Storytelling in The Age of Live Streaming

Matt LushApple launch events, campaign speeches, graduation speeches, TED talks, Serial, This American Life, The Moth — we are fascinated by the art and science of good storytelling. But what makes a good story?

In my view, a good story passes what psychology professor Dacher Keltner calls the “goosebumps test,” because the storyteller moves the audience to awe. My friend Alex Bybee says “stories open us up to a world or character we may have never been exposed to, thus increasing our capacity for empathy.”

Award-winning writer and director Robert McKee says stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living — not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.”

My job as a strategic communicator is to craft strategic messages, put them in the proper delivery mechanism, and place them in front of the right audience. Traditional methods like media releases, videos, television advertisements and direct mail still have their time and place, but technology allows us to tell even better stories. Right now, I’m fascinated by the technology of live streaming.

Although it’s been around for several years, live streaming has gained recent popularity through live streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps allow users to stream live video from their mobile phones to anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world, creating a new reality for brands, breaking news, citizen journalists, and you and me. Users can jump from a political rally in Nevada to a tourist hiking the Great Wall of China to someone playing their ukulele in Central Park, all in a matter of seconds.

As digital communications budgets grow — according to CMO Council, more than a third of CMOs say digital marketing will account for 75 percent of their spending within the next five years — tools like live streaming empower us to tell authentic stories. It’s not without risks in an age when a single tweet can spell crisis for a brand, but live streaming is transparent, cost efficient, and connects us intimately to brands, rather than through polished, million-dollar campaigns.

McKee (that writer and director from earlier) said in a Harvard Business Review interview that great storytellers are skeptics who understand their own masks as well as the masks of life, and this understanding makes them humble. They see the humanity in others and deal with them in a compassionate yet realistic way, and that duality makes them great leaders.

As we lead, we must never forget the power of stories to move people to action. My hope is that we pause often during our day-to-day to listen to — and tell — great stories. Doing so shapes our thinking, and therefore, our lives.

Learn more about storytelling, live streaming video, Periscope and Meerkat at NCET’s Tech Bite luncheon on February 24.  Event details at NCET.org. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces networking events to help individuals and businesses explore and use technology.

Matt Lush is an account executive at The Abbi Agency and NCET’s VP of Public Relations.

This column first appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal – RGJ.com

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