“Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.” Read more
Here’s a quick scenario: a nonprofit communications department realizes that its organization’s website lacks engaging stories, a key element to any effective communications strategy. “We need more stories!” declares the communications manager.
Following this declaration, the senior communications officer quickly tasks Bob the intern with writing an engaging piece. Bob, new to the nonprofit writing game, is somewhat perplexed: “Where do I start?”, he asks himself.
Bob should start by asking one important question: “What do I want this story to achieve?”
Before writing any nonprofit story, or any story for that matter, it’s essential to clarify the objective of the story. Is it to mobilize funds? To raise awareness about your organization’s mission or strategy? To get people engaged on social media? To get people to volunteer, vote or attend your event?
Whatever the reason, the story will be made all the more effective if the purpose is clarified from the start, including how it ties in to your overall communications and content strategies.
If the purpose of the story isn’t clear, and if it does not fit into the grander scheme of things (i.e. your strategies), you shouldn’t be writing it. Writing aimlessly prevents you from writing well and undermines what the story can achieve.
Writing for his Empower Nonprofits blog, Jeremy Koch explains how this can negatively impact on your audience:
“Put simply, if you don’t know what you want your audience to do after listening to your story then they’re not going to know what to do either.”
Read Koch’s article to explore three ways in which the intention of your story impacts how you tell your story, and why this matters.
Are you currently developing, reviewing or delivering a nonprofit communications strategy? If you’re thinking about the type of strategy you need, check out these tips. If you’re looking to take your communications strategy to the next level of effectiveness, consider the 10 tips below. They’re all sourced from a Gaurdian article on the importance of communication in aid work and how to get it right.
1. People engage best with people, not abstract issues
Use case studies, testimonials and human interest stories to illustrate your issue in a real, accessible and relevant way.
2. Communicate the difference people can make
Rather than only focusing on the negative aspects of the problem, show that it is possible to address the problem and communicate what each audience member can do to help address it.
3. Find a private sector partner
Find an influential company that can act as your champion, so it can push your cause among peers.
4. Strategic communications can change policy
Aim for policy change by advocating for your cause in the media and amongst politicians. Policy change is one of the most tangible ways to achieve your social development goals. For example, the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report team engaged with Pakistani press and politicians to advocate for education in the country. This contributed to the Government finding more funds for education and passing the free education bill.
5. Monitor everything
Speaking of monitoring, continually monitoring your progress and impact can help you generate a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not. You will then be able to make informed and effective adjustments to your strategy and use the positive monitoring data for stakeholder engagement and advocacy.
6. Know your audience
By clearly identifying your audience and understanding their behaviours, you can tailor your strategy and messages to best suit their needs.
7. Shift from compassion to solidarity campaigning
Move from convincing your audience to feel sorry for those you are helping, to working together with those in need to improve our shared world. Move your audience from focusing on pity to championing empowerment; from “it’s sad, but I have my own problems” to “we’re all in this together.”
8. Select the relevant data
Data is essential for transparency and evidence-based advocacy. With that said, ensure that you use the right data that is consistent with your strategy and messages, to ensure maximum impact.
9. Do more with less by being inventive
If you’re a small NGO lacking in resources, you’ll want to remember this tip. Work with freelancers and pro bono communications specialists, and organize competitions among students to generate content. Leverage free social media platforms and strategic partnerships that are cost-effective.
10. Listen to people on the ground
Talk with the people you are working with and serving in your project sites. Listen to them to understand what the real problems/needs are. Then together with them, incorporate this feedback into your communications strategy. This will ensure that your strategy can be as effective and relevant as possible for your these top-priority stakeholders.
All communications professionals are storytellers. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that a powerful, well-told story is the best tool for shifting people’s thinking and prompting them to act.
Many of us working in communications for good are looking for ways to enhance our storytelling impact. Enter Storytelling for Good, a new platform from the Communications Network that provides interactive lessons on strategy, content, engagement and evaluation.
Each lesson allows you to input information unique to your organization, and helps you devise a tailored storytelling strategy through a four-step process: defining your strategy, creating content, finding a platform, and evaluating impact.
The site also provides How To Guides on how to tell stories and measure impact on a variety of platforms, including email, Facebook, Medium, Twitter and Instagram.
You’ll also find a collection of case studies and articles that give insight into best practices, along with real world refections on what has worked well and what hasn’t.
It gets better: you can filter through all of this content by the specific goals you have in mind (whether it’s changing attitudes or raising awareness), or by themes and topics (like writing and engagement).
Media and communication are powerful tools for social and behaviour change. Don’t believe me? Let this two-and-a-half minute video from BBC Media Action explain, with evidence to boot.
This video explains how BBC Media Action expects media and communication to lead to healthier practices by influencing factors that drive behaviour, such as knowledge, discussion, attitudes and social norms. To illustrate this ‘theory of change’, research and data from Bangladesh and Ethiopia are presented.