By: Claire Buré, TechSoup Canada Volunteer
If we compare the two phrases, “Hear John's story on our website” or “go to the website and check out our stats”, which of the two is more likely to encourage you to go to the organization's website? The first one, right? The most compelling stories are those that appeal to emotion: those that are told from the heart, rather than a fact sheet.
This month's sold-out TechSoup Net Tuesday event focused on the importance of effective storytelling, facilitated by Cassie Barker of Collective Strategy. Cassie led participants through a hands-on process to start becoming better storytellers, so non-profits can create more effective campaigns, enabling them to pass the torch on to fellow campaigners and thereby create a deeper impact.
Communicating content in an engaging way creates a relationship between the storyteller and the reader, which is much more likely to lead to the desired outcome. When told well, stories can convey a lot of critical information, so the format of telling a good story does not necessarily undermine the details and statistics that you want to bring across.It is more challenging than it seems to tell a compelling story, as we learned by taking part in a series of excercises based on the Public Narrative framework. Participants reflected on their own situations by drawing on their organizational goals, current campaigns, values and emotions to craft their own stories using the narrative arc.
We also heard the campaign story from Karen of the Workers’ Action Centre, who showed participants a simple but powerful video they created highlighting their campaign against wage theft. Karen explained the most important aspects of telling a story that is effective in lobbying policy makers and engaging campaigners to promote your change. She explained how their video was particularly useful as an educational tool, revealing to others the unjust employment situations that some people have to face every day, but also as a successful tool for their campaign.
We learned that storytelling is not about the tools, but about channeling a powerful message you want to tell, ensuring that your story appeals to the heart. If we can identify our audience or target group and engage with them more effectively, they can become our torchbearers helping us to bring about social change in turn – in a layered-onion sort of way). So a specific call to action is an important aspect of the message we want to tell. Think about how you can use an engaging story that reflects your campaign, the kind of message that gets people riled up to join your cause, and identify HOW you can engage your target group – that’s the moment that will bring about change!
We have lots of resources from this session available online:
- Presentation Slides
- Public Narrative worksheet
- List of some good free/low cost digital storytelling tools
You can also see videos of some parts of the session:
- Introduction and Case Study from the Workers' Action Centre
- Storytelling content strategy & approach (introducing the Public Narrative framework)
- Example Story of Self to illustrate the narrative arc
- Story of Us
- Story of Now
For further inspiration on this topic, see:
- TechSoup Canada's recently article on storytelling, How to Attract and Engage Supporters through Storytelling
- A case study of CUSO-VSO's use of blogs, podcasts and video in storytelling
- New Organizing Institute's Public Narrative resources