September 2019

We Are Born Storytellers

A born communicator is not the same as an excellent speaker or writer. It is a natural storyteller, and the research says that’s all of us. We look for a story appealing to our hearts as well as minds, not a list of facts.

That means organisational communication is a form of storytelling. 

The takeaway?

LESSON 1 – Tell a good story

It doesn’t matter if it’s an annual report, speech, or media release – it is a story. 

A good story includes: a clear topic, purpose (mission or objective), flow, and characters (businesses, organisations, CEOs, clients, customers, volunteers, supporters, and beneficiaries). 

A story designed to motivate should include a clear call to action. Do you want your stakeholders to make a change or encourage new supporters to join your campaign? Suggest how the audience can respond.

LESSON 2 – A ‘social good’ story reflects shared values

When you are communicating a social good, people are thinking beyond activities and products. They are thinking about ‘who they are’ or want to be. You are not only promoting values, you need to communicate the values your stakeholders will connect with. 

What motivates your target audience? 

Shared values are often assumed but hard to nail. Simple evaluation products can help.

The good news is, if you communicate the right values, stakeholders are more likely to be loyal over the long term.

LESSON 3 – A good story is heartfelt, but not negative

It is easy to focus on ‘severity’ when communicating about social problems like environmental degradation, homelessness or refugees. If this is overdone, audiences can be left feeling heavy or overwhelmed. They need to know their support can make a difference. 

Negative emotions trigger initial responses, but drain us over time if they aren’t dealt with. A good story inspires positive emotions. ‘Hope’ motivates action.

LESSON 4 – Your content must be credible

Facts and arguments are incredibly useful. It’s one thing to tell a good story, but let’s face it, you can write fiction. Credibility comes from being convincing; including reliable sources; and having a trustworthy storyteller. Boost credibility by using research, credentials (CEO / organisation / facilitators), evidence, and visual / audio data.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

LESSON 5 – Stakeholders have their own stories

A common problem is untested assumptions about stakeholders. It is natural to develop a sense, over time, of who supporters and stakeholders are. This can lead to ‘types’ e.g. advocate and opponent, wealthy philanthropist and deserving beneficiary, and fixed customer profiles. 

As we communicate to these ‘types’ – neglecting the importance of shared values – we can fail to understand real motivations for action, or expand our support base. 

Finally, different stakeholder groups often vary amongst themselves with levels of understanding your vision or mission. This is common in grassroots campaigns communicating complex social issues to diverse audiences. The more you understand stakeholder diversity, the more effectively you can tailor your strategy.

Please email me if you want to learn more about how to tell motivating stories!!