EXPLAINER JOURNALISM THEN, NOW, & HOW TO USE IT. PART TWO
FINDING THE ROOTS OF “EXPLAINER JOURNALISM”
Commonly accepted today, the definition of the word Explainer encompasses articles, podcasts, graphics, or videos that explain something complicated and not widely understood. An Explainer can also be an in-depth treatment of a given topic.
The modern-day use and concept of these collateral materials, such as Infographics, can find their roots in “Explainer Journalism” or “Explanatory Journalism.” This notion describes a model of writing or presenting in which complex news topics, including technical issues, are presented to a reader or viewer. Explainer Journalism is a concept, but its roots run long and deep in traditional journalism.
As you may know, traditional news content focuses on the ‘Who, What, When, and Where’ questions. However, Explainer Journalism looks to inform the reader of ‘How and Why.’ It endeavors to get behind the current news to give the audience background information about a story. The goal of the content for the writer to the reader is to make sure that they are able to properly understand events as they unfold.
ENGAGING & ENLIGHTENING THE READER
Newspapers, periodicals, and similar publications have long used various photos, sidebars, charts, graphs, and bullet points to make news stories more comfortable to enlighten the reader.
Not widely known is a Pulitzer Prize category beginning in 1985. Since 1998, there has been a Pulitzer given out each year for excellence in explanatory reporting.
Explainer Journalism does not follow the traditional news structure. Explainers must answer questions, not all six questions. And of course, like it’s twin sister Explainer Video, it does not have to be just words! Data, illustrated in infographics, as in the case of Explainer Videos, summaries these sometimes-difficult concepts.
‘HOW-TO-DO’ ANIMATED EXPLAINER VIDEOS
The first animated Explainer Video was created by GROUPON, and it went viral in 2011. They definitively created a pivotal video that has attained cult status and made a billion-dollar company.
Today these ‘How-to-do’ animated explainer videos have become one of the most effective and powerful forms of visual communication that businesses use daily. A quick search on Vimeo or YouTube will provide you anything and everything, including how to fix the kitchen sink. All following the same content style of Explainer Journalism.
MIMICKING THE COMMONLY SPOKEN LANGUAGE
To exemplify this concept, we created a series of four Animated Explainer videos to Illustrate why and how the four Principals of a story are structured and are used to create a business StoryBrand. This complete series of videos can be seen here, and you can learn more about the four principals of StoryBrand:
Explainer Journalism and Explainer Video find the most exact words possible to describe something. Both explainers mimic the commonly spoken language, not the written register, which is, of course, the scale of formality we use when we write and speak. Both Video and this ‘journalistic style’ simply means you write straightforward sentences. “All an explainer is, essentially, is a starting point to understanding a complex topic.” David Holmes, head of social media and experimental journalism for PandoDaily and co-founder of Explainer Music.
THE TREATMENT AND STYLE OF ‘EXPLANATION’
Like most Infographics or Explainer Videos, it is an invitation to get deeper. Often it is a first step toward understanding the issues or the concepts presented. The reason for this is because of the focus of the how and why questions. Here are some examples where the treatment and style of ‘Explanation’ congregate with Videos, Infographics, and in-depth data.
The New York Times, in print and now online, have cornered the marketplace with Explainer Journalism.
Other media like The Guardian has integrated explainer journalism into its news web pages.
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog is a significant outlet for this kind of writing and graphic style.
Vox News and their opinion website is dedicated to explainer journalism.
POWERPOINT THE GREAT, GREAT, GRANDFATHER OF EXPLAINER VIDEOS
We have all heard the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ or ‘PowerPoint Is Evil.’ We use it to describe how we feel after suffering through an incredibly painful presentation. Edward Tufte, of Wired Magazine in 2003, coined the phrase, and the rest, as they say, is history. He states that “Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content.” PowerPoint was created way back in 1984 and is now part of the Microsoft lineup. PowerPoint’s style seeks to set up a speaker’s dominance over the audience. PowerPoint, by its inherent design, can bring the most crucial facts to the forefront when presenters follow the design principles of creating great Explainer presentations. PowerPoint does not mislead or obscure data, ‘people mislead and obscure the data.’ The result of this misuse is dull and boring.
FOCUS ON THE HOW AND WHY QUESTIONS
Explainers are treatment and style of content creation. This content creation contributes critical information for any media and most especially, to digital media for the end-user. It is a way of producing content with real value and will always continue to attract readers, viewers, and users over more extended periods. Whether you are new to content creation, looking to freshen up your digital marketing campaigns, or wanting a new way to create better community relations on your social media platforms, Explainers maybe a perfect fit for you.
You can create high-quality blog posts that can turn online readers into dedicated customers. Infographics, Explainer videos in any combination can help portray a far more complete picture of your company and its offerings. By focusing on the how and why questions will lead your marketplace to the answers, they are seeking.
There is never any conflict with your goals and marketing strategies. It is a tool in your tool belt that is focusable and measurable. Broad in scope, each piece of content you create can align with a specific business goal. When incorporating this particular journalistic style into your Blog, posts can strike the right chord and resonate with your audience. Seek out new trends, topics, and sources that are relevant to your StoryBrand and the stories you want to communicate. Be sure your blog posts are data accurate and timely. Be sure not to rely on outdated studies or unsourced claims to answer the ‘how or why’ questions because it can prove fatal. The blog post in of itself is only one piece of the marketing puzzle.
TIME DISTORTION NOW IN THE MIX OF MARKETING TO CREATE CONTENT
Spring was only yesterday? A sense of Time is the larger question that we have about the pandemic, and big, distant intervals are more challenging for us to comprehend, which has indeed changed the marketing mix for most businesses. This Time Distortion is affecting your clients and your customers alike. “We’re in uncharted territory in terms of the science of timing something this long,” states Kevin LaBar, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Duke University in a story from Discover Magazine. Continuing, he adds, “When you’re in a constrained environment, your brain is not getting as many squirts of dopamine that keep it engaged and excited, and the brain ends up in this idling mode. Our human brains, who love stories and emotions, also track Time through its cognitive resources. This Distortion of Time also involves thought and cognitive function, such as planning and executive control. The classic idiom that “time flies when you’re having fun” is backed up by research, explains Annett Schirmer, a brain science researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; the brain, over time, has developed the ability to keep track and control time. When that is ‘off-course,’ so is your knowledge to do the same kind of things for your business you once did.
This pandemic has most businesses learning to adapt to everything, from our homes, and the old workspaces at the office, our communication platforms, creating other new forms of media and marketing. The marketing mix is growing increasingly complex, and today’s organizations must employ a strategic combination of digital and traditional tactics to activate prospective and returning users.
We hope that this two-part white paper has assisted you through this uncharted territory and provided some insight into creating new ways to market your services and products. We hope it will support and motivate you to look at your business in a new light.
We are also of the hope, that it helped you navigate the growing need for marketing materials in these recent times and help understand the communication hardships associated with the coronavirus pandemic. History has time and again shown and proven true, that
the future always belongs to those who can change and adapt sooner.
President, Multimedia Marketing Group Distinguished 20+ year career introducing Marketing strategies to drive growth within intensively competitive markets, an expert in creating the vision, identifying opportunities, creating high-quality products and services, delivering strong revenues and profits, and positioning start-up and existing businesses for sustainable growth. LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/joseph-arco-2353b414/
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[Our perception of Time is incredibly malleable — no wonder the pandemic upended it.]