It’s All In The Stories

I love stories.

I read them.  I watch them.  I even write them.

You know the Breast Cancer website, where you click on half-a-dozen good causes to help them out?  Hunger and Literacy are the two I always click.  Then there’s Child Health and RainForest.  After viewing those big problems, Animal Rescue might seem less essential to the welfare of the planet.

But Animal Rescue has stories.  Stories about how a rescued animal becomes a cherished companion.  Guess where I want to click first?

Some research even indicates that we’re hard wired to love and respond to stories.

Storytelling, therefore, has become important to marketing and business writers.

Annette Simmons explains it like this:
“The business interest in storytelling is riding this crave wave, as well as a parallel realization that designing messages that create emotions like desire, craving, and/or trust towards a product requires that the message tells a story. Nothing is important or unimportant to someone except for the story they tell themselves about it. You want your product to be important to a consumer? Inspire them to tell themselves a story about it that makes it personally relevant.”

Key word here:  personally.  Too often, my clients think of telling their stories in lists of accomplishments and impressive statistics.  So I ask for the individual stories of their customers and staff members.  Those draw the reader in, motivating them to go on to learn about the company’s accomplishments, products, or non-profit needs.

How to do this?

  1. Listen for the good stories.  Ask for them.
  2. Include images and emotional content.
  3. Connect them to your organization’s mission.

One screenwriting guru, Michael Hauge,  boils all stories down to three elements.. They are
1. character;
2. desire;
3. conflict

Here’s how that might work.

A local nonprofit that serves uninsured people in health crises got union workers to donate labor to fix up the nonprofit’s building.  But where’s the story?

Imagine a large, beefy guy ripping down crumbling walls with a crowbar, covered in dust and sweat. (Character)
He volunteered to help out (Desire), but he feels weird about the breast cancer literature that’s lying around.  (Conflict.)  He makes boob jokes for awhile. Then, in a break, swilling water and slurping coffee, he says:  “My mom died of breast cancer.  I didn’t know what to say to her.  It was hard.”

Next day, his buddies show up to volunteer their labor.

Okay, I embellished this a little bit in order to make a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end that connect to the wonderful work this nonprofit is doing.  But I didn’t embellish it much.

And it’s a great story.

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