Shorthand is about empowering storytellers – to share news and information in a powerful, compelling way, that will engage, inform and inspire their audience.
And this is exactly what drives the International Organization for Migration’s use of the storytelling tool for their communications campaigns.
The team has produced an array of media-rich narratives using Shorthand – which you can view here – each one taking you inside countries and communities dealing with ongoing conflict, the aftermath of natural disasters and other tragedies, to share real stories of migration.
For IOM, creating these quality, in-depth and very human stories is about giving their community something that reflects their importance to them.
“It shows that as an organization we care enough about our communications – and thus our clientele – to create things of beauty for them and about them,” Joe Lowry, senior media officer and Asia-Pacific spokesperson for IOM’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific, explained.
Before using Shorthand, the team’s output was focused on blog-style material, with some photo stories on occasion.
“If we had video material we just spliced it into a blog. It was pretty boring and two-dimensional.”
Now the team is able to give the incredible visuals it gathers from across the world the space on screen that they deserve.
In Marked Men for example, Joe was able to explore the subject in-depth, using the range of media he had available, but while maintaining a fluid and engaging narrative.
“It gave me space to write, with breathing spaces offered by video,” he said. “And the text over photo works so well as it’s like an extension of the tattooing theme of the story, with the skin becoming the paper for the words”.
By employing visual storytelling techniques, the team is able to communicate so much more than they could with a standard blog post: the emotion and atmosphere of a place, or just a feeling as part of the reading experience.
Referring to the opening section in Beautiful Walls, for example, Joe explains that he slowed down the video of the child walking along the wall to one quarter of normal pace.
This “gives it a dreamy, surreal quality, in line with the sort of day it was,”, he said, “a trip, with armed escort, to rural Afghanistan to see flood protection walls.”
Bringing the reader deeper into a story, and communicating other levels of the experience beyond the written word is where true impact occurs. Planning this takes time, but it’s time that equals results.
“Shorthand is a gourmet meal, not a slice of pizza. It something to be savoured, both in the creation and the consumption,” Joe added.
The team has so far published 10 Shorthand stories, with an average time-on-page of more than four minutes.
And not only are the stories engaging IOM’s community in their original, immersive form, but they also provide material that can be repurposed in shorter forms to draw in readers on other platforms.
“It gives us freedom to create something beautiful, which can then be repackaged into social media staccato bursts,” Joe explained.