Bar Camp

I am starting to think through the presentation that I am giving at BarCamp Sydney on the weekend … I know I should have already started on this, but it really has been a busy couple of weeks! My original plan was to focus on digital storytelling (it seems like there may be a few others talking about this topic too) … This is the first time that a BarCamp has run here in Australia, and I have never been to one, so I don’t know what to expect or how it will work. I am pretty sure that the "pres" will only run for 10-15 minutes, so it is really just a taste.

Procrastinating on this, however, has worked in my favour becauase Richard, Katie and Sean have pulled together a series of posts that have given me a massive head start — all in the last 24 hours. So I am going to talk about HOW you build a foundation story for your brand (I mean brand loosely here — it could be your personal blog, a piece of technology that you are working on, a product or service etc). Feel free to pick holes in my ideas — or add to what I am saying … and when I have it all ready, I will post it back here for you all to see/share.


I want to start with the idea of a story … and the fact that a story doesn’t have to be big to be fantastic (though this one by Luther Blissett certainly is!). But there are, however, expectations of a "story" that we all need to be aware of … there has to be a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sounds basic doesn’t it? But take a look around and you will see dozens of brands who don’t understand how to construct a basic brand narrative. And that means that you have already missed an opportunity to engage your audience.

Proust Some of the best stories are small stories. But even the smallest of stories can contain a big idea. And some small stories contain ideas that are so big they burst out into the minds of the audience.

This "little" book is by Proust and is called On Reading. It reminds us that reading and writing happen in the same emotional space. And you may wonder why I am talking about books when I am interested in digital storytelling — because like anything, when you want to become an expert, you turn to the work of a master.

Adliteratebrandideas_1 This is where I bring in Richard’s "four bubbles". You see, once you realise that your idea doesn’t have to be BIG, then you are confronted with a whole series of challenges. How do you take that foundation and move it into a strategic or tactical space? These bubbles help explain the areas that need to be defined and acted upon.

In practical terms, if you have a new technology product, then you have an idea about the problem. That is the reason that you started developing something in the first place. If you have a blog, then it is the reason you started blogging. But the problem is often one of the easiest places to start.

From there you need to sort out some of these other bubbles. You need to understand your own position and your promise. This means a whole lot of brand-oriented thinking and insight. It means understanding your competitors and your customers. And if you think of your customers as providing a central gravitational point (where the + sign is), then as all of the bubbles are attracted to the customers, they begin to cross over and leak across their boundaries like a big Venn Diagram.

This is where the real DIGITAL storytelling begins to take off. Because from this point onwards you have the most incredible opportunity for digital content to begin to be taken up and owned. You are  making the promise MANIFEST and the position TANGIBLE — but in a CONTEXT which is controlled by the customer. About now is when I will connect to Michael Wesch’s very interesting The Machine is Us/ing Us (which I love).

And then skip quickly to the Mojiti version of it.

Brand_overlapapproach_blownout BUT … you see … I am not really finished yet. Because we have talked about taking that foundational brand story and bringing it to life, but we have missed some essential steps. How is it that you think through the elements that are needed in that story? What are the building blocks? Well there are some obvious elements — USP/Core Competency etc. But Sean has yet another great diagram.

You need to drill down and across these. You need to identify and craft your key messages and overall thematics. And then you need to develop a strategy that drives towards ACTIVATION. And that’s a whole NEW presentation.

… and that is about it. Reckon I can get through it in 15? Is there anything I have missed?

12 thoughts on “Bar Camp

  1. Gavin, I really like this post for a number of reasons, but especially because your are inviting us “out here” to participate.
    I want to think a bit more about this but at first blush I wonder if something like a parable might work for the presentation?
    Extended metaphors and parables are hard to sustain for an entire presentation but for a 15 minute presentation it might be a fit.
    Richard, Katie and Sean can all be given credit at the end. Or who knows, maybe they become characters in the story you craft to tell about digital story telling?
    Thanks for inviting us into the project!
    Keep creating,

  2. gavin, i’ve been at the roma bar camp one month ago. that was divided into four main topics and then presentation run together, lasting around 15 minutes.
    about your presentation, i do have a question: where is the starting point?
    is that scouting the market you find a need to be filled? that’s consumer interests
    is that your vision of a future development can match an arising need? that’s business goal
    anything else?

  3. When you said that your presentation was about digital storytelling, one phrase flashed to mind: “We are the stories we tell.”
    Then I Googled that to find out who said it, and it’s a book of short stories written by women.
    Then I found another interesting title: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I found that it’s a book by Joan Didion.
    The point to all this? Stories seem crucial to identity and existence. So then, who are we? Who and what exists?
    Food for thought…I always like to use quotations in presentations…
    Good luck!

  4. Hey Gavin,
    Thanks for the shout out. I love where you are going man. Please continue and share!
    I’m struggling with this idea of turning brands into a story. Or even building a story from a brand.
    A co-worker recently got me thinking that it’s context I’m missing. ie: It’s not about a story from a brand or representing the brand. It’s developing a story within the context of a problem. Which is why I still love those four bubbles from Richard.
    P.S. I’m working on a revised model which I will be posting shortly.

  5. Building a brand out of legos.

    I’ve continued to mull over the models for approaching brand communications that I posted about just the other day.  And Dave made a great request;  that I better define and explain the models I’m working with and, more importantly, that I use Legos to…

  6. Sean, you discovered Olive’s blog and thanks for the perceptive comments. Story telling wiht Olives is what we want to do.
    I have alos been experimenting with dig. storytelling. I made a no budget feature for the people of Maleny last year, an exercise in community story telling. have a look at

  7. Invite your audience on a journey

    The greatest art that any communicator can master is storytelling. It can be difficult, but it’s always

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