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6 Storytelling Elements to Help You Create Better Content

Digital StorytellingCommunications

Russel Cooke, guest authorBy: Russel Cooke

While the emergence of new technologies and social media networks has made it easier than ever to find your audience, it has also complicated the process by which nonprofits plan campaigns and strategies. With so much content available, people are turning away from lackluster content and searching for something more. But what are they looking for?

What's your story?
Courtesy of Shuttershock.

Nielsen’s “Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages” study showed that people responded positively to marketing messages that were relevant to the audience and connected with them. 92% of respondents said they trusted earned media (such as recommendations from friends and family) more than any other type of advertising. While people still trusted traditional advertising and marketing messages, those numbers were on the decline.

How can your organization connect with audiences beyond traditional advertising messages? Neuroscience has the answer: human brains are stimulated by storytelling. It is easier for the brain to digest and remember stories rather than data points or facts.

Storytelling isn’t a new concept in marketing, but it is one that the majority have been ignoring for some time, despite the fact that people want it. OneSpot’s “The Science of Storytelling” infographic shows that 92% of people want organizations to make content and advertisements that feel like stories. Stories can activate multiple parts of the brain to help readers and listeners better remember the message.

Here are a few ways you can use the elements of storytelling to create better content:

Be emotional. People are drawn to emotions. A story with a good emotional hook is more memorable to the audience than one without. Nonprofits need to find and leverage the authentic, motivational, and profound stories within their organization. If you can make the audience think and feel, they will be more likely to share your content with their friends and family.

Use descriptive language. The New York Times’s article, “Your Brain on Fiction”, showed that strong words activate more parts of the brain whereas neutral words or commonplace phrases are not as powerful. Nonprofits hoping to make a lasting impression on potential supporters should use bold words to create robust imagery in the reader’s mind. Researchers found that the brain does not really differentiate much from reading about something and actually experiencing it, so use this bit of science to create a more commanding content experience.

Story of Success
Courtesy of Shuttershock.

Get personal. Don’t be afraid to look internally for stories - in fact, you should make it a critical part of the overall marketing strategy. Supporters want to know the brand and the people behind it. They like to support people they know, trust, and like. By telling personal stories, nonprofits develop a deeper relationship with their audience.

Involve the audience. Nonprofits need to tell stories about their supporters along with their own stories. Every supporter has a story, some of which may be more relatable than others. How is a patient succeeding by using the nonprofit’s services?  What is the impact of that nonprofit’s activities in the community? Potential donors can see these stories and imagine the impact they can make if they support your cause.

Show, don’t tell. Follow the golden rule of storytelling: Show, don’t tell. A good marketer can find the real benefits of their services and determine the best way to highlight them, whether it’s through success stories or another avenue. When it comes to telling stories effectively, nonprofits can look to the examples of Cradles to Crayons and Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW). Cradles to Crayons used video to tell the story of the founder and the organization’s mission. WAVAW used storytelling in an email campaign when they were looking to raised funds to remodel the space where they hold group counseling meetings. One of their counsellors told a personal story about how important safe, inviting spaces are to their cause.

Educate readers. With educational stories, nonprofits can help people understand complex issues through simple storytelling. Even organizations in “less sexy” causes can use stories to spice up content and hook readers.

Audiences will take note of a good story. Storytelling should help nonprofits explore their brand and open up new possibilities when it comes to content and marketing strategies. Organizations that are best at crafting stories that resonate with people will ultimately be the ones that succeed.

About the Author

Russel Cooke is a business consultant, journalist, and aspiring graphic designer. You can follow him on Twitter @RusselCooke2.