Turning digital signage messages into stories, with characters and some sort of narrative, is a great way to interest and engage your audience. You make people aware of something, the “story” makes them interested, the characters give them something emotional to identify with and make them want to participate, and then they do what you want them to do. You can build even more interest and desire in your audience by extending the story over time, creating long-tail campaigns for your digital signs.
Instead of just a one-off message, or a short series of messages spread out over a week or so, think about telling a story that can go on for weeks, even months. This allows you to develop your characters and fine-tune your message, and generates buzz as people talk about what happened in the last “episode” or speculate about what will happen next.
Retail companies routinely do this, and there are many examples of consumer brands promoting products and services to the public, or increasing brand awareness through extended advertising themes. But long-tail narrative campaigns can also work for more specific audiences that receive internal communications.
This works best with something that takes a long time, is ongoing, or has multiple components. You’re doing more than just telling your audience about something, you’re encouraging them to change in some way (by taking the action you want them to). And you do this by showing them examples of people who do, or do not, take that action, and how their life changes for the better or worse as a result of the choices they make. This pushes emotional buttons for people, especially modern audiences who are used to watching films, TV shows and web videos. With emotional engagement comes more buy-in, which is more likely to lead to action.
Using this method is effective for things that have a deadline far in the future, things that require registering or signing up, or things that are always relevant. Some examples:
- Rolling out a new benefits package
- Launching a new product or service
- Reinforcing mission statement and values
- Special events, like blood drives or company picnics
- Reinforcing health and safety standards
Short video episodes are one obvious way to tell your long-tail story, but you can just as easily accomplish your goals with a series of still messages on your digital signs. Publishing the episodes, whatever form they take, on your intranet pages helps keep your story in people’s minds as they wait for the next episode. Adding each part to your website lets the general public get in on it as well, as does putting it on your social media pages (and that also allows comments and input from others, plus it lets you monitor how interested people are).
- Know who your audience is, what they need or are interested in. If necessary, conduct some sort of research beforehand.
- Make sure you always have some sort of human element in your story – it’s hard to get emotionally engaged with statistics and numbers.
- Make your characters seem real and authentic – even base them on actual people and situations, if you can (you can even use real employees or managers to tell their real stories, if they are compelling enough). This is true even if you are using a cute animal or robot as your main character.
- Keep everything short, simple and straightforward.
- Be inclusive – people respond better to a “we” than they do to “them”, and include shared values.
- Repeat phrases and sound bites that will stick in your audience’s minds.
- Add in plenty of detail and hidden “easter eggs” (even in-jokes) for people to discover and talk about.
- Plan out your entire story arc in advance – with a beginning (the set-up and context for the story), a middle (the conflicts and action) and an end (a conclusion that wraps it up in an emotionally satisfying way).
If you need some inspiration, search the web to see what other offices or schools have done, or model your campaign on retail advertising. Then think about who your audience is, and what might engage them. By creating a long-tail campaign that unfolds over time, you’ll not only get people interested, you’ll keep their attention. And that’s the entire point of your digital signage.