5 Principles of Storytelling from the Perspective of a 128 Year-Old Brand



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Social media fueled the growth of National Geographic, with the quality of the content and the talent giving it a trusted voice, numbering a social footprint of almost 300m followers.

During Social Media Week London, Nadine Heggie, Vice President of Global Partnerships for National Geographic, talked about their social domination, explaining how a media brand with a history of 128 years in science, exploration, and photography can succeed in social media.

Below are five key takeaways from her presentation. To watch the entire talk, plus access more than 100 hours of other SMW talks and presentations, sign up for SMW Insider.

1. Leading with the visuals

Visual storytelling has benefited from the rise of Instagram, counting more than 59 million followers, proving that the audience is interested in science and exploration and “there’s nothing more impactful than a big powerful image to engage”

National Geographic handed “the keys to the kingdom” to its photographers on Instagram, with each one of them having a password, curating images from their assignments, their lives, their travels, focusing on “delivering stunning visual content that drives conversation”

2. Invest in storytelling and storytellers

National Geographic is collaborating with photographers, filmmakers, journalists, scientists, explorers to create a vision that “enables us to understand the complexities of our world” and “bring consumers with us within the field of technology”

For example, ‘Wild Life’ with Bertie Gregory shows “how we nurture and develop our storytellers”, while bringing the audience closer to the natural world than ever before.

3. Where, when and how consumers want it

National Geographic is “obsessed with meeting the consumer where they are”, using each social platform to “make the experience authentic to the brand, something that they won’t experience anywhere else”

It’s about starting with consumers and then focusing on the platforms. For example, National Geographic was among Snapchat’s Discover channels and it quickly realized that the platform allows them to “be more playful with voice and the type of content”, aiming for fun, the wow factor and the spark of curiosity.

4. Be flexible and adaptive

National Geographic wants to create authentic experiences, hoping to bring the audience closer to moments they won’t experience anywhere else.

For example, Facebook live “takes people to places and experiences that would otherwise be impossible”, leading to a significant increase of engagement, with a recent example was having a live video from two explorers from mount Everest.

5. Lean into purpose

Nadine Heggie wants to explore “how impactful it would be if we could get people to stop and think when it matters” and that’s how National Geographic is connecting ambassadors and photographers at the same moment and time for significant occasions, grabbing the world’s attention and breaking the noise.

As Nadine Heggie mentioned, National Geographic keeps looking for new ways to “put social leadership to work”. It’s “how we can use the power of social to change the world” that makes the brand stand out.

For the full video of this talk, sign up for SMW Insider and access 100+ hours of video from SMW sessions featuring Facebook, Instagram, BuzzFeed, and hundreds of other brands, publishers and platforms.

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