What Makes a Great Rural Community Story? (And How to Tell Yours)

What Makes a Great Rural Community Story? (And How to Tell Yours)
Photo by Josh Berendes / Unsplash

It’s easy to entice visitors to the CN Tower in Toronto, or convince people to preserve a landmark like the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. 

People will flock to see the Statue of Liberty and Central Park in New York City; and the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Famous landmarks like these are preserved and protected. 

What about rural areas? How can communities in smaller centres ensure heritage preservation, community cohesion, and economic development without the notoriety that comes easily in big cities?

Here’s how storytelling can empower rural communities so they can compete with the “big guys" and tell a great story in the process.

How Storytelling Elevates Rural Tourism

More and more communities are focused on placemaking: the process of creating quality places that people want to live, work, play and learn in.

Placemaking can help build a feeling of community and reveal the hidden gems in our rural areas. It’s about creating destinations for residents and visitors. 

How does your community get involved in placemaking? By telling its story.

Storytelling is a powerful tool to:

  • show the beauty of your community
  • make public spaces into places people want to visit
  • highlight interesting historical sites
  • attract visitors and residents alike
  • create an emotional attachment to the community place
  • foster social ties and support systems
  • provide a sense of belonging

Storytelling can even connect diverse communities within your community, bridging the gap between intergenerational communities, or those of diverse gender, culture, religion, race and more.

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Storytelling for Development

man in gray hoodie and black pants holding brown cardboard box
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Rural communities can use their stories to boost economic development

In a study called “Storytelling for sustainable development in rural communities,” the authors note that there’s an “urban-centric approach” to development that ignores the differences between urban and rural communities. Instead, rural communities can use assets like unique amenities and an often strong sense of place.

It’s true that initiatives in sustainable development and boosting economic growth require quantitative data, needs assessments, and other indicators. In rural areas, “important local assets may be difficult to measure or poorly represented in official statistics.”

“Storytelling can provide a complementary approach for representing community assets, particularly those that are often difficult to measure like culture and sense of place…There are few vehicles for conveying knowledge and imparting meaning as universal as the art of storytelling. Telling stories is central to the human experience, a timeless strategy for relaying information between individuals and groups. “

Or as stated by researcher Stephen Ramos: “Storytelling can show not only the intrinsic worth of intangible assets like culture and identity but also their ability to foster new economic development opportunities, foregrounding the knowledge and experiences of rural residents.”

Storytelling Beyond Words: Multimedia Approaches for Immersive Rural Narratives

Speaking to someone in person is a powerful way to tell a story. Since we’re “hardwired” to connect deeply with stories, we’ve  found other ways to share tales through the ages: from word of mouth to cave paintings; stories etched in stones to written on parchment; and later bound in books or told in a movie. Today, the digital age allows us even more ways to connect with stories.

More and more, our communities are digital communities, so digital storytelling is a powerful and accessible way to empower rural communities. 

black smartphone near person
Photo by Headway / Unsplash

Digital storytelling combines traditional storytelling and new technologies in a way that is empowering. It allows participants to collaborate, build shared awareness of issues, and highlight priority issues—whether that’s promoting economic development to decision-makers or encouraging tourists to visit Saskatchewan’s own Eiffel Tower—yep, there’s a replica in Montmartre, Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Stories have the power to move people and shape decisions. So how do you tell your community’s story? How can digital storytelling empower rural communities? Here are some examples.

Case Studies: Real-World Examples of Storytelling Transforming Rural Communities

Use Digital Tools to Participate in “Communities in Bloom”

Communities in Bloom is a national program that recognizes community participation in projects involving:

  • beautification
  • heritage 
  • environmental awareness

It's an opportunity for communities to generate civic pride and local participation and gain recognition across the country. 

Participants register using an online application form, and are judged on the quality of their municipality's green spaces, diversity and originality of its landscaping, general tidiness, environmental awareness, heritage and the level of community involvement.

How about boosting awareness of your community’s involvement in Communities in Bloom, and building excitement for visitors and residents? Follow the lead of Keon Garden Centre, which used MemoryKPR to gather pictures of their clients’ “gardens in full bloom.” 

Our intuitive platform invites members to contribute their experiences—photos, videos, audio recordings, personal experiences, and more. To gather these stories, you can import content from social media, or use QR codes to easily share and gather user-generated content—that’s content created and voluntarily contributed by individuals that have had  experiences or interactions with your community.

Bringing the Past to Life 

The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum brought the past and present together using digital storytelling and a unique interactive mapping platform. The Story of Us is the museum’s interactive exhibit that brings past landscapes alive and makes the connections that tell the story of the shaping of the city. 

The application works on devices ranging from large public displays at the museum to personal computers and mobile devices. Visitors can also use their mobile devices to take walking tours throughout the city. The interface includes location detection and integrates with Google Maps for directions, so visitors can easily orient themselves while physically navigating the local area. 

Users select a variety of historical themes from an A to Z ‘storybook’ themed menu. Each theme opens on a web map loaded with a variety of data: historical maps; historic street photos alongside contemporary street views; virtual realities portraying historical and geographical change; and multiple types of digital media. 

Similarly, the Regina Eco Museum uses digital storytelling to share the stories of its exhibits. This museum without walls has embedded exhibits in communities. Regina Eco Museum has created a gathering place for the community and has QR codes on the exhibits. This allows people to view the story and share their own stories about the exhibits back to the Museum and other observers. 

Empower Your Rural Community With Storytelling 

Storytelling is a powerful way to empower your rural community, showing off its beauty, highlighting interesting historical sites, and attracting visitors and residents.  

If you’re looking to tell the story of your community, have you considered digital storytelling? A tool like memoryKPR will allow you to capture the whole story of a place, community or business. You don’t need an account with a social media platform, but you can still connect to social media when you want it. 

You’ll be able to:

  • use QR codes to easily share and gather user-generated content 
  • import content from social media and cloud platforms
  • integrate your stories into your own website or app 
  • add hashtagged social media moments directly into your story
  • white label your story to add your own logo
  • collect donations for a project
  • build a searchable database with the content management system

memoryKPR: Your Partner in Crafting Compelling Digital Stories for Rural Impact

If you need help, reach out to memoryKPR. We can help you build your story engagement strategy to empower your rural community, even if you don’t have an Eiffel Tower. 

Ready to see how easy (and powerful) it can be? Explore memoryKPR today. Your stories—and your community—deserve a vibrant future.

Transform Your Community

Schedule your free demo today and take the first step towards a more connected community.

Book a Demo

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