- Wed, May 23 2012
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
My colleague Caryn Stein sent me this great interview with documentary filmmaker and master storyteller Ken Burns. It has three fascinating insights on one of the most critical parts of our jobs in nonprofit marketing, fundraising, or just about any form of selling and persuasion: telling stories.
1. All stories are manipulation. People tell Ken Burns his work moves them to tears. He says the stories move him, too. He puts them together to do just that. He says that means he is in the business of manipulation, however sincere. I often hear people say it’s manipulative to set out to touch people about our causes. Fine, call it manipulation. Like Burns, let’s be honest: We should be in the business of moving people and making people care. Stories that don’t elicit emotion aren’t less manipulative anyway - they are just really bad stories.
2. Emotional truth is something you have to build. And it comes from showing people in all their complexity. Ken Burns talks about his mother, who was sick with cancer his entire childhood and died when he was eleven. He says that’s what drives his work - an urge to wake the dead. He has devoted himself to continually bringing alive people from the past - a compulsion born of his own past. That’s an emotional truth he builds for us in telling his own story.
3. We coalesce around stories that transcend. Ken Burns made a film about baseball. If you were a racist Dodger fan and you saw Jackie Robinson join the team, did you quit baseball? Change allegiances? Or change? People can change, and that’s a story that transcends.
Do your stories move with an emotional truth? Do they transcend? Watch this video and be inspired to tell that kind of tale.