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This post is the third in a series on the science and art of strategic communications. The first offered a simple tool for setting strategic objectives, and the second introduced an important theory from psychology. This post explores the power of narrative in message development.
Guest Post: Doug Hattaway
Storytelling is all the rage in business and philanthropy. It should be: narrative is a powerful tool to inform, inspire and engage people.
There are a number of ways to use narrative in strategic communications. One is to tell stories about specific people and situations, which can help to put a human face on abstract issues. That’s what we usually mean by “storytelling.”
Human-interest stories are great for creating emotional connection and encouraging your audience to care about a cause. But there’s a downside to relying on stories about individuals to illustrate complex issues: The “big picture” can get lost.
(This post, written by Communications Network member Steve Sampson, originally appeared on Arabella Advisors’ Greater Good blog.)
Last week, I attended the annual Communications Network conference in Seattle and picked up some great ideas from some of the best and brightest in philanthropy-related communications. After sessions on storytelling, using data and analytics and media in the community, three ideas in particular stayed with me.
1. Be more authentic. Author Sherman Alexie, the plenary speaker, delivered a powerful speech on storytelling. In it, he made the provocative suggestion that “the key to really communicating is narrowing the gap between your public and private lives.” We connect when we are authentic, when we speak from a place of genuine commitment and concern—even though doing so makes us vulnerable. He used the podium on stage as a metaphor, calling it “armor” and arguing that he shouldn’t be standing behind it. “Politicians use these,” he noted, “so you know it’s wrong.” (Turns out humor is key to communicating, too.) As people pursuing social impact, we have powerful stories to tell. Too often, the niceties, proprieties, and formalities of our positions stand in the way of simple testimonial—of telling the honest truth as we see it. “Don’t be shy,” Alexie suggested. And that struck me as right.
Guest Post: Stefan Lanfer
After the networking, the mark of a good conference is its takeaways, right?
So, here’s a to-do list for your next speech:
- Remove your fake teeth and smile wide
- Make racial, religious, and political jokes
- Describe your pre-teen son as an “arrogant a–hole”
- Insult your audience and the timidity of its work
- Admit you are just saying whatever comes to mind
Sound like a Green Day meltdown?
How about the opening plenary by Seattle author Sherman Alexie at the Communications Network 2012 conference?
Guest Post: Joanne Edgar
The last session of the Network’s meeting in Seattle was a lively and serious discussion about who we are as an organization and what we stand for. I heard a degree of angst about the new mission, which opens our doors more widely than ever before to our nonprofit colleagues.
I am an “elder” in this ever-growing organization. I have served on both sides of the philanthropic highway, spending a decade as communication director at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and now working as a communication consultant for both nonprofits and foundations.
Guest Post: Tony Proscio
The Association of National Advertisers, the Madison Avenue trade group, held its convention last week. Part of that event is an annual send-up of the industry’s latest jargon. Here’s how the New York Times reported this year’s installment:
Those who enjoy collecting samples of marketing buzz words and phrases have a field day each year at the conference. This time around, specimens included “thought leadership” and “thought experiment.” “Right-sized nutritional option” described a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Others: “choiceful,” “stakeholder engagement,” “leveraging our leadership to take positive actions,” “purposeful brand growth,” “consumer decision journey” and “change organization.”