Want to get your audience hooked? Try something interactive.

Author Katherine Nagasawa is an interactive media storyteller who recently joined See3 as a Video Post Production Intern.

It seems like everyone in the journalism world is talking about interactivity these days. Stories like "Snowfall" by the New York Times and "The NSA Files" by the Guardian pushed the boundaries of web storytelling and reader engagement through moving multimedia parts and animated graphics.

You might be wondering, “What does ‘interactive’ really mean?” In a technical sense, interactive means a two-way conversation between computer and user. This can take the form of a game that requires user participationmultimedia content that loads upon click or scroll, or graphs that respond to a user’s input or click. The examples are endless.

But interactive doesn’t always require a ton of technical bells and whistles. At its essence, interactive just means more audience engagement, and audience engagement is at the core of every nonprofit communications strategy. Here are a few interactive-inspired approaches for your next web campaign.


1. Tell your story through “scrollytelling.”

A trending new form in journalism is “scrollytelling.” With this, the ancient art of scroll storytelling meets the modern computer mouse. Scrollytelling can be an effective way to present web content (especially image and video-heavy content) in a narrative form, like the multimedia awareness campaign “Too Young to Wed.”



Striking photos, complementary text, and short videos fill the screen upon the scroll, and viewers orient themselves within the project using the vertical menu on the right. “Take Action” and “Donate” sections follow the immersive multimedia experience, leaving readers with a direct call to action.

Not sure how to start scrollytelling? Use the free online tool Atavist to craft beautiful, mixed media stories.


2. Give people more chances to participate

Don’t just rely on a “Donate” button—let people know what else they can do! Many times people want to get involved in an initiative beyond financial support, but are totally lost about the “how.” The Climate Reality Project prompts viewers to take action through their web campaign, “Get Smart, Get Loud, and Get Active.” Get Smart invites readers to learn about climate change in blog posts and share them via social media. Get Loud builds on education and awareness by encouraging viewers to sign national petitions and learn how to become activists in their communities. The final step, Get Active, features presentations and rallies so participants can get involved on the ground locally.



The bottom line? Give people more ideas, inspiration, and action items and they just might follow through.


3. Add a personal touch

With today’s email influx and social media slew, it’s easy to ignore digital content because there’s just so much of it. Stand out from the crowd with more tailored messaging, like the place-based volunteer testimonials from Volunteer Louisiana’s homepage. Visiting Louisianans can choose videos based on their home city, instantly establishing a shared connection between viewer and cause.


Try orienting your next video series or email newsletter to your most defining audience demographics. Developing multiple versions will take more time, but readers will notice the personal touch. It’s like in-person conversations or snail mail—when people feel like you’re speaking directly to them, they’re more compelled to respond.


4. Bring your data to life

Let your stats speak! Counterspill, a global fossil fuel reduction movement, features a sleek, interactive timeline on its homepage that drives home the point loud and clear: Viewers drag a slider to watch a century-long history of gas, coal, oil and nuclear disasters unfold in increasing frequency. The timeline also includes a nifty feature to filter the disasters by type, company at fault and cost of cleanup.

Are there more powerful ways for your organization to share its data? Static infographics can get the point across, but a sense of time, place and scale tell a story.

Not sure where to start? Try chronicling your history with powerful (and free!) tools like TimelineJS and StorymapJS from Northwestern’s Knight Lab.

Author: Guest Post
  • Interactive
  • Audience
  • Storytelling