Storytelling across different media – high-budget learning solution or small addition to your training?

Anders Gronstedt is here to tell us about storytelling, how it is evolving and how it is interesting for learning. Let’s go with ASTD2014 session SU313…


Storytelling has been around forever.

Literally, forever. We tell them to our kids, we transform them into songs and movies, and we sit around campsites sharing them and transforming them. According to Gronstedt, human memory is story-based and stories can be very persuasive.

Almost all stories follow similar structures that help to draw people in. Joseph Campbell told us about “The Hero’s Journey”, 12 steps that all good myths (and many a modern movie) follow. Such story structures have been shown to create engagement and attention.

So why aren’t they really used in learning? Gronstedt says that many trainers use some little anecdotes to make their point. But learning solutions (training or not) are rarely built learning around story or presented across different media. If we were to use transmedia storytelling more, we would create better engagement and better recall of learning.


Transmedia storytelling is about telling a story with video, games, mobile devices and social-media.

Two-thirds of mobile data consumption today is video based. People watch a lot of television and spend a lot of time playing games, or working on computers. They are ready to consume your story across different media.

By way of example, Gronstedt talked to us about the “iTent Story” at Kimberly Clark. Transmedia storytelling in action:

  • Kimberly Clark wanted to create learning around management issues related to diversity and teamwork
  • Large scale: To be followed by thousands of learners
  • Budget = 200,000
  • The basic story turns around 6 distinct characters
  • Kick-off with a Hollywood-style trailer (which took most of the budget) for a documentary-style story, introducing the different characters on a team-building trip and in the office
  • Professional, actors (not stars, but full-time actors nonetheless)
  • Podcasts “covering” specific learning points were made in the form of a radio broadcast, with a presenter, guest expert speaker and occasional phone-ins from some of the story characters
  • Posters were placed around offices to advertise the story
  • Bonus content was distributed via gimmicks like QR-code, presented across different media
  • Learners could follow in their own time, although some managers actually planned “viewing parties”
  • 3 month campaign, although Gronstedt is currently discussing Season 2 with his client..


In a second example, we discovered what Gronstedt’s company developped as a transmedia learning solution for Microsoft, to support a more classical learning moment:

  • Storytelling used to support a more classical “classroom based” learning moment
  • Trailer prior to the session (similar to the Kimberly Clark example above)
  • Gamification of the formal “classroom based” session with scavenger hunts, challenges or leaderboards
  • Animated videos in “scribe style” (like Dan Pink’s famous RSA video) were used to introduce key learning points during the day
  • Subgroups of learning participants worked from specific character points-of-view throughout the day to solve challenges, discuss and learn specific lessons


If you are interested in transmedia storytelling, some tips to bear in mind:

  • Focus first on learning objectives and basic timeline for learning points
  • Don’t resolve the story too quickly – follow the 12 steps of the Hero’s Journey if you can
  • Don’t think of re-telling the story across different media, but using different types of media to tell different parts of the story
  • Get participants involved in creating the story. For example, you start it, they finish it..
  • Recuperate some of your costs by reselling your creation to other companies


Finally, by way of side-notes:

1. It’s difficult to give a good idea here by text only of the result this work at Kimberly Clark. But it’s awesome! Don’t believe me? Contact Anders Gronstedt and see for yourself….
2. Don’t have 200,000 to spare in budget? Look for creative ways to bring story into your design. Character and plot are important, but you don’t need professional movies made for learners if you can have sock-puppet stories told by learners đŸ˜‰


Thanks for reading!



Published by Dan Steer

For the last 17 years, I have been helping businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through delivery of tailor-made learning and development initiatives. Most of the time, I deliver training, coach individuals, facilitate brainstorming sessions, round-table meetings and workshops. As a consultant, I help my clients to promote and profit from the infinite learning opportunities within and without their own organisation, drawing on my L+D management experience, strategic approach and creativity, As a speaker, I inspire through story, humour and pertinent little bits of theory. I believe that the world would be a better place if people were happily working on their mission with competence and alignment to personal values. As a freelance worker since 2008, I have helped more than 11000 individuals to improve their presentation, communication, commercial, leadership and negotiation skills. I confront people with their own behaviour and convictions, facilitating and giving pertinent feedback and clear ideas on where to continue good work and improve. I seek to satisfy my clients with creative and to-the-point solutions… …and I make music, but no-one pays me much for it yet :-) First single here:

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