Guest Post: Suzanne Walsh
At the recent Communications Network Conference, Kevin Corcoran from Lumina Foundation and I set off on a journey to try to bridge the divide between communications and program. Since we are both program officers, we began by asking our audience to rate their relationships with their program colleagues, identify how often they proactively offered input to program staff and share how many of them wished they were brought in earlier on projects. What we found was a group of communication professionals who were really interested in working together with program staff from the beginning of an idea.
Guest Post: Alexandra Christy
Are stereotypes about the people you serve getting in the way of achieving your communications goals? All kinds of labels—from “low-income people,” “ex-convicts” or even “climate scientists”—can activate negative stereotypes that undermine support for a cause. So how do you improve public attitudes toward the people you serve? Start by thinking about the four questions below – all of which can help you focus your strategy to address the real concerns of your audience.
To ground your thinking in a real-world example, I’ve provided some lessons learned from work the Woodcock Foundation has supported to bust stereotypes of American Muslims (a topic we explored during a session titled, The Art and Science of Strategic Storytelling: Disrupting Stereotypes of American Muslims, at the recent Communications Network Conference in Seattle).
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?
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