How to Use Photo Novellas and Comics to Tell Your Business Story

Photo novellas and graphic novellas (a type of comic book) have been used with great success to tell stories in public health campaigns in various countries to effect change. Photo novellas are mini-books that tell a story through photos, along with character conversation and thought bubbles.

Graphic novellas are similar but use drawn images instead of photos. Both media can be very powerful for sharing stories, particularly among select age groups and in specific cultures where photo and graphic novellas are popular.

  • Audience experience: Consumption is second-hand. These stories, often communicated via print, are passive — they aren’t being read in the presence of the teller. If consumed on the Internet, direct feedback from readers is lost beyond Likes, Shares, tweets, or a website comments. If technology isn’t available to capture feedback, direct contact with the reader population or word-of-mouth research can provide insights.

  • Availability of connection: When a story is moved into a photo novella or a graphic novella, the distance between the reader and teller increases. The connection is to the visual representation of the story/art piece, or medium in which it’s shared, not to the teller. In many ways, co-creation is lost, and there’s less opportunity for a direct human connection. Readers control whether to access and read the story.

  • Richness of channel: Because photo novellas and comic books are visual stories, this medium can be a rich communication channel. There is the opportunity to use lots of LOTS, facial expressions, body language and movement, along with colorful images and creative designs.

  • Flexibility of the medium: The media is fairly static. If something in the story needs to change, most likely the entire artwork needs to be redone unless it’s a simple alteration to a panel or two. That requires time and the resources to republish it. Digital formats are easier to change than print versions, where expense can increase dramatically, so the flexibility of this medium is variable.

  • Audience recall: Because of its visual elements, the ability to recall and repeat these types of stories is somewhat high if there’s a strong story arc embedded with lots of LOTS, a key message, and action steps.

  • Scale of delivery: With the proliferation of the Internet and the many types of sharing sites, there’s a huge opportunity for reaching countless people, if they’re receptive to this type of story. For print versions, the resources available for distribution impact the scope of dissemination.

  • The ability to stimulate change: Delivered to the right audience, in the right context, with clear messages, photo novellas and graphic novellas can be potent tools for educating readers and changing their behaviors. It’s not quite as high as in-person telling because of the unavailability of a live audience to gauge reactions and adapt the story. If these stories are disseminated widely enough, broad change could happen.

  • Impact opportunity: The degree of impact could be large if the story is exceptionally well crafted. Because of the lack of direct interaction with the creator, TERA will always be somewhat compromised. In addition, limited resources, not connecting with target markets, lack of audience participation, and the media not being flexible enough to meet the immediate need can also affect these outcomes.

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