Making Time for Story

I know we’re all on board for storytelling, but really, who has the time?

Few would deny that storytelling has the potential to drive considerable social impact, but really, who has the time?

I’m with you.

I’ve been meaning to write this post all week, but my days overflowed with meetings, emails, and crafting and producing content.

Jay Geneske
twitter.com/jgeneske

Jay directs The Rockefeller Foundation’s digital strategy and pioneers new ways to hear and share innovative ideas and perspectives on serving the needs of poor or vulnerable people in a time of rapid change.

Although you may have different tasks in your daily job in the social impact sector, I bet this sounds familiar to you. I know we’re all on board for storytelling, but where do we fit it in?

In our survey of dozens of people in the sector, one of the most common reasons we heard for not focusing on storytelling is the amount of time it takes to produce compelling content. This is especially true for communications staff, who are busy hunting down stories from the program team, writing copy for the website, pitching press, photoshopping an image for Facebook, or working on a speech.

Part of the struggle for many organizations is knowing where to begin, which can often make storytelling seem daunting and more time-consuming than it really has to be. Allow me to propose a solution: The Narrative Framework, found in the Strategy Toolkit.

Our stories are honest, hopeful, brutal, funny, scary, visceral, and more human than most sectors could dream of, yet so many of us have a hard time even thinking of utilizing story, and instead rely on bullet points, facts, and jargon.

A Narrative Framework is a simple but powerful tool for organizing the ideas that you communicate in stories: It links the people who are the protagonists of the story, the goals they seek to achieve, the problems that stand in the way, and the solutions that can help them succeed. It serves as the overarching story that helps provide structure and consistency for all of the individual stories your organization will tell.

Map out what this process looks like for your organization by describing the main ideas you’ll want to convey. You’ll turn to this framework again and again over time as you develop individual stories or campaigns that are aligned with the outcomes you seek to achieve.

To be honest, it wasn’t until recently that I really understood how important it is to step back and think about storytelling strategically and to see it from the perspective of— but connected to — the communication strategy. If you can invest a bit of time up front to think this through for your organization, it will be a huge time saver in the long run.

I’m a firm believer that the social impact sector is more poised than any other sector to use stories to really connect with an audience. Our stories are honest, hopeful, brutal, funny, scary, visceral, and more human than most sectors could dream of, yet so many of us have a hard time even thinking of utilizing a story and instead rely on bullet points, facts, and jargon.

You can change this, and it starts with crafting a Narrative Framework to guide your efforts.

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