Digital Storytelling 1: Introduction

Hiding behind a tan minivan in the driveway of a stranger, my buddy Robbie asks,

“What’s with all the freakin cops?!”

Bad boys bad boys
Crime Tip #1: Seeing this is not optimal

“Something must be going on. That many cops, this late at night? Let’s head back.” my neighbor Jeremy adds.

“We can still make it. Let’s just get off this street.” I insist, feigning confidence.

They both look at each other nervously and then towards me, finally nodding their heads reluctantly. With an old bucket filled with stuff, the three of us make a run for it. Our dead sprint is interrupted by the sudden flash of spotlights, freezing us in place, and casting our long shadows behind us. We just stand there. Paralyzed by fear. Holding our arms over our squinting eyes, like overall clad, moonshine sipping bumpkins glaring into the lights of a UFO, we hear a gruff voice yell.

“Stop! Don’t move!”

The shout shakes us from our stupor. We glance at each other- as our 14 year old minds consider our choices. It doesn’t take us long- we simply take off running. Tearing through the streets, chased by the sounds of vehicles, dogs and running policemen closing in. Hoping our captors will pass us by, we dart into a stranger’s property and climb behind their RV parked in the driveway.

We muffle our heavy breathing with our sleeves as we hear a collection of half a dozen policemen circle the yard- and shine their lights in the direction of the RV.

Crime Tip: RVs make poor hideouts
Crime Tip #2: RVs make poor hideouts

“Come out with your hands up!” one of the officers shouts. Certain we’d be spending the rest of our lives behind bars bunking with an old-timer named Lenny who talks to his own shadow puppets, we reluctantly step out from behind the Winnebago. Always two steps ahead of the cops, I leave the bucket of stuff behind. We’re then escorted over to the nearest police car, as officers quickly walk past us, pulled away by anxious canines.

“What’re you punks doing out here this late?!” an agitated officer snaps.

Our answer is interrupted by one of his compadres who is coming out from behind the RV.

“Looks like we have a bucket of stuff, here. This your stuff?”

Oh, these guys are good! I think to myself. Man, they found our loot. Right where we were hiding…like 15 seconds ago…I’ll have to really step up my game to get past these guys, but how?

He continues, “Let’s see, what do we have here? Toilet paper. Shaving cream. All kinds of things. What you guys planning on doing with this stuff?”

Relieved he’s so thoughtful to ask our input, and hopeful he’ll keep an open mind, I think of the perfect story to save us.

What can I say, we were young romantics.
Final Crime Tip: Tell a better story

“Oh, that? Ya, I must’ve forgot it back there. So, here’s the thing- a buddy of ours if getting married tomorrow. We’re just going over to decorate his car before his big day. We’re just so happy for him. So happy, but a little sad too. You know how it is. Love, it’ll just creep up and get you. Am I right guys? Ha ha.”

I look up at him, certain he bought my totally plausible story and will compliment our friendly intentions and promptly send us on our way.

No such luck.

I look over at Robbie and Jeremy, hoping they’ll catch on to my brilliant storyline and chime in.

No such luck.

“Todd…don’t. Just don’t.” Robbie says softly as he lowers his head, resigning himself to a lifetime in the criminal justice system rubbing Lenny’s feet.

Turns out there was actually a shirtless escaped convict running through the neighborhood with a knife that night. We just got caught in the crossfire of this episode of ‘Cops’. Luckily, the police had “fatter fish to fry”, and we “just escaped a trip downtown”.

I practice this look in the mirror, you little punk
I practice this look in the mirror, ya little punk
A junior officer follows us home as we walk slowly in front of his headlights, wishing they’d just thrown us in jail rather than face our parents personalized, and now illegal, form of justice. Upon arrival, the young policeman displays an exaggerated frown and chews me out for lying, using authoritative words like, “son” and “bodybag” Sending me off with a “Just get outta my sight kid!”

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Looking back, I learned 3 basic lessons from this experience.

1. Those police officers may have just saved us from a dangerous situation that night.

2. Never trust Robbie and Jeremy to back your white lies. Ever.

3. If your story fails, you fail. True when dealing with law enforcement. True in digital marketing.

This is the start of a 7 part series on storytelling and digital marketing.

If you want to have a growing influence online, you have to understand the human tendency and attraction to storytelling. That’s what we’ll cover next. Then, we’ll look at creative and intelligent ways to be welcomed into someone’s ongoing story. Compliment their story, and you’ll find interest, engagement and loyalty. Brands and companies that do this effectively will find themselves playing a role in the lives of customers.

Those that don’t will fail.

Epic, go to jail and spoon with Lenny, fail.
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In Part 2, we’ll look at modern day marketing and storytelling. After we’ve gone through this, we’ll look at doing it effectively. Understanding it is one thing, but learning how to do it effectively is, well, a whole different…story. That’s what I’ll help you do throughout this series, which includes:

Part 1: This butt-kicking introduction to the series that you’re reading now. You’re almost done here, nice work.
Part 2: Stories are important to us. Brain science proves this, so don’t argue.
Part 3: Scene Inception is the new storytelling.
Part 4: Understanding their story. The new age of digital listening.
Part 5: Adapting the story to your modern audience’s story.
Part 6: Telling a great story, with the right story at the right time and place.
Part 7: Putting it all together with some really cool examples that clarify the concepts.

Read on for Part 2

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