By Colin Day, Associate Creative Director

Before getting together with the Microsoft Stories team, I imagined that most corporations were helpless to create their own content without sounding, well, “corporatey.” Every brand has a story to tell, but with so many corporate stories, it’s natural to feel like, “haven’t I heard this one before?” While heaps of research dollars can be spent figuring out ways to gain more unique visitors, page views or conversions—all the clickbait headlines in the world combined might not translate to a good experience for visitors. It may be engagement, but is it an engaging experience?

Our first meeting with Ben, Steve and Jennifer made it clear that corporatey content was the last thing they were looking to produce. In fact, their stated goal was to create a unique and engaging story we’ll be proud of. Here, here!

We jumped into a gut-spanking 5-week journey to create an experience for the article, “The Keys to the Kingdom: A pick-your-path quest inspired by Project Spark.” You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the format of the story was inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure books that many of us remember from when we were kids.

The writer, Jennifer Warnick, offered to let us in on early content outlines as well as each draft in the editorial process. We jumped at the chance, knowing it would keep us well-informed and inspired—and allow us an opportunity to affect the flow of the story with our thinking about the user’s experience.

Armed with the idea that at the core of every creative act is a choice, we set out to design the experience. We knew we couldn’t develop a story like this in the same way that you’d build a corporate website. Our process involved subject matter experts from three different teams here in the Tether studio—all engaged in a truly collaborative and iterative process with Jennifer, the writer.

You know what? It worked. And it was fun. And people we respect took notice because of all the fun we had.

The second Microsoft story we worked on (Independence Day) involved a new technology they developed to help sight-impaired people get around safely in a hectic city.

Using SVG animation and soundscapes, we helped tell the story in a way that provokes a sense of empathy in full-sighted visitors and fully engages those who are blind. It was a truly gratifying experience and we’re honored to have had a chance to help them share such an amazing tale.

Fortunately, we’re not the only ones who think our clients are doing amazing work. Contently picked Microsoft Stories for their short list of The Best Branded Content of 2014, alongside The Lego Movie and Jeff Goldblum in ’70s loungewear. As Contently put it: “It’s quite possible no company is better at telling stories about the unique projects its own employees are taking on  …”

I can’t wait to see what they have in mind for 2015.

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