In Pursuit of Storytelling
Encouraging people to take action or change a behavior on behalf of an issue or cause is not always an easy task, even for the most adept writers and communicators. Given a seemingly ever-changing and increasing number of options for sharing your message, the trick isn’t so much identifying your audience as it is deciding how best to reach it. Although it’s easy to get caught up in the ease, speed and instant gratification of Instagramming, late-night tweeting, or in-the-moment Snapchatting (and all of these certainly have their place), sometimes — to truly change minds — you need to make a concerted effort to connect with your audience.
This where storytelling can play a role, because it allows you to share experiences with your audience that they can understand and empathize with to create change. Communicating through storytelling doesn’t have to involve crafting a long narrative, but can employ many different methods of weaving together a consistent message that lead naturally into more instantaneous forms of outreach — using the platforms mentioned above — to draw additional attention to your efforts.
But how do you jumpstart the storytelling process and encourage this form of communication within your organization? Here are a few ideas to help get that storytelling ball rolling.
Create a storytelling culture: Have everyone in the organization — from the CEO to interns — be on the lookout for compelling stories. Encouraging everyone to get involved will make it easier. Assign areas of expertise, so that a person or a few people “own” a topic.
Create a process for storytelling: Introducing a process for storytelling will ensure that it becomes part of a company’s culture and isn’t just a one-off event. Schedule idea-sharing time or brainstorming lunches. The more fun and diverse the task, the easier it is to build staff enthusiasm. Create an editorial calendar.
Mix your media: It’s important to vary the medium (blogs, video, lists, infographics, etc.). Use narratives, but keep ’em short and go for a series (continuity) rather than length. Craft Q&As with experts, clients, industry insiders, and other people of interest that can help tell your story. Come up with insightful lists (top 10, five best, etc.) Provide comments, context or insight into other news and current events (why not piggyback if the timing and topic are timely?). Create yearly or quarterly “roundups” that people can look forward to on a regular basis that summarize achievements or bring stories you’ve told full circle.
Use audio and video: Record interviews (podcasts, create a regular series) or combine video and storytelling by creating short videos that illustrate outcomes or examples. NPR’s Storycorps project is a good example of this.
Use infographics and photos: Make sure infographics focus on no more than four ideas (in one infographic), but choose your data carefully. Provide too much data and the message gets lost. Focus on “I bet you didn’t know …” types of information. Use photos to convey ideas or showcase a success story.
Once you’ve developed your system, tweet away to let the world know you’ve got a story to tell.