Using Storytelling to Engage and Motivate Constituents
Storytelling — "social-networking tool 1.0" — is the single most powerful communications tool organizations possess, says Andy Goodman, co-founder and director of The Goodman Center and author of the book "Storytelling as Best Practice.”
In an NTEN webinar in April, Goodman shared tips for how organizations can tap into the power of narrative in their storytelling, noting that the whole point of narrative is to pull readers in, get them engaged and set them up to do exactly what you're asking them to do.
"Good causes tend to have problems telling good stories," Goodman said. "It's not that they don't have good stories to tell. It's the way they tell them, burdened with data and technical jargon."
Goodman shared an experience he had with Friends of the Children, an organization that identifies at-risk youths in first grade and pairs them with mentors who help them for about four hours a week from first grade through 12th grade.
When past president Catherine Milton would talk about the organization, she would start by saying, "Friends' unique program is specifically designed to identify and support our nation's most vulnerable children" and then read through slides listing all of the organization's services and other facts and figures. Needless to say, the presentations weren't getting much of a reaction from attendees.
Goodman worked with her to start by telling the story of a child the organization works with and then back it up with the facts and figures. Milton told Goodman the story of Zach Harris, a mentor assigned to T.R., a child identified as high risk. Harris would spend time with T.R. and felt he was accomplishing a lot. But at the end of the day, when T.R. would return home, he was left to hang out with the neighborhood gang, which would just set him back again. Nervous but determined to help T.R., Harris talked to the gang members and told them to leave T.R. alone, and they did.