Storytelling on Digital Signs Builds Interest and Encourages Action

Think about how you craft communications for your digital signs. Usually, it’s a single message with a few carefully chosen words (and maybe an image) to introduce or reinforce information for your audience – there’s a blood drive on, there’s a new coffee blend in the café, an important deadline is coming up. Instead of repeating that same still message in your playlist, why not tell a story? With just a small tweak in the way you relate information, you can greatly increase the effectiveness of your digital signs.

Some of your messages may be purely informative, but the purpose of most of them is probably to get your audience to do something – come to the meeting, participate in an event, get their paperwork in on time. There are four stages to getting people to act – awareness, interest, desire and then action. People have to want to do something before they do it, and they can’t want it if they don’t know about it, and find it interesting or relevant to them.

Think about turning your messages into stories. We remember things better when they’re framed inside of a narrative because we use more of our brain. Studies show that not only are the language centers activated during a story, but the parts of the brain that would be used if we actually experienced the events ourselves are as well.

So, if we’re listening to or reading a story about a sailboat caught in a storm, we experience milder versions of what would really be going through in that situation – fear, the thrill of danger, competency in piloting the craft, pride at surviving, etc. To some extent, it’s like we lived through it ourselves.

With storytelling, more of the brain is used, so more of it is stored in memory. The story is easy to remember and easy to repeat to others, which reinforces the story again in our own minds. So does encountering it again ourselves. And, the simpler the language, the more likely it will be remembered. People can’t do something if they don’t remember it.

Your digital signs show a message, displayed twice an hour every day for a week: “Paperwork deadline – Friday the 19th at 5pm”. Hopefully, people will see the message enough that it sticks in their minds, but chances are there will be quite a few stragglers who “just forgot”, causing more work for your teams. Adding a bit more, like “or you won’t get paid this month” (but nicer than that), might catch a few more – because they now have an incentive to comply with the deadline.

But, instead of simply repeating the same static message again and again, consider turning that into a story, related in a series of messages over time. It could be something like this:

The story of Patricia and Jim:  Each day, there’s a new “episode” of the story – Patricia organizes herself and gets her paperwork in by Friday, gets paid on time, and enjoys life with her friends – going to a show and having dinner in a nice restaurant. Jim procrastinates, files late, and spends a couple of sad, lonely days at home, eating frozen dinners and watching his goldfish, waiting for his pay to come through.

It’s the same message, but instead of saying the same thing in the same way over and over again, you’re saying it in what feels like a new way each time, so your audience is more interested, and will more likely remember what to do. They might talk about the tale of Patricia and Jim over lunch or in break rooms, reinforcing and repeating your message even more. And they complete the story themselves by taking action – in our example, by getting that paperwork in no later than 5pm on Friday the 19th.

It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is – following guidelines, taking advantage of training opportunities, working toward sales goals, registering for classes, going to a company picnic, etc. – turning your messages into stories that are memorable and relatable will increase awareness, pique interest and motivate your audience to take action.