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Strategic Storytelling: Maximum Impact in Digital World

at Columbia Business School

Course Details
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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 25
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Important Note: 
This online course is not optimized for mobile use.

Class Delivery:
Columbia Business School’s new online programs meet the professional development needs of busy executives, encouraging focused learning and interaction with faculty members and other participants in the virtual space. Additional information on how to log into the online environment will be provided after purchasing the class.

Teacher: Frank Rose

What you'll learn in this digital marketing course:

Strategic Storytelling: Maximum Impact in a Digital World

Storytelling has always been central to human experience – it's how we explain and make sense of the world. But today, as media-savvy audiences begin to tune out advertising messages while searching for ever-more-immersive entertainment experiences, the way businesses and professionals need to communicate is changing. Led by best-selling author Frank Rose and offered in partnership with Columbia University School of the Arts, Strategic Storytelling introduces the concept of “story thinking” and shows how it can be used to achieve maximum impact in a digital world.


The program is intended for executives and professionals who want to understand the power of immersive storytelling and learn how to leverage its potential in a digital world.


Delivered in partnership with Columbia University School of Arts Digital Storytelling Lab

Storytelling has always been central to human experience – it's how we explain and make sense of the world. But in today’s digital environment, as media-savvy audiences tune out ad-type come-ons while seeking ever-more-immersive experiences, it’s also become the most effective way businesses and professionals can communicate. How do you move from a didactic, “buy-me-now” mindset to one that engages your audience through stories?

Neuroscience shows that we respond more readily to a story than to a set of facts—even if we’re told in advance that the story is fiction. It demonstrates that the more immersed we are in a story, the more likely it will change our thinking. Yet many people—business executives, leaders at nonprofits and educational institutions, entrepreneurs, and independent professionals—think that if they just keep telling us what to do, we’ll do it. They behave as if we’re “rational actors,” despite all evidence to the contrary. And when they do try to engage us with a story, they often come across as inauthentic or out-of-touch. They don’t understand narrative structure. They disregard the key elements that make a story compelling.

But you don’t need to be a professional screenwriter to tell a good story. Strategic Storytelling, led by best-selling author Frank Rose, shows how stories have been used effectively by organizations as varied as Warby Parker, Burberry, and the Walt Disney Company, and by recruitment campaigns for the British Army. It introduces the concept of “narrative thinking,” which applies the tools and techniques of professional storytellers to the challenges leaders face. Participants leave not only with a clear understanding of the importance of storytelling but also with a set of frameworks and case studies that enable them to tell better stories today.

To get a sense of the faculty’s thought leadership, download Frank Rose’s strategy+business article The Power of Immersive Media.

Hear how Frank Rose uses the Walking Dead to explain his concept of the narrative platform in this strategy+business excerpt from his new book, The Sea We Swim In. 


The program will provide you with frameworks, methodologies, and real-world case studies that will enable you to communicate effectively in a digital world.

You will learn:

  • Why stories are so effective and why simple facts are not
  • How to tell stories that resonate with customers, stakeholders, and employees alike
  • How to use stories strategically in pursuit of long-term goals, not just to put out fires
  • How to structure and deliver stories in a way that best suits the audience and the situation
  • The importance of authenticity and how to achieve it
  • The need not just to tell stories but to create “story worlds” that audiences can project themselves onto
  • How to deploy a series of related stories across multiple media in order to generate a narrative platform—a powerful construct that reinforces your message and encourages immersion
  • The Strategic Storytelling Model—a series of frameworks that enable you to manage such platforms effectively
  • How to use data to tell stories that engage your audience emotionally
  • The allure and limitations of virtual reality and other cutting-edge techniques

Upon completion of this program, you will earn two credits towards a Certificate with select alumni and tuition benefits.

Program Structure

Strategic Storytelling combines interactive discussion, dynamic lectures, and guided workshops involving small, ad-hoc groups of like-minded participants. Sessions focus on the need to gather and comprehend qualitative data when dealing with humans in a boundless world. As a participant, you will learn to apply the tools and frameworks presented in the course as well as its underlying principles to real-world situations.

Sample Session Titles

  • Narrative thinking (and why it matters)
  • The nine key elements of story
  • What you can learn from Madison Avenue
  • What you can learn from Hollywood
  • Understanding narrative platforms
  • What stories can’t do
  • Reinventing your organization as a media company


Two consecutive days of in-person sessions at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, a state-of-the-art facility in New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Includes breakfast, lunch, and all materials. 

Live Online: Three consecutive daily live sessions from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET. 

Dates, fees, and locations are subject to change. 

Part 1 begins by delving into the art and science of storytelling—why it’s effective, how it works, why it’s changing today, and what that means for anyone with a story to tell. We look at how Hollywood sells its own stories, showing how movie studios and television networks have moved over time from a highly restrictive marketing strategy to one that embraces digital media, fan involvement, and immersive participation. We show how this goes beyond story to involve the construction of “story worlds” that audiences can project themselves into. And we introduce you to the Strategic Storytelling Model™, which provides a pair of simple yet powerful conceptual frameworks that will enable you to easily visualize the complex narrative ecosystem that such an approach requires.

Part 2 breaks down these techniques into a point-by-point methodology, detailing the role of such key ingredients as authenticity, purpose, and voice. We will show how such strategies have been adapted and deployed by organizations in a wide variety of fields, from entertainment to consumer goods to B2B. Guest speakers from the worlds of media and commerce will explain how they have employed these tools and what pitfalls they have encountered, while a series of hands-on workshops will enable you to put what you’ve learned to the test in real-world scenarios.

Participant Profile

The program is intended for executives and professionals who want to understand the power of immersive storytelling and learn how to leverage its potential in a digital world. The focus is on demystifying digital media and assessing how your project or organization can take advantage of the unique opportunities for the narrative engagement it has to offer. This will help those in corporate strategy, media and entertainment, brand marketing, B2B products and services, and non-profits and NGOs alike.

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

Still have questions? Ask the community.

Refund Policy

All cancellation, transfer, and substitution notifications must be sent in writing via email to [email protected]

The limit of cancellation and transfer requests per participant is two times. Due to program preparation and administration costs, any cancellations or requests for transfers received 30 days or less before the program begins are subject to late notice fees as described below.

  • Notice more than 30 days:
    • Cancellation Fee0%
    • Transfer Fee = 0%
  • Notice 14 to 30 days:
    • Cancellation Fee = 50%
    • Transfer Fee = 20%
  • Notice less than 14 days:
    • Cancellation Fee = 75%
    • Transfer Fee = 30%
  • No show forfeits registration.

All participant substitutions are subject to the sole discretion of the school. Requests must be submitted in advance of the program start date and will be reviewed on an individual basis, based on participant qualifications and lead time needed for any pre-program work and administration.

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