Three ways to create immersive storytelling in PR

Whether you are giving your friend a piece of advice, or writing an article covering a major political situation, the onus of communicating the truth in the most coherent and transparent manner possible, falls on you as a content creator and publisher.

Once you have your subject matter in place, validated, consolidated and ready to becrafted into a story, what do you do now? The art of impactful storytelling has come a long way, and with technology at the disposal of most content creators, there are far fewer excuses for subpar content.

While impactful storytelling comprises a host of factors that ultimately culminate to make a story significant for the audience, one of the most important aspects has now become a term in communication –the immersive nature of storytelling. 

Storytellers from ages immemorial have crafted tales that pull listeners in from every perspective. So, while the term “immersive storytelling” largely talks about an actual physical feeling of immersion such as the use of VR and AR, truly immersive and thus impactful storytelling, requires so many more elements.

What is it that really pulls the audience in?

Relating to the audience

Storytelling is no longer centred around what one influential brand ambassador says, and thus what the audience is expected to simply believe at face value. There has been a sea change in how brands position themselves in the public eye. Especially on YouTube and Instagram, consumers are relying on other authentic consumers to guide them through what’s best for them. 

YouTube influencers like Mumbai-based Sherry Shroff, conduct entire shopping “hauls” from certain brands and then break down the whole experience for consumers. 

Being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of a brand, and the pros and cons of a product may seem counter-productive. However, honest portrayals not only increase consumer trust, but they also lower the chances of consumer disappointment, while putting the onus of superlative production on the brand. 

There are brands who also choose to tell real stories from behind the scenes. Tanishq, in one such initiative, launched a series of video stories, each featuring a retail sales officer from a different part of the country. 

These Tanishq employees then go on to relate various incidents of interaction with customers, and through this reflect the brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction and experience. This campaign was a true testament to the fact that employees are the real brand ambassadors.

Taking a stand

According to a 2018 Edelman Earned Brand report, 64% of consumers globally prefer brands that take a stand on social issues. In India, the numbers are even higher, with a December 2018 survey by Accenture stating that 81% of Indian consumers expect brands to talk about social causes. 

A recent ad campaign by Liberty Shoes is a strong example of how there is never a dearth of issues to discuss, and how those whose voice is heard in the public realm, have the responsibility of using it to effect change. 

The campaign, titled #InTheNameOfLiberty, throws light on the human habit of taking freedom for granted, and the tendency of many so-called enlightened individuals to discriminate and talk down to certain sections of society. 

In a world that is increasingly blind to institutional and personal hypocrisy, an ad like this sums up the message that humanity needs to hear. From a doctor treating a rape victim only to lecherously leer at a woman minutes later, to a young man from the North East facing racist remarks from his contemporaries – the campaign attempts to raise a mirror to society. The ad has since gone viral online, clearly striking a chord in anyone who has watched it.

Immersing physically

The current literal meaning of immersive storytelling is actually rooted in the virtual reality and augmented reality trends that are taking over storytelling worldwide. 

Perhaps the most widespread use of such technology was the Pokemon Go app, an augmented reality mobile game that enables consumers to use GPS to find, capture and fight virtual creatures. 360-degree ads and immersive media display ads are rapidly coming to the fore, and India is high up on the list, with it being the country with the second-highest app installs of Google’s VR tool Cardboard. 

Piramal Mahalaxmi has even taken immersive storytelling to the real estate sector by using mCanvas ads that allow potential home-buyers to experience their moving in story in advance. 

mCanvas enables users to be a part of the ad by tilting or shaking the mobile phone and thus truly being virtually present with the progression of the story. Here, visual appeal and enhanced perception play a huge role in the high impact delivered by this kind of storytelling.

While there are various aspects to good or effective storytelling, what makes it a truly impactful and significant process is how deeply the art can succeed in pulling the audience in, and in remaining in the audience’s memory even long after the story has ended.

Asif Upadhye is director & 'Dark Knight' at SPRD.

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