Strategic Storytelling: Maximum Impact in a Digital World

Mar 30–Apr 1, 2022 $2,950 (Live Online)
Jun 8–10, 2022 $2,950 (Live Online)
Questions? Contact Us:
Lila Elias
Columbia University School of the Arts
+1 ‭510-333-3050‬
[email protected]

Format: Four consecutive daily live sessions from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET. View the live online schedule.
Certificate Credits: 2
Learn more.

In partnership with
Columbia University School of the Arts
Preferred pricing is available for groups of two or more. To inquire, email [email protected].

“I tell stories to jurors in the context of representing business people accused of serious federal crimes. I cannot begin to say how much you taught was directly applicable to my work environment.”
– Past Participant John Lauro, Attorney and Owner, Lauro Law Firm

Get a first look at the Strategic Storytelling program.

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.

Story Thinking

As a member of Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab, Rose is helping to pioneer a new understanding of narrative and its role in the digital age. Research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology has shown that stories are typically more effective at changing people’s minds than rational argument. This means that people — leaders in particular — need to view the world in narrative terms, not as a thesis to be argued or a pitch to be made but as a story to be told. Because stories provide a structure for reality and a key to understanding, because they play to the emotions and rely upon empathy, story thinking is a powerful tool.

Strategic Storytelling builds on these insights to show how story is used by entertainment industry professionals, by leading brands, by B2B providers, and by non-profits—and what each of these can learn from the other. Over the course of two days, you will engage in a mix of deep learning and hands-on workshops that will leave you with a thorough understanding of the digital media ecosystem as well as the expertise you’ll need to communicate strategically within it.

The Strategic Storytelling Model™: Four Levels of Engagement

You will learn to employ the Strategic Storytelling Model™, a simple suite of visualization tools designed to help manage the complex narrative ecosystems that audiences are coming to expect in a highly interconnected, digital environment. Developed by Faculty Director Frank Rose and Senior Fellow Paul Woolmington, this model shows how a hit television series like The Walking Dead will spawn not only spin-off TV and Web series but also interactive online quizzes, highly participatory multi-player video games, and even real-world experiences like the AMC Zombie School. Together, these four levels form a self-reinforcing network that deepens the connection of existing fans and brings new ones in. This strategy, and the model that describes it, can be applied not just to entertainment properties but to all sorts of communications, including marketing and journalism.

To learn more about the model, download Frank Rose’s strategy+business article “The Power of Immersive Media.”


Please Contact Us

Please contact our Learning Solutions Specialists at +1 212-854-3395 for a personal conversation to learn more.


With every new communications technology, the way we tell stories has changed. Now it is changing again, to a new form that is profoundly different from the one-too-many broadcast model of 20th-century mass media. Digital technology is blurring distinctions between content and advertising, author and audience, fiction and reality, while at the same time provoking new and challenging expectations among audiences and consumers alike. Columbia’s two-day intensive will supply the understanding and context you need to navigate this new world as well as the skills you’ll require to turn these developments to your advantage.

Through a series of lessons, case studies, and highly participatory workshops, this program will explain:

  • The central role of stories in human experience
  • How storytelling is changing in response to transformative technologies and why these technologies are having the effects they do
  • The role of social media in storytelling strategy
  • The need for authenticity and the appeal of user participation.
  • The allure, and the limitations, of virtual reality and other cutting-edge techniques

By the end of the program, you will be equipped to:

  • Express your brand’s or organization’s appeal in narrative form
  • Leverage universal storytelling techniques while embracing new rules and strategies for the digital age
  • Satisfy the desire—particularly strong among Millennials—for immersive experiences and participatory engagement
  • Make the transition from simply telling stories to creating rich and immersive environments that people can enter and make their own

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


PLEASE NOTE: The upcoming iteration of the program will take place in a live, virtual setting. See the agenda. You may also view the in-person program schedule for when our in-person programming resumes.

Strategic Storytelling connects narrative concepts and strategies with actual case studies. Participants will work together in small groups to address real-world challenges that require innovative thinking as well as a thorough understanding of narrative technique. You will leave with an essential grounding in immersive storytelling strategies as well as a conceptual framework and a set of tools you can put to use right away.

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.

Guest Speakers

Matt Locke
Founder and Co-Director of Storythings

Matt Locke is the founder and co-director of Storythings, a UK-based digital content agency that has worked with such clients as the BBC, PBS, Google, Hachette, the British Council and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Before starting Storythings in 2011, Matt was head of innovation at BBC New Media and later head of multi-platform at Channel 4, where he worked on such shows as Big Brother, Misfits, Skins and Million Pound Drop. He is chair of the Audience Agency, a London-based charity that helps cultural organizations use national data to gain a deeper understanding of current and potential audiences; chair of Photoworks, a commissioning agency for contemporary culture and photography, and deputy chair of the British Science Association.

Karin Timpone
Former Global Marketing Officer at Marriott International

Karin Timpone was Global Marketing Officer at Marriott International until the end of 2019. In this role she led the integrated global marketing and consumer relationship management strategy for the company, evolving the strategy to strengthen the relevance of Marriott’s portfolio of brands to the next-generation traveler. Under Karin’s leadership, the global marketing team integrated new brands into the portfolio, grew its loyalty member base, innovated new digital marketing platforms and pioneered an industry-first content studio. Business Insider named her one of the world’s top fifty CMOs — and specifically one of the Storytellers: marketing executives who have mastered the art of storytelling across platforms.

Karin joined Marriott from the Walt Disney Company, where she was Senior Vice President for Product Strategy and Marketing for Disney/ABC Digital Media. While there, she set up Disney’s first-ever digital media product strategy and marketing team and led consumer strategy for such brands as,,, the Disney Channel and and the introduction of award-winning mobile products. Prior to the Walt Disney Company, Karin was head of Marketing and Consumer/Customer Innovation for Yahoo! Media Group. Previously she served as a senior marketing executive at the Seagram Company, where she helped lead strategy for a broad portfolio of brands, including Absolut Vodka. On leaving Marriott she returned to Los Angeles to work on a startup that is currently in stealth mode.

Rita McGrath
Faculty, Columbia Business School Executive Education

Rita McGrath is a best-selling author and longtime faculty member at Columbia Business School Executive Education, where she directs the popular programs Women in Leadership and Leading Strategic Growth and Change. Considered one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth during times of uncertainty, she is the author of the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage (2013) and, most recently, Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen.

Rita works with Fortune 1,000 companies as a consultant, helping boards, CEOs and senior executives act strategically in volatile environments. She is a highly sought-after speaker at exclusive events around the globe, including the Microsoft CEO Summit, the Global Peter Drucker Forum and the World Economic Forum in Davos. As one of a small group of experts who have built today’s best-in-class innovation practices, she is one of the thinkers who inspired the “lean startup” movement. She received the prestigious Thinkers50 Strategy Award for The End of Competitive Advantage and has been named one of the world’s top ten management thinkers in its bi-annual ranking ever since. A Fellow of the Strategic Management Society and of the International Academy of Management, she regularly contributes articles and perspectives to such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and Fortune and is one of the most-published authors in the Harvard Business Review.

Guest speaker lineup is subject to change.

To learn more, download the sample agenda.


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 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.

Columbia Business School alumni and up to four of their colleagues are eligible for a 25 percent tuition benefit for this program. More on the Alumni Tuition Benefit.

Typical Participant Mix

Geographic Spread

Years of Management Experience

Job Function


Hear from Past Participants:


Frank Rose, Faculty Director
Senior Fellow, Columbia University School of the Arts
Member, Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab
Author, The Art of Immersion

Frank Rose is a leading authority on the future of media and communications. In his most recent book, The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories, he argues that we are witnessing the emergence of a new form of narrative that is native to the Internet – one that is nonlinear, participatory, and immersive. He has addressed this issue at marketing summits and film festivals in New York, London, Paris, Copenhagen, Sydney, and Hong Kong, in academic gatherings at Stanford and the Politecnico di Milano, and at such companies as Google, Lucasfilm, Unilever, and the BBC. Hailed as "an essential overview" by the International Journal of Advertising and “a new media bible” by the Italian daily La Repubblica, the book is required reading for business, film, and game development courses at Columbia, Cambridge, NYU, USC, and other schools.

Previously, as a contributing editor at Wired and a contributing writer at Fortune, Frank worked as a journalist at the intersection of media and technology, covering such developments as the making of Avatar, Samsung and the rise of the Korean techno-state, and the posthumous career of Philip K. Dick in Hollywood. Among his earlier books are The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business, about the rise and and eventual unraveling of the oldest and at one time most successful talent agency in Hollywood, and the 1989 best-seller West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer, which detailed the ouster of Steve Jobs from Apple and was named one of the year's ten best by BusinessWeek. Having gotten his start chronicling the punk scene at CBGB for The Village Voice, he currently contributes to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other publications.


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