Storytelling is an age-old tradition. Stories of our ancestors, key moments, inspiring movements, events, and unforgettable tragedies have impacted our lives and shaped our history. If told correctly, stories can and will change people’s experiences, perceptions, and behaviors, creating life-long impact and affecting change. Keep reading to learn how to find, plan, and write the best stories for your audience.
Find Your Story
One of the first activities we do with new clients is conduct story mining sessions. During these sessions, we take the opportunity to sit down with the organizations’ internal stakeholders to understand the driving forces behind the organization. We ask questions like:
- What is the purpose of the organization?
- What service are you offering that others are not?
- What makes you unique?
- Where do you see your organization in the next few years?
Understanding each organization’s foundational purpose and objectives helps us determine what story angles to utilize. Every organization has an arsenal of impactful (and sometimes uncovered) stories to tell. Digging deep and bringing them to light takes time and patience, but will set your organization apart from the rest.
Once you’ve identified topics from story mining, decide what makes them relevant right now—timing is everything. One simple way to start is to create a calendar highlighting national holidays and seasonal implications that align with your organization’s core values. For example, our client, Dr. Smith of Sleep Dallas, leveraged the grueling Texas summer heat with a blog and a companion interview on ABC 8 in Dallas, Texas to discuss the impacts of temperature on sleep patterns.
Speak to Your Audience
In order to connect with your audience, limit how much you talk about your organization. In Dr. Smith’s blog and ABC interview, he focused on providing tips for you—the audience—on how to improve sleeping habits, and was not focused on plugging the business. Your stories should be authentic and showcase your people, their experiences, and those that your services benefit. This will create a connection between you and your audiences and will encourage them to genuinely engage with and support your organization.
Another client, Jolt Action, the largest Latino civic engagement organization in Texas, leverages its people to use their voices and share their personal experiences to encourage civic participation and engagement. One example of this is the Mi Porque (My Reason) campaign, which calls on Latinx in Texas to share their stories in order to amplify their voices and create positive change. Also, two of Jolt’s activists and volunteers were recent guests on the Gen Z With Makenzie podcast, where they shared personal anecdotes about their first-hand experiences with racism. Now at Jolt Action, they both actively advocate for meaningful change and inspire other young Latinx to get involved.
Your stories don’t have to be flashy to garner attention and coverage, but they do need to resonate with your target audience(s). Think about what people want to read about—human interest stories that inspire positive change in your community; business successes that showcase growth; a conflict, or source of inspiration. Good elements of a story are about timeliness and relevance. Whether your story is New York Times worthy or not, it’s your story and you should be excited to share it with your audience. One last example includes Bloom Communications client—NAMI Central Texas. The organization’s executive director, Karen Ranus, was mentioned in a story bringing attention to the impact of the pandemic on mental health. Social isolation has never been more prevalent, so Karen’s ability to present actionable solutions to that problem was valuable, and therefore, deemed newsworthy. Make sure to tell your story in a way that stays true to your narrative and mission while also connecting it to current social, political, or environmental landscapes.
Make a Plan
During our time in quarantine, human exposure is limited. Take time to reflect on your organization’s work. Where can you find those rich stories that exist inside and outside of your organization’s walls? Do you have board members, donors, sponsors, volunteers, or even team members who have stories to share? Be honest about the stories you have and show vulnerability—it will help to build trust with your audience, especially in our current time where people are looking to their most trusted brands and companies for guidance. It may also be beneficial to voice your support for causes that are important and align with your brand values. And, during this time, if you find these stories don’t easily exist, invest the time to go out and find them—they are waiting to be told.