Fri, October 12 2012

7 ways to improve your storytelling

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

This post is adapted from a webinar I hosted for Network for Good.  Thanks to my colleague Caryn for the content!.  And while we’re on the topic of storytelling, don’t forget next week’s free webinar on storytelling!  (Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 1 pm ET— Sign up even if you can’t make it, because we’ll send you a recording afterward.  You can listen to it any time you like.)

Storytelling is great for fundraising and creating awareness. People relate to other people and their stories. Remember these guidelines and you’ll soon be telling great stories about your impact, the people you help and your generous supporters.  Plus, you’ll be a big hit at the next dinner party, too.


Photo via Big Stock Photo

1. Everybody has a story to tell. So go find them. If you don’t have a great story, turn to your volunteers, turn to your coworkers, or turn to the people you help.

2.  Avoid the “kitchen sink.” Some people try to relay every single aspect and bit of minutia about their organization and their programs in a story. While that may seem like a good idea—the more information you put out the more convincing it is, right?—it actually creates information overload. Instead, find one small anecdote or facet of your work and show how it relates to everything else. Create a snapshot that people will remember.

3. Nice is not enough. You’re a nonprofit and so you are doing good work—it comes with the territory. That is not enough to pique somebody’s interest. You need to find a good backstory—something unique and something that can create emotion and interest.

4. Don’t be too close and don’t be too far. If you’re too close to your cause you may be numb to some of the interesting and amazing things that happen as a result of your work. If you’re too far removed from your cause, you may be stuck in policy planning and have lost touch with the emotion of it.

5. Share your senses. All five of them. The more you can make the reader feel like he or she is there, the better.

6. Always keep your audience in mind. Perhaps you have an industry specific newsletter or are trying to reach legislators. In that case, you may want to include the technical details, butin most other cases, you should avoid it.

7. Fit into a larger trend or story. You don’t have to try to match up with the biggest headline of the week, but try to find some sort of trend, whether local, regional or national. If there is no trend, then ask yourself if the story is important right now. Is there a policy decision to be made, other news stories about your cause at large, or any form of public polls taking place?

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