Using story maps to share your message

As a part of UNH Cooperative Extension’s communications team, I work collaboratively with our staff to develop content and resources to promote our work in New Hampshire. I am always looking for creative ways to share our stories. With so many digital platforms to choose from, finding the technology that best suits a story can be overwhelming.

Story maps make those choices easier. I’ve been working with story maps for about a year now, and they offer a flexible, easily accessible and diverse platform for sharing vital information.   

In the summer of 2017, I participated in Shane Bradt’s introductory Telling Your Story with Maps workshop. I had no plan for how I would apply this knowledge to my work, but I had seen some great examples of Extension colleagues putting this platform to use (such as the “I Love Sullivan” project and First Impressions). I was impressed, and wanted to add story mapping to my skills arsenal.

Later that year, I had the chance to test-drive my story-mapping skills. Extension produces an annual series of documents that share the local impact and regional highlights of our work across New Hampshire’s 10 counties. Designed and developed as an 8.5 x 11 print product, they’re distributed to county offices for use by local staff and volunteers.

You can see an example of the original print document here.

A considerable amount of effort goes into collecting and organizing this information, and the data is well curated and compelling. When the difficult work of organizing information was complete, I saw an opportunity to elevate that data into an immersive, engaging digital product that complemented the traditional printed document.

This is what the document above looks like as a Story Map.

The results? These story maps found a life of their own, far beyond what I initially expected. Staff use them as a presentation tool and volunteers have them saved to their mobile devices as a quickly-accessible resource. They were shared with University partners, on social media platforms and with legislators interested in learning more about our work. It has been exciting to see the unexpected and creative use and distribution of the story maps, and I already have ideas for future applications of this technology.

Everyone has a story to tell, and story maps make it easy, fun and (most importantly) useful. If you are looking for a new skill to add to your repertoire, I highly recommend attending this training.

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Former Marketing & Communication Assistant Producer