kingsmead School were given cameras to record what they saw. Their photos and personal stories offer a child’s eye view of family life.
- Admiral Nurses, Dementia UK: This digital story highlights how Admiral Nurses support family carers and people with dementia.
- Médecins Sans Frontières: Since an outbreak of cholera was confirmed in Haiti in October 2010, MSF teams have treated more than 10,000 patients across the country. In this audio slideshow, MSF epidemiologist Kate Alberti described what what happened on the ground during the outbreak.
Top five apps for digital story-telling and collaboration
2. Slides: You can also turn your digital story into a more traditional presentation and share it via Slideshare‘s free online service.
3. Audio: Use Audacity to record and edit audio interviews. It’s free and will work on Windows, Mac and Linux.