Identifying the Right Format for Your Story

When to use copy, images, video or audio to best tell your story.

To ensure that your story has the potential to reach each of your audiences—regardless of their access to specific platforms—you may consider experimenting with new formats. In this section, we’ll share examples of great stories told through writing, imagery, video and audio. Visit the Content Toolkit to learn how to make sure your story reaches the right audiences.

With Video You Can Show, Not Tell

Today there are a variety of tools to help you tell a compelling story using video. From longer documentary-style reporting to short clips on Instagram, Vine or Hyperlapse, users are consuming more video than ever. Take a look at a few ways organizations are using video to tell powerful stories.

This highly produced interview of President Obama from Vox Media provides additional context by integrating graphics and data.

Use Images to Make a Statement

Today, capturing and sharing high-resolution images is as simple as capturing a picture on your mobile device. Photos taken on such devices can lend a caught-in-the-moment quality to your stories or help tell part of the story from the perspective of a specific character (selfies, anyone?). This example from Melody Kramer uses simple, drawn images from a brainstorming session to bring transparency to her design project.

Meanwhile, an investment in high-quality professional photos can lend an entirely different aesthetic to your stories, adding detail, nuance and complexity. Transformed into “memes” with simple design moves, images often help to provide additional context—expanding the scope of the story from a single situation or individual to their environment, their community and their world, as in this Instagram photo from the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings Campaign.

Harness the Power of the Written Word

The written word is a universal constant of storytelling. The challenge today is that we are inundated with compelling copy, and it has become ever more difficult for audiences to decide what is meaningful. To write effective stories, you must make every word count, like this Medium post from Sue Desmond-Hellmann, The Case for Putting Your Head Where Your Heart Is.

Audio That Puts the Imagination to Work

Thanks to podcasts, audio is making a definitive comeback as a storytelling tool. The barrier to entry has gotten lower, as the tools needed to produce a quality podcast or audio segment have become more accessible. Shorter formats, like those we hear on Storycorps are just as powerful as their longer counterparts, for example, this episode of This American Life.