HR Trends. No.3: ‘Virtual Storytelling’

Recently I saw some informative and nonetheless not-boring videos about HR topics. Why haven’t they been boring? Well, they integrated some active drawing while telling the story. Here is an example by The Talent Project:

There are a lot more out there, so it seems like another trend🙂 Well, not only because of the growing number of examples; changing ways of learning and communicating ask for more entertaining tools. And storytelling has always been one of the most powerful tools of communication. By the nature of what it looks like, let’s call it ‘virtual storytelling’. Saatkorn recently blogged about it too (German!).

And, co-incident had it, that I recently met someone who is actively working on adding value to HR by using virtual storytelling. So let’s hear what Susanne Ambros, has to say about it:

HR Factory are a medium-size service provider with 80 people of staff and affiliations in several European locations (actually we worked with them during my time at Microsoft). The company is focused on services of Business Process Outsourcing. With over 10 years of experience in the field, HR factory provides a range of services from recruitment administration to consulting and tailored solutions for personnel development and HR management.

susanne.ambros AT hrfactory.com

1. Could you describe the basic idea of Virtual Storytelling (VS) and Scribicon?

People have always been captivated by good stories and storytelling unites people regardless of their age or cultural background. A story can be told through words or pictures or combining both. An engaging story nurtures the imagination and is easily remembered. We have taken the idea of storytelling and converted it into a smarter, more modern format. Virtual storytelling combines the essence of storytelling with modern media, using animated video clips. Once created, the story is recorded and can be revisited whenever and wherever desired without having to worry that some parts may have been altered or lost by word of mouth. We have created Scribicon to capture the idea of virtual storytelling and make it accessible to everyone who wants to communicate their message effectively. Scribicon not only allows you to simultaneously see and hear the story being told, it brings you closer, as you watch the tale unfold with each stroke of the pen. It is a highly captivating and, therefore, memorable process, which leads to better retention of the information conveyed.

2. Why do you think that there is a need for these kinds of visualisation?

Much of the information that is given out on a daily basis, never actually gets read because people simply do not have the time or energy to do so. Getting one’s message across is the responsibility of the message owner. It would be unwise to expect the audience to make an effort to find and understand a message that you want to communicate. It is in the interest of the communicator to make his message as attractive as possible to get the attention and results desired.
With VS, video, audio, text and animation are combined and this combination catches the attention of people with different dominant sensory channels.

3. What would you say are the main advantages of VS in comparison to ‘old fashioned’ communication tools?

Old fashioned communication tools are often boring and are unable to hold the interest of audiences. Plain text is commonly used to convey a message in cases where direct interaction between individuals is not possible. There can be a number of downsides to this sort of communication. For an example it may not be possible to squeeze the message into a sentence or two that would most likely catch the audience’s attention. Or it can also leave too much space for interpretation and we cannot be sure that our message got across the way it was intended to. A long text may seem boring and people may not have the time or energy to read through it. Also, long texts leave too much room for interpretation, so we can’t be sure that the reader picked out the message that was intended. It is of course possible to animate text in online presentations, the downside here, however, is that it is still text, and it may be difficult for the reader/viewer to put it into a right context.
A speech is often more attractive than a written text. It is complimented with changes in intonation, pace and timbre. However, it lacks a visual anchor that is often needed for the audience to memorize the information and relate it to their own knowledge and experiences.
In case of a video the emphasis is on visual perception channels and there is a risk that the message gets lost in the large amount of visual action.
The main advantages of video scribing, therefore, are an optimal level of complexity and a combination of different communication channels (i.e. audio, video and text). As important as the technical implementation of a VS clip is the story behind it. The information is placed into a context and different bits are connected to one another. This form of storytelling enables a better understanding of the information received and leaves less space for misinterpretation.

4. Could you give some examples of this?

An employee receives an email with written text only or it has a presentation attached to it. The employee has to read and click through pages, which is time consuming, not very engaging or entertaining and therefore most likely the core message will be lost or, in the worst case, not even read at all.
If the employee receives an email with a link to a VS clip, they click on it and they can immediately watch and enjoy the message that is being told. It is more likely, they will view the clip again and the information or message brought via VS is more memorable.

5. How elaborate is VS for the client?

VS is very flexible and adaptable. Depending on the nature and volume of information that the client wishes to communicate, it is possible to create a VS clip to exactly match the client’s needs. It is possible to make short influential clips to communicate one specific and clear message. However, it is also possible to successfully convert a complex strategy overview into a VS clip.
The VS clip format is very versatile. In style, it is possible to opt for anything from simple monochrome line-art, up to vibrant, full-colour images. Animation options range from a sequence of stills, to a full animation that looks like a small cartoon. We can add music and a voice-over, using the ideal speaker to suit the mood of the clip.

6. Where do you think is the biggest future potential of VS?

VS can be used everywhere that information, knowledge or ideas need to be communicated. The possibilities are endless – VS can be used to further illustrate any kind of message. Using Scribicon can make the client stand out and really attract attention. So it can be used for marketing purposes, to communicate memos or company policies, to liven up learning material or any other purpose you can think of. Video is the fastest growing medium on the Internet (YouTube is now ranked 4th in the world in terms of traffic and it is the second largest search engine on the web) so the potential of VS is virtually limitless.
While advertising and marketing are already very diversely managed and the limit there is only one’s creativity, we see a lot of potential in learning and knowledge management. Online and distance education has become incredibly popular. We also see a vast potential in mobile learning. VS can be built into online and interactive learning courses and can be combined with other types of media to refresh or test one’s knowledge. The learner can visit and revisit the short VS clips when and where he finds suitable either on his computer, tablet or mobile device. We would encourage teachers and lecturers to explore the possibilities of mobile learning and VS to enhance their training programmes and offer their students a more enjoyable way to learn.

7. Do you know some examples of where VS has been successfully used for employer branding or talent acquisition?

VS has already been taken advantage of by many different clients for various purposes. In several cases VS has been used for internal company communication, marketing and branding.
Our own company strategy and vision for the next period was communicated via Scribicon and up until now we have recorded 480 views of the clips, whereas we ‘only’ have 80 employees in our company. We usually would have had a few company meetings where the new strategy would have been communicated and all of the downsides of a usual presentation or speech would have applied. Instead we now have people revisiting the clips again and again. The strategy was published in Q1 this year, but if you ask any of our colleagues now at any point of time what are we here for and what we aim for, you don’t get a blank gaze, but an actual answer. The message has stuck!

  1. #1 by Roman Rackwitz (@RomanRackwitz) on 27.11.2012 - 12:39

    Great post, Tim. Thanks. Storytelling is such a powerful tool. No matter if you want to explain something to kids or grown ups, Stories are the best way to tell it. And it is not difficult to do so. For a presentation in Berlin at the ‘Data Science Day’ we used our whiteboard, some boardmarker and an afternoon of fun, brainstroming and one or two beers to come up with our own little visual story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bz3iLAHVks

    Finally we were able to introduce this topic in a funny and easy way😉
    Stroytelling should be done in lectures. I’m sure that the student’s awareness would hit the roof.

    • #2 by talentim on 27.11.2012 - 17:23

      Thanks for your comment, Roman! Problem with the usage in lectures: lecturers would need more prepararation and thinking in advance😉

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