An IT Career 20 Years in the Making

Carla Porter ’19 started in information technology as a network administrator. “I was in love,” she said about her new field.  Hear about her journey to a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree and the support she received along the way.  She is now a cloud/web solutions engineer at a financial firm.

Hear her inspiring story below:

Student Spotlight: Sunny Rodrigues

How an idea that started as a way to gather a couple dozen CPS students over coffee turned into an event with over 250 attendees.

Sai (Sunny) Rodrigues came to Northeastern from India in January, 2017 to complete a Master of Science in Project Management. “I looked up Northeastern and it came up as one of the most innovative schools. For project management, you require innovation to come up with different ideas,” Sunny said when asked why he chose Northeastern. “I hate redundant work. I really felt that Northeastern was the most compatible with my own views.”

Sunny’s decision was soon validated—he found he loved both Northeastern and his studies. But he also noticed an opportunity for more student events, and was determined to help grow that community.

The College of Professional Studies, where Sunny is a student, is known for its flexibility and diversity. Students of all ages take courses online, on-ground on the Boston campus, or through Northeastern’s regional campuses—meaning the student body is spread out across the country, and beyond.

Additionally, with a large international population, many students are starting a new phase of their life in a new country. And due to limitations on international students working in the U.S., Sunny found that many of his peers had more free time between classes and coursework than they expected.

Northeastern offers myriad extracurricular events, and lectures, among other things, for students to attend. These are all open to CPS students, but Sunny felt that CPS students weren’t always aware of these events, something he wanted to help remedy. He also saw an opportunity to organize events geared towards the unique population of CPS.

Sunny decided to work toward creating more opportunities for CPS students specifically to gather on the Boston campus. He took a position on campus as a Community Ambassador for Off Campus Student Services. He went to every department on campus asking what they offered CPS students in terms of events and extracurriculars. He then began a WhatsApp group called “What’s Happening Around Where,” or WHAW. Using this platform he began sharing posters of campus events with other students.

Thanks to Sunny’s role as a Community Ambassador, he also started meeting many more students, broadening his network around Northeastern and eventually growing his WhatsApp group to over 1,800 students.

He continued his mission when he started a new position as program assistant at the Northeastern Center for Intercultural Engagement in January 2018. He believed that this role would give him the ability to help grow the community for students even further. To that end, Sunny had a meeting with Karin Firoza, director of Center for Intercultural Engagement and told her his goal of organizing more CPS community events.

He also went to a trusted professor, Mary Ludden, an assistant teaching professor in project management, who told him to follow his gut. “She told me I have a great position right now [at Center for Intercultural Engagement] and that I should turn my ideas into actions.” Ludden’s support gave him the push he needed to start making strategic moves for change. “I went back to Karin and she agreed that Center for Intercultural Engagement needed to host an event for CPS students.”

While Sunny was planning what he wanted the event to look like, he was also meeting with Kristen Lee, an associate teaching professor in behavioral science at Northeastern. Professor Lee agreed to spearhead the event now titled “Coffee and Convos” and speak about imposter syndrome, or the feeling that you are a fraud, despite evidence to the contrary. It was a topic that hit home for Sunny and one to which he felt that many of his peers could likewise relate.

Sunny created a flyer, sent it to his 1,800 contacts via WhatsApp, and placed flyers around CIE and Nightingale Hall. The turnout for the first Coffee and Convos was significantly beyond what they expected. “There were more than 280 people standing in Center for Intercultural Engagement —that was such a great moment for me,” Sunny recalled. The turnout validated that this population of students was thirsty for more opportunities to gather together and learn.

Sunny Rodrigues has spent his time at Northeastern helping to grow the CPS community around the Boston campus. Coffee and Convos turned into a series, where professors, faculty and students could get together to discuss imposter syndrome and what that means to the CPS population. The sessions became gatherings where students could make connections and become a part of the larger community.

While Sunny set out to come to the U.S. and complete his Master’s in Project Management, he has achieved far more than just a degree. He has built a network of students that has coalesced around common interests and backgrounds.

Sunny is graduating December 2018, but plans to continue to be a part of the Northeastern community as an active alumnus and hopes to return one day as a faculty member.

“Live a Life of Fulfillment and Accomplishment”

Graduates and Families Celebrate Goals Reached and Look to the Future

May 11, 2018 – “Take what you’ve learned at this fine institution and combine it with your values to live a life of fulfillment and accomplishment in order to leave a legacy that you, your family and Northeastern can be proud of.”

This was the message offered by graduation speaker Peter Roby, educator, athletic director, and advocate for social change through sport, who served as Northeastern’s athletic director from 2007–2018, and is a faculty member in the College of Professional Studies. He set his remarks in the context of the ethical issues of the day from sexual assault scandals in Hollywood to college athletics programs that place winning above everything, to controversies in professional football.

In his remarks, Roby also celebrated the multiple attributes he shared with many College of Professional Studies graduates: first generation collegian, pursuing higher education while balancing marriage, parenting and working, pursuing a degree in order to advance in a career, and serving as a role model for embracing higher education in his community.  By show of hands among graduates, almost everyone identified with one or more of these roles.

Thousands of family members and friends from around the globe attended the ceremony at Matthews Arena on the Boston campus, celebrating a total of 2,177 degrees  conferred— 313 Bachelor’s, 1,657 Master’s and 200 Doctoral.

Faculty Recognized for Teaching Excellence Award

During the ceremony, the College presented the Excellence in Teaching Award to two outstanding faculty members: Tom Koperniak, PhD and Chris Unger, EdD.

Dr. Tom Koperniak is described as a person with a passion for teaching and love for his profession. Students in the Master of Science in Regulatory Affairs for Drugs, Biologics, and Medical Devices program praised his approachability, his engaging lectures, and the many ways he shares current information so that students are aware of important changes in the ever-evolving field. “His enthusiasm and love for the subject is clearly visible,” wrote one student.

Nominated by students in the Doctor of Education program, Dr. Chris Unger is described by his students as dedicated and compassionate. One student wrote that he is “incredibly devoted to his role in this program and cares so much for the success of his students.” Another student commented: “He is compassionate, experienced, and wonderful to work with. He breathes so much life into the Doctor of Education program.”

Doctoral Candidates Earn Symbol of Academic Achievement

On May 10, the College hosted a Doctoral Hooding Ceremony for candidates in the Doctor of EducationDoctor of Law and Policy, and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs symbolizing their transition from student to scholar-practitioner. Candidates received their doctoral hoods from their thesis advisers at this annual ceremony.

Once each year, one doctoral student is awarded the Dean’s Medal for Outstanding Doctoral Work, the highest honor awarded by the College to a doctoral graduate. The award was established to acknowledge exemplary academic achievement and to recognize demonstrated creativity and writing quality.

This year, the Dean’s Medal winner was French Caldwell Jr., a graduate of the Doctor of Law and Policy program, for his thesis, “Tweeting Dystopia: The Impact of Cybermediaries on the Process of Making Public Policy.”  Caldwell studied the role of social media in the disintermediation of public policy, focusing on the Scottish independence referendum. Dr. Caldwell, who is the Chief Evangelist and global head of marketing at governance, risk and compliance software company MetricStream and a member of the executive leadership team, completed a career as a nuclear submarine officer, and he has directed special congressional projects for the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense.

About Northeastern University College of Professional Studies

The College of Professional Studies is one of nine colleges of Northeastern University, a nationally ranked private research university in Boston, MA. Founded in 1960, the College teaches undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students on campus and online in more than 70 degree programs and is part of The Lifelong Learning Network.

About the Lifelong Learning Network

The Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network helps professionals participate in dynamic, experiential learning opportunities, earn degrees and certificates, build connections, and keep pace with the rapidly evolving business world—now and in the years to come. This is achieved through real-world experiences and rigorous curriculums, a supportive learning environment, and comprehensive academic and career coaching—all powered by an extensive network of alumni and employer partners. The Lifelong Learning Network is an innovative approach to lifelong learning, offering access to over 200 distinctive, high-quality educational programs, degrees, certificates, and boot camps.  

Husky Proud

From supportive faculty, to the convenience of online classes. Find out why CPS Students are Husky Proud! 

Brian LaPointe – Leadership

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“Being a returning student after a 10+ year gap In my academic career, it was frightening to take my first class back. I have now been back for several semesters and I am happy that all of my professors were caring and assisted in my learning curve. Getting used to the online format and working at the same time wasn’t as difficult as I had thought and having professors that care made a huge difference.”

Magdalena Kawalkowski – Project Management

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“I had never taken an online program until I started my journey at Northeastern University. The professors I had so far are experts in the field and extremely accommodating especially since the classes are online. So far the coursework helps my career based on the readings, professors’ knowledge, and discussion from other students. I am happy I chose Northeastern and proud to be a Husky!”

Urja Patel – Project Management

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“Being a part of Northeastern University has changed my life for good. I am so proud to be a husky. Northeastern has amazing professors and i would personally want to thank my academic advisor. He has been a very important part of my journey at northeastern. The help and guidance from him has turned my academic journey for good. I would also want to mention the XN projects under CPS. I believe it is an excellent program to expose the students to real work life. Thus, having so much exposure at northeastern has boosted my confidence and made me a better person. Thank you for everything. I am so proud to be a husky.” 

Jacquelyn Collins – Finance and Accounting Management

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“Choosing Northeastern CPS to complete my Bachelor’s degree was the best decision I have made in my life so far. The flexibility of the online option has allowed me to embrace being able to work and go to school. My professors are so passionate about what they teach, which can be hard to find sometimes in online classes. I love how involved everyone is. This program has helped me in my line of work. I’ve found a lot of what I learn can be applied directly to my actual job. I’m so proud to be a part of this school, it really has changed my life. Everyone is supportive and encouraging. I can’ wait to finish my degree and maybe even go to grad school here!”

Kara Fulginiti – Global Studies and International Relations, Global Student Mobility Concentration

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“I am proud to be a Husky and to have the chance to pursue my educational goals online without sacrificing quality! The online Global Studies and International Relations masters program has really helped to push my career in U.S. Immigration forward. I recently obtained a position as an Immigration Specialist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. The NIH is the nation’s largest biomedical research institution, inviting scientists and medical doctors from around the world to the United States in order to further critical research in cancer studies and other diseases. I credit a large portion of my obtaining this new position to the skills and education I have gained through Northeastern University, which really help with my intercultural communication in my day to day work. The online format also allows me to take courses at a pace that I can manage while working full-time. I am very excited to graduate with my master’s degree in 2019 as a Northeastern Husky!”

Lisa Bolduc – Corporate & Organizational Communication – Concentration in Human Resource Management

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“I am proud to be a Husky! Having graduated with my undergraduate degree over ten years ago, Northeastern made the process of returning to school easy. My program is flexible with both online and on the ground classes. My favorite part of Northeastern is how welcoming and helpful the students, professors and faculty are. Everyone is eager for you to get the most out of your education. Lastly, the campus and online resources are incredibly well organized. Northeastern runs like an efficient ship, that will encourage you to never stop sailing.”

3 Ways to Attract Top Talent at Your Nonprofit

By Rick Arrowood.

Rick Arrowood, JD is chair of Northeastern’s  Nonprofit Management master’s program. His teaching and research interests include leadership development for the nonprofit sector to train tomorrow’s leaders and advise small nonprofit boards in both theory and real-world practice.

Hiring for a non-profit can be a double-edged sword.

The good news is that, as a nonprofit, your organization offers many of the “intangibles” that can lead to a fulfilling career by serving others.

The bad news is you most likely can’t compete with a for-profit when it comes to salary.

However, there are ways to overcome this discrepancy and still attract the best and the brightest. It’s key to remember that at nonprofits, every person goes to work with the belief that they will achieve something that day.

That’s what makes nonprofits exciting—it’s not about the salary, it’s about making a difference.

Here are three ways you can attract top talent at your nonprofit. 

1. Find Their Motivation

Find out early during the interview process what motivates the candidate to pursue the job. You’ll need to go well beyond asking the standard interview questions to learn what the applicant would like to accomplish at your organization.

Find out how the candidate places value on your mission and how he or she truly wants to make a difference in the community or arena you work in.

2. Show What You Offer

Emphasize what your organization does offer. If you find that the candidate is motivated by your mission, highlight how he can not only make a living but also make a difference in specific ways by working for your nonprofit.

If your organization can’t raise the funds to pay a competitive salary, be sure to underscore other benefits that you can provide, such as work-life balance, flex time, paid time off, or tuition reimbursement. Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when illustrating the unique benefits of working at a nonprofit.

3. Focus on Growth

Accentuate the opportunities for individual growth in your organization. Often nonprofit staffers are expected to wear several hats, such as grant-writer, fundraiser, and communications director. 

This hands-on experience provides amazing leadership and career development opportunities that aren’t available in a for-profit business. As you move up, it becomes less about the salary and more about self-actualization and fulfillment, and in a nonprofit you can reach that much faster.

5 Ways to Improve Your Storytelling on the Web

By Jay Laird.

Jay Laird, a faculty member in the Digital Media Program, co-designed the game design concentration at Northeastern.

You’ve decided on your story. It delivers your message. It’s relevant to your audience. But which is the best way to tell it on the Internet? The web gives us more ability than ever to tailor form and function to best suit our content. 

While storytelling is the key to shaping your message, each medium used to tell it has its own tips and tricks to maximize its effectiveness. We teach each of these and more at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies ‘ Digital Media program. 

Here are five ways to improve your storytelling techniques on the web, one for each of the five common elements of web-based storytelling:

1. Photos – Identify Your Character

One way to improve your storytelling through photography is to identify the character of your photos – even if there are no people in it. Compose your shots with an awareness of scale, position and contrast to make sure the subject of your photo not only draws attention, but also conveys some sense of character. Look at the subject and the interplay against the background, or if it’s a person, how he or she is dressed and what he or she is holding. If the audience gets a sense of personality – even if your subject is a light switch – they will pay more attention. 

2. Video – Edit, Edit, Edit

The old adage is true: Less really is more. On the web, your audience’s time is limited, so it’s critically important to show only the key moments that establish what you’re trying to say. Get the important bits out up front. Here’s a challenge: Try to convey the core of your message in a six-second Vine!

3. Illustrations – Control the Color Palette

You might have a lot of information that needs to grab the reader’s attention, but don’t use every color in the rainbow to do it. For infographics, a good color palette will contain two to five harmonious colors. Even if you have never taken any design courses, there are a few apps and shortcuts designed to help you here, including Kuler.adobe.com . Select one to two colors based on the mood you’re going for, and let Kuler recommend the others. When working on a project with a team, make sure everyone has agreed on the color palette and the importance of keeping it consistent. 

4. Text – Consider Your Heirarchy

The basics of writing for the web are already well-documented. Keep paragraphs short. Take advantage of white space. Use bold subheads and lists as much as possible. But to take your web writing to the next level, establish a viable hierarchy of information that will guide your audience as they scroll through your site. The key here is viable – while it’s a good idea to grab an eye with one or two ideas “above the fold,” you don’t have to tell the whole story within the first screen of your website. More often than not, attempts to cram everything “above the fold” lose readers rather than gaining them. Trust the reader’s curiosity: if you tell people there’s an amazing hamburger below, they’ll scroll down or click for details!

5. Interactivity – Set the Path 

Design your interactive elements so the audience can control how quickly and how thoroughly they follow the story. Carefully design your interaction points to lead your audience through the story you want to tell, while still giving them the ability to control the flow of storytelling. Provide leaders with jump-links to skim past items that don’t interest them, but always give them a way to go back. Consider providing sub-pages to give them the ability to go really in-depth before moving on, but be sure they know they have a way back to the main narrative

5 Ways to Get More out of Your Fundraising Events

By Heidi Gregory-Mina.

Heidi Gregory-Mina, DM, MBA, MS, teaches Grant and Report Writing in the Nonprofit Management master’s program, as well as in the Leadership and Human Resources programs

Even though your organization might have the purest of missions, it still takes money to keep it running. 

And such an important function shouldn’t be left to guesswork or shot-in-the-dark approaches. With the right fundraising strategy, you can get a lot more bucks for your efforts. 

Here’s five tips that can help you get more out of your fundraising events. 

1. Take full advantage of social media.

It takes money to make money. But one way to make sure that you raise more than you spend is to use all of the relevant free or low-cost methods to publicize and manage your event, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

2. Be creative and innovative.

More people attend events that are fun and out-of-the- ordinary.

3. Clearly define your goals.

Are you organizing your event to raise awareness, or to raise money? Once you’ve defined your goals, you can choose the correct time of year to hold the event.

For example, If your goal is to raise money, don’t plan a fundraiser during the holiday season. People already feel financially strapped and will not be as willing to donate or donate as much. 

4. Turn a non-event into a fundraising pitch.

 Instead of holding a big event, email past donors and friends of your organization and tell them that you plan to funnel all event-related efforts and resources into programs and services this year.

This cost savings means additional revenue for your organization’s programs, and you can request donations in lieu of attendance. Most donors are receptive to this approach.

5. Don’t give up!

There are going to be times when donations are down, and it seems like no one is interested. Every nonprofit goes through these cycles.

Use this time to brainstorm innovate approaches to fundraising, learn about new technologies that could help you reach your goals, personally reach out to networks, and meet with donors and supporters face to face. 

4 Ways Games are Improving Scientific Research

 

Jay Laird, a faculty member in the Digital Media Program, co-designed the game design concentration at Northeastern.

Games are a growing part of our lives, and in more ways than you might think. 

Thanks to our mobile devices, we can always kill that few minutes’ wait for a train with a game of Bad Apples. With services like Beeminder we can gamify our day-to-day tasks by betting money on whether we’ll complete them. And with the availability of free educational resources like DuoLingo on our computers, tablets, and phones, we can turn that “one more game” urge into a few minutes or a few hours of foreign language learning.

So games can help us to learn, work and – of course – to kill time, but can they help us to do serious research? Definitely! Here are four ways games are improving scientific research.

1. Crowdsourcing Tough Science Problems

Pattern recognition is a tough problem for computers, but humans are wired for this way of thinking. Two recent examples of scientific crowdsourcing games are EyeWire and Fold-It.

EyeWire challenges players to complete the shapes of complex 3D structures by looking at a series of 2D “slices” to deduce what’s missing. The application? It’s actually a model of neurons in the human brain. If us humans score points, the model of the neuron gets one step closer to completion.

A much more complicated game, Fold-Itchallenges players to “fold” proteins into the best possible structure. As the site says, “Figuring out which of the many, many possible structures is the best one is regarded as one of the hardest problems in biology today and current methods take a lot of money and time, even for computers.” As with EyeWire, the human intuition for pattern matching helps the computer in its quest for the ideal solution— which in turn helps scientists to develop drugs to cure diseases.

And did you know you can help scientific research by playing your own games? When using the “Playstation at Home” application on your Playstation 3 or Playstation 4 system, you can donate your game console’s extra computing power to the “cloud” of computers that are working on the Fold-It challenge.

Eye Wire

2. Gathering Data to Advance Behavior/Social Science

The PopCosmo team at University of Wisconsin-Madison investigates learning in online games and in their fan communities. They conduct “naturalistic, survey, and experimental research” into individual and group cognition in games like World of WarcraftDragon Age Legends, and the Elder Scrolls universe.

As part of their work, they have used empirical data to compare in-game behavior with in-school behavior among teenage boys who are “disengaged and failing in school,” with a goal of identifying ways of keeping the students engaged in school.

While it’s difficult to observe the individual behaviors of a large population in the real world, in-game behaviors can be recorded automatically, providing a wealth of hard data for social scientists in a short amount of time.

World of Warcraft

3. Gamifying Data Analysis

“Gamification” is the addition of game-like features to something that isn’t traditionally a game. Sites like Zooniverse award points and achievements for “players” who assist with data collection and cataloging.

When a Museum of Natural History wanted to digitize its insect collection, the minuscule tags attached to each specimen proved near-impossible for a computer to read, so Zooniverse set its players on the task of decoding the tiny half-century-old scrawls of some of the collectors.

A more recent Zooniverse project, Planet Four asks players to identify features on the surface of Mars and to bring any interesting ones to the attention of the community.

Another data analysis site, TomNod, crowdsources observations a bit closer to home, awarding points for “quests” to find certain features in satellite images of Earth.

With the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, TomNod has focused its players’ efforts on helping to search for the missing aircraft— with so many people eager to help that the site can’t keep up with the traffic.

Planet Four

4. Games as a Direct Research Tool

Finally, there are games that contribute directly to collecting scientific data, including some that we at Northeastern have developed with funding support from the National Science Foundation: Shortfall and Geckoman.

These games teach students about science, but they serve an additional purpose: to contribute data to research about how students learn.

Shortfall” lets students explore different paths towards environmentally benign manufacturing while competing as various companies in the automobile industry. Students set their own sustainability goals— do they define success as financial, social, or environmental, or an even amount of each?— and then play to reach those goals. By observing each student’s play style, we hope to tailor the game material to challenge their individual assumptions so that they will learn something new with each round of the game.

With “ Geckoman,” we have created a game that teaches elementary and middle-school kids some key concepts behind nanotechnology while they play a fun, cartoony scrolling platformer. Through the GAMES Initiative, we are adding features to Geckoman to discover how much videogame-based science learning involves trial-and-error versus reading and applying knowledge. 

Geckoman

9 Great E-Learning Apps

By Gail Matthews-DeNatale, PhD.

Gail Matthews-DeNatale, PhD, is a faculty member in Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies graduate education degree programs. She specializes in eLearning and Instructional Design.

I’ve been involved with online learning for many years. I’m often asked, “What are your favorite ‘apps’ for learning?”

My answer is to turn the question around: “What are my favorite approaches to learning, and what apps are good at supporting them?

Recent advances in our understanding of learning and the way the brain works shed light on this important question.  For example:

Here’s three learning concepts I put into action in my teaching, and the nine apps that support them.

1. Making Thinking Visible

Sometimes I wish I could turn the classroom into a cartoon world in which I could see the thought bubbles over my students’ heads to discover what they think.

Bubbl.us makes this possible. I have my students place the word “learning” at the center of a concept map and draw connections to all the things that come to mind when they think of the word. They revisit their maps at critical junctures in the course, and this makes it possible us to see how their thinking is developing.

I’ve helped other educators develop similar exercises. For a course on Politics of the Middle East, students used Scribblemaps to draw and annotate maps of the region.

2. Collaborative and Social Learning

How do teams of students get their work done? There are lots of great apps, including Doodle that lets them schedule mutually agreeable times to meet. They can also co-develop and share materials using Google Drive , and use Google Plus to get together in hangouts.

Student teams also often use VoiceThread to present their work, taking their social learning to the next level. VoiceThread makes it possible for peers to annotate and comment on the slides, and they can even phone in audio comments.

3. Curated Learning 

We are awash with content that can be good, so-so, or ridiculous. How can we distinguish between precious metals and fool’s gold?

Fortunately, there are a number of easy-to-use tools to help us identify and organize resources. A great one is Pinterest, as well as Scoop.it, and Flipboard.

They each work differently, but all of them allow users to create collections of resources organized around a topic or a theme, and include some sort of social feature that recommends materials that have been identified by others.

Not sure which of these tools is best for you? Compare their curated resources on the topic of “digital storytelling” displayed within each of the three apps: PinterestScoop.it, Flipboard.

5 Ways to Strengthen your Message through Storytelling

Jay Laird, a faculty member in the Digital Media Program, co-designed the game design concentration at Northeastern.

It’s tempting to think that the modern technology we have at our disposal is all we need to deliver a killer message to our audiences. 

But the key to delivering an idea or message effectively lies in an ancient art: Storytelling. 

Storytelling reinforces your message by establishing an emotional connection with your audience. It helps people to better comprehend your ideas. It shows who you are. And it’s one of the elements at the very center of Northeastern’s Digital Media program in the College of Professional Studies

Here are five ways make your message stick by improving your storytelling techniques:

1. Choose the right medium 

There’s photo, video, infographics and interactivity — and many means of delivery for each medium. Instead of feeling paralyzed by options, consider which one best conveys your story. Video is great for showing a linear process, while an infographic is ideal for letting people explore information change over time. Photos (subjects and backgrounds) are worth a thousand words, but plain text is better if you want your audience to conjure a mental picture they identify with. And your audience may have a lower or higher trust level for some mediums versus others. 

2. Begin your story with characters.

Let’s say there’s a problem, and your brand or idea is the solution. Even though it may be your first instinct to present your solution, it may be obvious to you that your solution is the best one, your audience may need a bit more convincing. Or, even if they believe you, they may not remember your message later. 

Develop a character who would have the same kind of problem that you’re trying to solve. If your audience identifies with the character or at least sympathizes with him or her, they will recall more details about your message or idea and they will be more likely to connect it to other aspects of their lives later on. 

3. Identify the problem.

The most common dramatic structure of a story is to give a character a problem and then make him struggle find a solution. Whether you’re doing a 30-second commercial or an hour-long lecture, start off by letting the audience know why they should stick around until the end.

You might even create a certain amount of suspense, causing the audience to wonder how the problem will be solved, or even if it will be solved. Can the family displaced by a flood find a place to stay for the night? Will that dirty kitchen get cleaned before the judgmental father-in-law shows up? 

4. Take a journey to the solution, together.

When your characters take the audience on their journey, your audience connects the problem to the solution and better remembers both.

Maybe it’s something trivial like cleaning the kitchen or something agonizing like facing the prospect of being homeless, but in both cases, you increase the audience’s engagement by raising the stakes and making them eager to find out if everything will turn out okay.

This isn’t to say that your story has to end happily. To call your audience to action, you might instead illustrate the consequences of the solution not being reached, while offering hope for the future.

5. Use the small story to tell the big story.

Your characters take the audience on the journey from problem to solution, but you need to make sure that the audience takes away some sense of the bigger picture. Maybe it’s not as straightforward as providing a moral in the style of Aesop’s fable, but it needs to be something that connects your story to the world-at-large. If people start seeing elements of your story in their daily lives, they will remember it, and your message. Our memories like to keep things simple, so people usually remember the key elements of the story—the main character, problem, and solution— and then distort the rest over time to support other existing or new memories.

Stories can change perceptions. 
Politicians tell anecdotes about some (often imaginary) person they met on the campaign trail like “Joe the Plumber” in the hopes that people will identify with this everyday person and say “Hey, if this candidate connected with Joe, surely he’ll look out for my best interests!”  If you can tell the story of a specific man but make people identify with him as an Everyman, then people will start seeing your story as part of the bigger picture of their lives.

Tracking Effectiveness  
Of course, crafting the story the story is only the first step. Make sure you test your story. Try telling it in a few different styles or with a few different characters or even though a variety of media. And remember: storytelling began as an interactive medium, an oral tradition in which the audience would often ask questions and change the flow of the story. Even if you’re giving a lecture or showing a video, let your audience know that you are open to feedback. Find out what your audience is taking away from the story. Is it what you expected? Is it helpful in reaching your goals? 

Now tell us: What are some of the best examples of brand-based storytelling that you’ve seen?