Visual Storytelling: navigating digital platforms for journalists

Stories are an essential part of our society.

We hear stories, we share stories, and we create stories through our daily lives. But the formats in which we tell our stories has dramatically shifted even through the last few years.

Social media has created new platforms for people to tell their personal social-media-icons-the-circle-setstories. Whether they post on Facebook Live, Instagram stories, or “vlog” about it on Youtube, people are finding more ways to express their experiences on a global platform.

Journalists have recognized these platforms as crucial aspects of modern day storytelling and the significance of visuals in these platforms. Because of this, journalists have to be able to not only create a narrative with words but through video and images as well.

Snapchat: the Immediate Video Journalism

Journalists have adapted videos for storytelling through documentaries, news forecasts, and the 24 hour news cycle, but when Snapchat introduced Snapchat stories in 2013, journalists had a new format that could produce immediate, unfiltered videos of events happening across the world.

snapchat0.pngAccording to Tayla Minsberg, social editor for The Times, each journalist takes the NY Times account for a specified amount to tell the story from their advantage. In this time, they have to create a narrative that is both personal, visual, and pulls in the viewer.

A large appeal of Snapchat is not only the ability to tell an interesting story, but to see how these stories show an unfiltered view of people’s lives. Due to the informality of this platform, it really creates a great areas to show softer topics and broadcasters. Could you do breaking news that more hard news? Maybe, but maybe not. Although it provides a great outlet for showing breaking news as it is happening, in real time, it doesn’t seem the audience that uses Snapchat is particularly interested in politics or those issues (at least to an extent).

To maximize the use of Snapchat, reporters need to understand:

  1. What stories can be conveyed through a visual platform like this and still be captivating
  2. How to balance authenticity instead of just amateur filming
  3. Keep their eyes open for live streaming or events that can make great opportunities for Snapchat stories.

Instagram: Storytelling through Imagery  

It appears that Instagram saw the success that Snapchat received after releasing their “stories” features and decided to do that exact same thing. Instagram users can share real-time life updates, news media have a “new opportunity to report from the field while giving behind-the-scene glimpse” into the stories they report, according to Taylyn

Washington-Harmon emphasized that the main difference between Instagram and Snapchat is Instagram used for high quality photography (with curation after the fact).

The strongest brands and accounts on Instagram use two concepts to effectively tell their stores:

  1. Consistency
  2. Passion

These two concepts are so crucial to building a presence and an audience on Instagram because people will have a clear and distinct idea about what your story is: whether it’s your mission, values or purpose. Using imagery to build that narrative will not only capture the attention of people, it will attract the target audience that will want to hear your stories or the stories you share.




Building a Personal Brand

Our internet presence is apart of our identity.

Whether or not we want to admit it, everything we post online is open to the public. Every. Single. Thing. And pretending that our posts don’t reflect us is ignorance.

That’s why news outlets, journalists, and every blogger on the internet is trying to build their personal brand.

Recently, I’ve started narrowing in on what my personal brand will be since I am approaching graduation. I know that I want to carve a profile emphasizing professionalism without losing the authenticity of my voice, but the ability to incorporate both has been difficult to find.

As of late, I’ve been using advice from media professionals and bloggers to compile a strategy for how I will build my personal brand and begin narrowing my niche to appeal to my target audience.

My strategy includes:

1. Stating objectives

According to Evan LePage, every strategy needs “to establish the objectives and goals that you hope to achieve.” These objectives can be simple goals such as gathering more followers or page views. Or the goals can be as complex as building credibility and influence around a targeted audience.

He recommended using the SMART frame; SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Using this frame can create achievable goals and keep people focused. For me, my goals center on building a niche for myself and finding what my voice can be on my social media platforms. Once I do this, I can expand to establishing an audience, developing techniques, and other goals.

2. Finding a niche

Aviation blogger Benet Wilson emphasized the importance of finding your niche. It’s not enough to write solely about fashion; you have to differentiate your content to fit your voice. For example, Wilson discussed her friend’s blog that focuses on vintage clothing from the 1940s. It’s very specialized, but it attracts an audience that enjoys the unique components to it.

I find this component to be the most difficult aspect as of now. I know that I have skills and beliefs that many journalists have. So what makes me different? My passion for food? Creating content with a camera? An interest in international relations? As of now, I continue to slowly narrow in on what I want to write about, but it will take to to establish my niche and voice.

3. Choosing the right medium

Don Stanley from 3 Rhino Media really honed in on the importance of choosing the right medium for your brand. Stanley mentioned that many businesses try to do every social media platform because “that’s what everyone else is doing”. His advice was to find where your audience is at, whether that be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and etc, focus on that medium. It will making your platforms easier to manage and better quality.

Matthew Barby also emphasized the point in his article that keeping your focus and mediums condense will naturally expand your target audience and appealing your content to more viewers. As of now, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, WordPress and Instagram. Although many of those accounts are private, personal accounts, I will need to decide if I really need all these platforms to express my personal identity or now.

4. Making original context 

I think it’s obvious that if you want to have an authentic voice, you need to create original content that let’s your voice be heard. Mindy McAdams recommends that many first time bloggers miss the opportunity to integrate material from influencers and point out new insights in their personal posts.

For my strategy, I hope to incorporate my articles, projects, and blog posts to represent the work fields that I would love to contribute to. Whether I write about restaurants experimenting with food or the newest travel destination in Asia, I want people in the industry to see that I can create original content that attracts readers.

5. Getting engaged with your audience

Rachel Bartee, a content marketer, said one of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is automatization of their posts. They forget that it’s about engaging with the platform and your audience. Social media is meant to be social. The more you can engage with your followers and commenters, the more you’ll attract others to engage with you as well.

Once I actually gain followers, I intend to keep my engagement level high. Until then, I will engage with influencers and reporters that inspire me, so I can show people why they might want to follow me, as an individual and a professional.

I’m really excited to further my brand and craft my personality online. This way, I can better recognized in the field and as a professional.