For this episode, we’re discussing something that has been brought up by a few of our guests in previous episodes — storytelling. Specifically, how can we curate stories to share on a regular basis?
Why Curate Stories?
- Stories help you understand what you are accomplishing as an organization. Do the results of the stories match up with what you say you do? If so, great! This provides you with positive feedback that encourages your team and reinforces your mission. If not, perhaps it’s time for an adjustment. Does something need to be fixed in your processes or product? Should you reconsider your definition of success? Either way, stories provide invaluable feedback.
- Stories are proof that your product, service or program is working! When people share what you have done for them, it gives others the confidence to purchase, donate, or get involved. There is no better marketing than that.
- Even if you don’t need a story to share right now, curating stories is not a waste of time. Having stories at the ready enables you to use the best story for each application. This takes a lot of stress out of the planning process for anything from a major campaign video to a website testimonial to a blog post.
What Makes a Story?
Much of what we discuss here is from Donald Miller’s StoryBrand. If you haven’t read the book or gone through one of his workshops, you really should! A story starts with the problem that a person is having. Then, they find a solution (this is where you come in!), which leads to a desired outcome. The most important thing to focus on is the transformation that the person undergoes. How have they been changed? This is often an emotion — how did they feel before their interaction with you vs. how do they feel now? This approach works for any organization, both non-profits and businesses.
The Story Struggle
In our experience, many organizations struggle to find stories for their projects and often turn to what we call the “low-hanging fruit.” This refers to using stories that are most obvious. Many times, the person already has an established relationship with the team. The story is usually a “big” story and has typically been told a time or two. These stories should be told and celebrated, but not exclusively. The issue is that your audience isn’t getting fresh content and the story may not actally be the right one for your purposes. So, how do we get beyond this?
Create a culture of sharing stories
- Make sure everyone understands your mission. This is where you start. When all internal personnel understands what success looks like, it is much easier for them to identify stories that reinforce your mission.
- Set up systems. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to submit stories and for those stories to be organized and tracked. Set up a database internally, then decide how you want to gather your stories. You could use a website form, email a document people can fill out, etc. Whatever works best for you! Be sure that you have system in place for employees and as well as clients/customers/volunteers. This will enable you to build a database so that you’ll have many stories to draw from when you need them.
- Use questions to guide them. This takes the guesswork out of what someone should include with their story and ensure that you get the information you really need. Here are a few good questions to ask: What was your problem? How were you helped? What is life like now? How did you feel before and how do you feel today?
- Regularly share stories. When people see stories that are told well and that benefit your organization, they will be encouraged to find and submit stories that can do the same. People want to be a part of furthering your mission and if they see other stories doing that, they’ll be eager to share as well.
Another book to check out regarding storytelling is Storynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in the Post-Advertising World by Robert McKee and Thomas Gerace.