Building a culture of storytelling

Building a culture of storytelling

We all love a good story. It’s the reason we go to the movies, read books, and devour gossip magazine articles and are glued to social media. Stories are how we share life’s lessons, achievements and connect with others.

With the rise of the power of content marketing, why would not-for-profit organisations not embrace the power of storytelling to share their mission, give a human face to the people they care for and raise awareness?

There is a gold mine of stories beyond the doors of the corporate HQ and the frontline staff are the key to unearthing those stories. But you have to create a culture of storytelling.

Those at the coal face are privy to amazing stories from the people they care for – their struggles, triumphs and the challenges. They hear and see things no one in head office ever will.

Unless your organisation has a culture of storytelling, these stories are lost and the opportunities to share with donors and other stakeholders go begging.

The frontline staff do not realise the gold they are privy to and how they can help the organisation they work for stand out from the rest, to attract more funding and donations, and to raise awareness.

Quite often, in a not-for-profit, the communications team relies on the frontline staff to share with them these stories. The struggle to find compelling engaging stories, to go beyond the marketing guff in the brochures is limited because the frontline staff are not trained to find stories or event see the value in storytelling.

Yet they are the ultimate story talent scouts. So how can a culture of storytelling be created so everyone takes responsibility for the organisation’s public relations?

1. Generate buy in. Expose everyone in the organisation to what makes a story, what type of stories are needed, why it’s important to share those stories and the role everyone plays. This must be ongoing. It can’t talked about once at a staff meeting just do it once and then expect people to embrace this approach. Most people do not think they have anything worthy to say or share, so it is up to the communications team and senior management to reinforce the value of storytelling.

2. A regular item. Add storytelling to the agenda of all meetings. At staff meetings take the time to tell internal stories. If regular awards are given, do not just give the award, dig deeper and tell the story of WHY that person is being acknowledged.

3. Connect. Take the time to visit satellite offices and programs to get to know the staff and meet with clients. Talk to them about why sharing people’s stories is a powerful way for the outside world to connect and emotionally engage with the organisation’s mission. Incorporate this into the yearly marketing/communications budget for travel and training.

4. A road map. Create a storytelling guide. Have examples of what makes a good story, how to share it with the communications team etc. Include this guide as part of new staff orientation and provide training on an ongoing basis.

5. Share and say thanks. Do not forget to thank the people in your organisation for finding and sharing the stories. Acknowledge them in staff newsletters, intranet message boards, and at staff meetings.

charities, not for profit, storytelling

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