I Have to Ask: Creative Storytelling

Posted on April 22, 2019


In this series, guest columnists respond to one of three topics selected by ELGL co-founder Kent Wyatt. This week, Danielle Rogers
Community Marketing Manager, City of Newton, Iowa, writes about creative storytelling.

Storytelling is part of my soul. One of my earliest memories is being in awe of my third-grade teacher reading Roald Dahl’s BFG to me over the phone after school was out because I had missed the last few days of school. She fueled a passion for creative storytelling; that took me through a variety of communication and marketing position before I landed with the City of Newton.  Creative storytelling can take so many different forms. But there are three examples of creative storytelling that always make me pay attention and that I strive for in my daily work.


There are several brands out there today that have taken transparency of their brand identity to a whole new level. They share their low price point, they show not just their product but their people, culture, production, and values. Local government can embrace this type of storytelling by showing city employees doing their everyday work – this winter I hopped in the snow plow with one of our public works employees and shot a 30-second time-lapse video of the route he drives. That video has gotten more views than anything else I’ve done this calendar year and it literally came to me the morning of because I had been dealing with questions and comments about snow removal. The transparency showed our residents a “behind the scenes” and increased the understanding that they have of snow removal.

Creative education

Another example of creative storytelling is; creative education. Especially in municipalities, a lot of information is complex, number driven and difficult to understand. It’s important to make the education of our residents creative. Naturally, translating all of that complex information into interesting brand storytelling can be a challenge. But it’s a fulfilling challenge to create, content that educates people in new and exciting ways. With the end of March just concluding, one thing that sticks out is taking a budget document and making it more visually appealing. I have several colleagues who create infographics with the most important information pulled out and shared graphically for their community’s residents. I’ve slowly started inserting more photos in our budget document to showcase that these millions of dollars in expenses translate to a police car, a street project, urban planning, etc.

Taking a pamphlet and creating something digital; whether it’s a short one minute animated video or a short video interview with a director can get your message across in new and exciting ways. By experimenting with different mediums, you can tap into storytelling that captures attention and creates a connection with residents.

Human to Human

And most important to me, the final example of creative storytelling is something I’ve called the Human to Human. It’s always more impactful to put a real person with a topic; to witness people that residents could come across on the street telling an important story about an important topic. Helping our residents connect with us, as a local government, but also with each other is rewarding beyond words.Building these relationships with other communities; within our community, is important. They are given the opportunity to share as well as learn something meaningful. My hometown in Minnesota has a creative young person who has been telling the stories of the Humans of Worthington. This is something similar to the Humans of New York social media phenomena but to me, it has helped me connect to my hometown and the people who live there, even though I have not called Worthington home in over 15 years. Being able to see people I grew up with and hear their stories has engaged me with the community. Think about ways you can make people connect with humans in a way that they too are encouraged and brought together in new and unexpected ways.

Close window