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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

College of Management hosts digital storytelling event

The+panel+at+the+event
The panel at the event

On Sept. 25, the College of Management of the University of Massachusetts Boston hosted its first Social Media Night, an event that sought to debunk the linear assumptions of stories.
Storytelling as an art form originated as an oral practice that transgressed into the medium of print; then it has been assimilated into the digital world. The adaptation of the way stories are told is not only part of history, but also a part of the way in which people can look to the future.
There were introductions from the evening’s speakers, and they began their mission by giving a compelling example of storytelling. Zilla Van Den Born’s story began in her home in Amsterdam, when she told her family that she was going on a five-week trip to Southeast Asia. It seemed straightforward enough, but it became a complex masterpiece when she revealed that she never left her apartment. Over the course of her supposed vacation, she redecorated her home in the fashion of a typical apartment or hotel from Asia to look the part when she would Skype with her family. This illustrates the level of immersion implied in producing a story.
Mark Forrester, the founder of Yoularoid’s organization, was the first speaker at the conference. Forrester mainly partakes in an art form that deviates from the more artistically licensed stories. He stated, “I don’t use a script; I capture, I don’t produce.”
Forrester contracts and makes commercials for other businesses as a part of a marketing enterprise, which proves that storytelling is not just for those with the English Department in mind. His version of a successful story or commercial involves an unconscious, emotional aspect.
Forrester achieves this focus on the message by using the tools of natural light, avoiding distracting backgrounds and capturing the essentials of a conversation on camera. The emphasis is placed on the story, but the story itself becomes a practical tool in the business realm in order to market and sell products. 
Peter Olejnirk, the next speaker from the Department of Revenue with the Creative Division of Web and Media, was tasked with the job of making taxes more fun. It is safe to say that most would not want that job. Instead of creating more print media to parallel the excessive fine print that accompanies taxes, Olejnirk utilized the YouTube boom that began in 2005 to make fun videos that grab the attention of their target audience.
It has been established that, in order to hold the attention for one minute or less, the videos creators have to “keep it consumable and exciting”, according to Olejnirk. It is not just about length, but maintaining an even proportion of animations to bullet points. All of these minute aspects are important to the creation of a successful story.
Olejnirk was followed at the podium by Robert Bochnak, who looked at the setup of the forum with a sense of humor, animated by his words, “Feels like I’m testifying before Congress.” Robert shared his application of storytelling for the purpose of marketing with his peers beside him.
Bochnak is in the Assistant Division of Alumni Marketing and Communications at Harvard University, where his job is to use social media sites to make connections between the stories of their varied alumni.
Through these connections, and identifying what Harvard alums care about, it became possible to track web traffic to their site. The goal of creating this immediacy is to gain donations from these graduates, and it is made possible by successful storytelling, which in this particular case is done through modern day digital media.
Julia Campbell, the Principal of J. Campbell Social Marketing, was the last speaker of the evening. It was revealed that she is in the process of writing a book about storytelling and involved in the non-profit sector. 
Julia’s noble cause is to make whichever non-profit relatable and appealing, but she stated that “Non-profits, like the Department of Revenue, aren’t about cats”. Surely everyone has succumbed to a cat video at some point in their life, and the goal is to be able to recreate that blind demand in other aspects of marketing.
It’s true the story of Grumpy Cat can be so compelling. More than any business statistic, ultimately, people buy from people. Julia invites the humanity of marketing a story in whatever capacity that may be.
There was something rather self-aware in holding a conference on digital media storytelling that was also a story in itself. Suffice to say, the speakers enabled a successful night of digital literacy on behalf of the College of Management at UMass Boston.