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13 Oct 2022, 1110 hrs

Alternate Methods of Storytelling and Engagement

Telling stories is one of the most powerful means available to influence, teach, and inspire. Storytelling has the ability to forge connections among people and serves as a medium for strong messages to be delivered to its consumer. But with media consumption habits consistently evolving in a novel manner, how can we continue capturing the attention of our audiences and engaging them in meaningful ways? From TikTok clips, artistic films, to content on the metaverse, examine the use of various mediums to amplifying messages to the public.

By Sofia Flores

As the public explores more platforms for news and information, journalists from across the globe are riding the tech tide and are diversifying ways to engage the audience beyond what the TV, print, and radio can offer.

Panelists for the “Alternate Methods of Storytelling and Engagement” session at the second Asian Conference for Political Communication (ACPC), organized by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Media Programme Asia, shared how they merge traditional means with contemporary ways of delivering news to consumers.

One alternate method to traditional news dissemination is through documentary films, said Dr. Violet Valdez, executive director of the Ateneo Center for Asian Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines.

Valdez, who served as an educator in Myanmar, said students there have been exploring documentary filmmaking as a tool to promote social change. Through this, filmmakers were able to advocate for social causes, produce world-class films, and gave the marginalized a platform to engage a broader audience.

“Documentary as a form of artistic expression that can engage like no other media with a variety of topics,” such as drug addiction, gender-based violence, and other social engagement topics, she said. 

It was during COVID-19 when Barkha Dutt, one of India’s best-known journalists, went beyond the studio to explore mobile journalism, which for her is a new and simpler way of engaging the audience using your smartphone.

“You can be at a remote corner of the country and if you have internet, you can stream live from anywhere… You don’t need a crew of 12 people, you can do the same quality with three people.”

Dutt also called on journalists to adjust to the audience’s shrinking attention span and to approach a more people-centric journalism which puts the human story first ahead of the political story.

“The modern newsroom is going to have to constantly innovate if you want to remain relevant and engage the audience,” she said.

It is on Gen Z’s favorite app TikTok that ABS-CBN News journalist Jacque Manabat found a platform to engage younger news consumers. 

While it was “cringy” for some of her colleagues, Manabat’s fear of losing her job amidst the ABS-CBN media shutdown drove her to self-study how to deliver the news in a trendy way.

“The platforms may have changed but the mission stays the same,” said Manabat, who called on her fellow journalists to meet the audience where they are as it is crucial to the newsroom’s future.

It’s also a means to bring back the audience to traditional media, said Manabat, who integrates her followers’ TikTok responses to her TV reports.

The metaverse is another platform worth exploring, said Dr. DJ Clark of China Daily Asia Pacific, Hong Kong, who highlighted the importance of delivering news in the online world with the help of virtual reality. Case in point: his immersive 360 video of five days of protest at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2019. 

“What we’re able to do is to devise what we see as a new news experience. It places the viewer on the scene,” Clark said.

The panelists challenged journalists to delve into various mediums to engage news consumers in modern and meaningful ways.

“We have to speak the language, it’s not really dumbing down,” Manabat said.

“Times have changed and the audience are looking for someone they can relate with,” she said.

The ACPC 2022 brought together influencers in academia, politics and government to talk about challenges on social media, discuss the odds and threats of #twiplomacy, analyse the phenomena of rising populism and watch the hottest tools for e-campaigning.

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Mojo, India
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Cambodia/Philippines
China Daily Asia Pacific, Hong Kong
ABS-CBN Corporation, Philippines
Ateneo Center for Asian Studies, Philippines