Storytelling in today's digital economy by week of saturdays

A Workshop in Collaboration with Ghana Innovation Hub

A paraphrased summary of our session at Ghana Innovation Hub's Founders' Meetup on August 30, 2019.

A paraphrased summary of our session at Ghana Innovation Hub’s Founders’ Meetup on August 30, 2019.

Introduction

Hello everyone, it’s a privilege to be here with all of you to facilitate this Workshop on Storytelling in the Digital Economy. 

I have 30 minutes so I’ll keep it concise but there’ll be a Q&A session right afterward so you can ask me anything, and I’ll share my contact information as well.

Before we dive in: I want to know if there are any questions from the audience on “Storytelling in Today’s Digital Economy.” Does anyone here have a question that has been on your mind? If yes, please share now, so I include it in my presentation.

Pause…

Okay, let’s dive in!

A little about me

I have made a living as a storyteller since 2012. I’ve done this in different ways, from modelling which is storytelling with my body and clothes, to acting which literal storytelling with a script, to software technology and digital PR, where we create innovations like mobile, web apps, and smart hardware, and then tell stories about them that make you buy and need to get your hands on them. 

I give this introduction to let you know that regardless of what industry you work in, there is room for storytelling, especially in the times we live in now.

Next question you may ask is: What’s so special about these times? People have been telling stories since the beginning of time, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes, people have been telling stories since the beginning of time but not on the scale that we are able to now.

Back in the days, let’s say our parents’ days, people told stories but these stories were limited by their geographic location. They may gather around for tales by moonlight but the people of the next village would not be able to join in. So due to geography and reach, even the best stories were limited to a group of people, and information could not spread fast enough. 

Now, it’s a whole different story. You can sit in your house in East Legon, Accra and write about an experience on “sexual assault” for example, and people like Michelle Obama from the US will read your story, reach out to you, and continue that conversation on a global stage.

This is why we are here sitting and talking about storytelling in today’s economy because it just may be the shortest distance between you and the future you are trying to create for yourself.

Now how can you capitalize on this world trend?

By starting now or starting early!

You know how personal computers became a thing in the 90s, and the people who started to program then are the ones who have gone on to build some of the biggest companies in the world now. Microsoft, Facebook and Google for example, were not exactly first entrants into their industries but they started early and have grown into monopolies while the rest of the world plays catch up.

It’s going to be the same for storytelling and content creation. If you start now to weave a story around yourself and your company, you will be ahead of your peers in ways that have nothing to do with your product or service. Why?

Because people will be listening to you. And that is the strength of storytelling – getting people to listen to you, to relate to you, to want to be you, to want to help you or simply to want to be associated with you and your brand.

When people start to look for you in this way — it translates to dollars for you and your brand. And you may find that you are able to design a life for yourself where you do not have to work a conventional 9-5 or pay media and PR companies for advertisements because you are a walking STORY.

Always remember that stories can be told in different formats:

  1. Images and photographs
  2. Text and writing
  3. Videos and recording
  4. Audio and recording
  5. Code and programming

A family/business I usually use for this example – they are not African – but are a prime example. Who, here hasn’t heard of the Kardashians? Please raise your hand. This was a family known as notorious and “bad” but over the past decade, they have rewritten their story to become savvy businesswomen with the youngest one being worth a billion dollars.

Now we know that storytelling is an actual thing to pay attention to, how can you with your day job, busy life, family and limited resources become an engaging storyteller?

  1. You must should capitalize on today’s trending topics. One of the quickest ways to tell compelling stories is by aligning them with the most important discussions of the day, week, month in the region where you live.

    If you can take a current topic, and give a new perspective on it, during the period when the topic is still hot, you can become a storytelling authority almost overnight. The only caution I have with this tip, is that you do not have to sell your soul just for a couple of clicks, retweets, and likes.

  2. Which brings me to my next tip: You must should maintain a long-term consistency of purpose. What I mean here is that you should find a way to align your stories in some sort of way.

    An example is my introduction story of how I went from modeling to acting to technology and then PR – when I do workshops like this or workshops on freelancing, I tie all my different work experiences under one thread: either about storytelling (in this case) or about freelancing/working independently, even though all the twists and turns and forays in diverse industries.

    By tying all my past experiences and creations together, I can keep recreating myself, while staying the same, thus attracting new opportunities and maintaining old ones.

    So a take-home assignment I am giving to everyone in this room today is to think of what their overarching sense of purpose is, tuck it at the back of your mind, and go forth into the world. Over time, people who resonate with your purpose and stories will find you.

  3. This brings me to my next pointer, you must be patient in storytelling, whether for your company brand or yourself. It takes time to build trust, and that’s what storytelling is based on. If people do not trust you, they will not listen to you. So build trust by staying consistent, providing value, engaging with other people who have similar stories and issues with you, and take your digital storytelling offline as often as possible. In Africa, people like to see you before they believe you… which is kind of why I’m here 🙂
  4. My last tip is to let your imagination take over when writing or creating creative content.

    Please note that there is a difference between content writing (which is one of the top freelance opportunities right now), and creative writing which is more for individuals and artists.

    When creating creative stories, learn to distance yourself from the creation. You are not your story, and this is not your last great story.

    Getting into storytelling is a life-long pursuit, and creating never ends because inside us, there are always new ideas we ache to bring to life. Listen to that inner call more, and create the things your heart tells you to.

    Keep in mind that none of them define you. None of them are you. You are You. And the more you create, the better you become.
    If you allow yourself to “crank out all your beginner mistakes and ideas now, in a couple of years, you could be the best in your field. So go ahead and share your stories and don’t let shame or insecurities stop you. 

Bonus tip

  1. You do not have to be on all the platforms at once. If you’re a writer, Medium.com is a good place to start. If you’re an illustrator or visual artist, Dribble, Behance, and Instagram are great places to start. If you are a programmer, your Github account should be on point.
  2. If your stories are great, people will share them cross-platform. From Twitter to Whatsapp; from Instagram to Facebook; Medium to Pocket.

And that is how you know when you have hit a tipping point – when people start sharing your content more than you and your team have to.

Kelechi Udoagwu

Conclusion

It’s been a pleasure being here with you all today. I’m ready to take questions now.

Link to Slides (prepared in the car, on the way to the Hub :))

About the author
Week of Saturdays answers questions and disseminates new ways of working as technology overtakes culture and 9-5 jobs become a trend of the past. We advocate for flexible working schedules, freelancing, remote working and bold transitions between careers.

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