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  • Writer's pictureShellene Drakes

The 'how', 'what' and 'why' you need to inspire your audience

What’s going on in your organization?

What do you want to share with your clients, customers or employees?

Well, I certainly hope it’s not another policy update.

Don’t get me wrong, policy changes are important and necessary, but a policy change is not inspiring and most people won’t be moved to support what you’re doing because of it. Your communications can’t just be information and direction—"Do this!” “Don’t do that!” “Donate here!” “Fill out this form!”—you need to inspire people to move.

People buy, support, donate or just care thanks to their emotions. I want to support my local hospital not just because I know they do positive things in the community, but because of the great stories I’ve read or heard and the experiences I’ve had with the caregivers there.

What does that mean for communicators? You need to find ways to move people with the stories that you can find and tell.

How: Scour your internal networks to find great stories to share

Listen, I never said it was going to be super easy to find these stories. To be honest, it’s easier to post a policy update and call it day, but creating inspiring content is our job and that’s what we’re going to do! Reach out to your sales folks, fundraisers, program managers, volunteer coordinators—anyone who interacts with the people you serve. Those internal folks have the names of people who have stories to tell.

What to do? Do the work to find the stories by setting up meetings with your colleagues who are face-to-face with the people you serve. Doing it yourself? Survey your clients, customers, volunteers, donors and ask to hear their stories.

What: Broaden your scope, don’t just talk to leadership

Everyone LOVES to focus on leadership, meaning senior executives, when we are looking for stories to share. We talk about their pet projects and extracurricular activities with the impression that those things are inspiring to everyone. If we are truly honest, many executives aren’t the most interesting, inspiring or engaging people in your organization. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t include them in your storytelling initiatives, but there are other people who are equally as amazing that have fascinating stories to share.

Back in my days at corporate, we had started a storytelling campaign. We were finding a lot of stories to tell from across the organization, but higher ups wanted to focus on solely leadership. The project went from highlighting cool people at all levels to the same old, same old story about a senior person who sits on a board of a charity and how great that is. How that is supposed to motivate employees is beyond me.

What to do? You never know where you will find the best story, so stop being a storytelling snob. Make a strong case for including everyone from the mailroom person to the CEO in your storytelling campaigns. You will be surprised by what you find.

Why: Storytelling + communications = greatness

Remember President Barack Obama? Those were the good ol’ times. The communications out of the White House were understandable, rational, smart and well-written.

Sigh. How times have changed…but I digress.

My point is that President Obama and his team were amazing at inspiring and engaging people through the stories he would share when he was speaking. No matter the subject, he would always go back to a person who he met to prove or highlight a point. President Obama knew the importance of making policies real and inspiring people to show up through stories he told. While many of us don’t need to inspire a country, our goal is to make our programs, services and products come to life for our audience.

What to do? Always remember who your audience is and why you’re talking to them. It’s not just to sell them something or get them to do something. It’s to stir up their emotions and encourage them to see you and your organization as the best option because you’ve consistently engaged with them and inspired them.

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