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  • David Schaupp

How to Tell a Good Story (Part 1). The Power of Storytelling.

I am no prophet. My job is simply making windows where there were once walls.” - Michele Foucault 

Everyone remembers what connection feels like, because how could you forget? A moment that goes beyond listening. When the “why’s” behind your message are understood. It’s special, and as humans, it’s something we are constantly on the hunt for. Yet, more often than not, the opposite is more common. Our world is noisy, and getting someone to pay attention is hard. It can feel defeating trying to get anyone to stop and listen to our message, let alone connect with our deeper mission. As a video production team, we see our clients constantly fighting this. Many times we visualize the various disconnects as walls; barriers that keep our audience from encountering what we wish to show them. Walls stink. They take shape as external circumstances and pre-conceived notions and guard the castle of human connection, making responses rare. However, we believe those walls don’t have to stay solid, in fact, we are in the window-making business.

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at one, I will” - Mother Teresa

There is a fascinating study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, who examined the identifiable victim effect. Partnering with Save the Children they proposed a study, exploring how human connection is formed, and how it affects how people respond. They launched two humanitarian campaigns with two separate focus groups. One group received a campaign that focused on the broader impact, showing the scale and extent of the loss. This looked like approaching the humanitarian crisis through the lens of statistics, showing how sheer numbers of the catastrophe. The second group only focused on a single victim. They used this person’s story to show how the disaster had personally affected them. This group knew nothing of the extent of the situation, only how it impacted this one individual. The results were staggering. I wish I could confirm we are rational beings, and a fact concerning one million people is more compelling than a single story, but I can’t. The statistical campaign raised 1.17 million while the story campaign raised 2.8 million.

Wow… For me, this study made something abundantly clear - facts don’t create windows, human stories do. 

As humans, the quickest way to connection is through shared human experiences. Sure, most people wouldn’t say they share a lot in common with displaced refugees across the world, however, most of us can relate to having a place where we feel safe and belong, and the strain and hurt that comes from leaving. When we tell stories, windows appear. Where before there was a barrier, now the human connection is possible. When we apply this to video production or any other form of communication, it brings results. Using individual stories to dig into a more thematic experience creates something people not only pay attention to but are drawn to respond to.

Remember that feeling of connection we talked about? I believe we can all start feeling that more often. Soon we will dig into the story further, talking through the foundational elements every good story has. Here’s to telling good digital stories and the art of making windows.


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