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The Power of Storytelling: 7 Tips to Help

By on Friday, December 13, 2019

You may have grown up captivated by bedtime stories as a child, but stories still hold power over us throughout our lives. Storytelling can be a powerful tool in sharing the story of your nonprofit organization with volunteers, supporters, the media, influencers and the public. But how do you put together a compelling story?

First, you start with a person. If people can understand how your organization has touched one person, they can understand how you help dozens, hundreds or thousands. You need a protagonist, a leading character. Think of the person you saw touched, changed, or moved through your work.

Tell a story about this person. Talk about how they got involved. Talk about what they brought to your program. The person might be a client you served, a volunteer who was deeply impacted by an experience, or even yourself.

Next, you add a place. Every great story happens somewhere. Your organization or program is the stage. Be descriptive. Talk about the place, the smells, the temperature, and the feel of the place. These details should not over-burden the story. Rather, they should add small tinges of memorable details for the listeners or readers.

Get to the point. Talk about a moment when a reality hit, change happened, or a realization was made. Talk about the hopeful small step, the giant leap forward, or the quiet moment of reflection. Make that the focal point.

Be conversational. A story should flow easily on the eyes or the ears. The audience will pay attention more easily if you keep words simple and clear.

Use data to fill out the details. If numbers or statistics can be used to illustrate how widespread a problem is, a trend you are describing, or how impactful a program is, add them to the story. But don’t add too many or you will bore the audience to tears.

Know your audience. Know the audience you are sharing your story with. The church missions moment, the Rotary club speech, the volunteer orientation pep talk, and the pitch to a reporter, are each different environments.

Tailor the story for listeners. Trim or expand to fill time limits. Adjust details to the interests of the audience. That doesn’t mean you are dishonest. Pick the most relevant parts of the story for the audience to hear.

This post first appeared in Instigate magazine, published by the Citygate Network. Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your projectreview our portfoliosign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven

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