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The Forgotten Art of Storytelling in the Age of Video


The Forgotten Art of Storytelling in the Age of Video

By Gregg Fray, owner of Seven Media and Seven Studios

There’s a school of thought that suggests humans are unique among animals due to our ability to tell – and believe in – stories. We’re able to engage huge numbers of our species using facts woven together as narratives, and through fictional stories that get us to buy into values and ideologies.

The tales we weave together, told powerfully and effectively, can unite billions of people.

Historically, storytelling has helped us to build global societies, create laws and bind communities through shared beliefs. It can even make us believe in brands and encourage us to buy goods and travel to far-flung places. It is an art form we’ve mastered over hundreds of thousands of years and is, without doubt, a powerful tool.

Today, we have more platforms than ever to tell stories directly to communities of interest across the globe in huge numbers.

Social media is a gift to the storyteller which should be harnessed – and with the relative ease of video production in the modern world, we have the tools to present our stories in more accessible ways than ever.

A recent report from Hootsuite states that 500 million hours of video are watched on YouTube each week and – incredibly – more video content is uploaded online every 30 days than the major US TV networks have created in the last 30 years.

So, why does it feel like, in modern communications in the Middle East, the art of storytelling seems to have been all but forgotten?

Brands and companies are producing material daily, but it just seems to add to the thousands of hours of forgettable content online. In the MENA region, people watch on average one hour of video each week on their social channels through smartphones. But how much of this do we remember? The answer: a mere fraction.

The reason for this is that in too many of these promotional videos, the stories simply don’t exist. It’s just that – pure promotion, devoid of human emotion or relevance.

We hear influencers lecturing us about teeth whitening products and property companies going for the jugular with videoed sales pitches. We’re deluged with corporate videos that tell you about an organization’s values rather than demonstrate them through stories, and brands listing prices one after the other in a way that means very little to the average consumer.

Of course, there remain some examples in which people – influencers, media organizations, and companies – still get it. And when it works, it’s perfect.

What is needed is a shift back to basics. We need to remember what a story arc is; how to create drama; conflict and resolution; and use subversion and comedy to convey important messages.

A big part of the art of storytelling is making content relevant. Often, the most effective vehicle to achieve this is using ordinary people to tell it in a video that is shot authentically as to appear effectively “real.”

Video, executed properly, is definitely the right way to target an audience as it has a 95% retention rate. When you compare this to the 21% retention rate of print, it’s evident that video can influence action better than any other form of advertising media.

It has been proven that customers are 27% more likely to click on a video than on a standard ad on a web page. It is a video that appeals to our senses and makes us curious to find out more – and once we do, we share video 12 times more on social than text and images combined.

In this region, there is a place that consumes more videos daily than anywhere else around the entire globe. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 98% of the population can be reached through video. Previously, this KSA audience looked like a distant dream to many brands, especially those outside of the Middle East, but thanks to video – combined with a sound knowledge of storytelling – this important market can now be fully engaged.

And it’s never been easier to reach an audience. If targeted effectively through boosting and advertising social channels, the cost per view can be as low as AED 0.001 per view – and that’s views of exactly the sort of person you want to see it.

With all these tools at our fingertips, we need to get back to basics: understand what makes humans tick and tailor stories that work. By remembering this near-forgotten art of storytelling, we can make an impact more than ever before.

Opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.

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