On July 22, 2011, I was honored to deliver the keynote address at HighEdWeb Arkansas to an audience of approximately 100 higher ed web professionals from the region. The title of my talk was “Once Upon a Semester: Storytelling as a Framework for Higher Ed Web Marketing.” You can watch a capture of the audio and slides from the talk here (or view the slide deck via SlideShare).
I began by remarking on the Tufts Web Communications mission: “to use the Web and emerging technologies to engage our audience with the Tufts story and to enable our partners across the university to do the same.” That mission is not just for the content folks — to us, the “Tufts story” should be infused into websites, applications, user experience, social media, the whole gamut.
For the purposes of my talk, I used a definition that explained storytelling as “the graphing of a character’s emotional experience from the moment it begins to its logical conclusion.”
My talk revolved around four core elements that shape storytelling as a framework for higher ed web marketing:
- Empathy - Emotions drive effective storytelling. Can you evoke an emotion that is appropriate to the context, or drives action?
- Holistic approach – Think about the story arc of our web content and web user experiences. Does it carry the user to a resolution?
- User as Hero – At a university, our users are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We need to help them be awesome. We are Excalibur to their King Arthur, Sam to their Frodo.
- Purpose - Stories should support the brand by contextualizing our efforts to advance it. We also have to account for the brand storytelling role of our audiences — as “fan-fiction” authors of our brand, are they adhering to canon? Is this canon something people are aware of?
Thanks to the folks at HighEdWeb Arkansas for giving me the opportunity to keynote the conference and share some of the perspective that shapes what we do in Web Comm. For just a day and a half, it was an extraordinary experience packed with useful knowledge, smart people and Southern hospitality. Hope to see y’all next year!