Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Put your own stories to work when winning others over

business2community-comPeople tell stories all the time and don’t realize it. “This book is actually designed to help you pay better attention to the stories you tell, so you can teach, build vision, share a process or introduce a new idea more effectively,” says storytelling thought leader Annette Simmons.

Influence, persuade, inspire

Simmons explains why storytelling that is used to influence others is more than a tool for the marketing professional or fundraiser. Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins is widely applied by leaders to influence, persuade and inspire. In Whoever Tells, you’ll learn how to build consensus, win others over to your point of view, and foster group decision making by using six kinds of stories.

These stories are often the reasons why donors give, why board members act, why stakeholders advocate or why people collaborate. Annette Simmons not only explains why this skill is so critical to everyone, but also how to learn and develop what many people mistakenly believe is a rare gift only a few of us enjoy.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins takes you step by step through the process of identifying and choosing stories from your own life, experience and knowledge, and then linking them, fully and authentically, to the themes, messages and goals of your workplace.designpm-com

You’ll gain skills in how to influence others, improve collective decision making and leverage the approval of ideas you’re presenting. Simmons helps you accomplish these goals by using six kinds of stories:

Six kinds of stories

1.     Who-I-Am Stories: People need to know who you are before they can trust you.

2.     Why-I-Am-Here Stories: People can be wary so you must disarm them by sharing your agenda.

3.     Teaching Stories: Some lessons are best learned from telling a story that creates a shared experience.

4.     Vision Stories: The idea of a worthy, exciting future can reframe difficulties and diminish obstacles.

5.     Values-In-Action Stories: Tell a story that illustrates the real-world manifestation of a value.

6.     I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories: These stories address possible suspicions and dispel them to build trust.

Working definition, how to identify good stories and Simmons’ approach

Simmons defines “story” as a “reimagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listeners’ imaginations to experience it as real.” There are many other definitions but this one is helpful because it keeps you focused on stories that influence and change perceptions.

She adds, “Stories replenish information with the food of human connection and reignite powerful motivations stimulated when we feel the sense of our shared humanity.”

According to the author, once you know how to find and tell stories that feel personal to you and your receivers, you have what you need to acknowledge, connect with and emotionally move others. The best storytellers understand how to use their own emotional responses as indicators of what will resonate with others.

Why you must tell stories from the inside out

Most storytelling advice instructs you to tell the story from the outside in. All stories have a beginning, middle and end. They have a plot, character, setting, conflict and resolution. These elements are all true but they don’t generate an emotional connection.

Conversely, telling personal stories teaches you storytelling from the inside out, which puts emotion and personal connection first. “Unless you bring a beating heart to your message, it is dead. But when you tell your own heartfelt stories about what is meaningful in your life and work, you get the hang of finding stories that frame life and work in emotionally meaningful ways for your listeners.”

Why you should take a closer look at Simmons’ book

If you find yourself in any situation where it is essential to engage a listener, audience, prospect, board or task force, you will find Whoever Tells exceptionally useful. Simmons’ well-researched and example-rich chapters help you build a foundation of stories that will become useful to you in a variety of settings. The book is well-written, clearly organized and an enjoyable read. In storytelling terms, there are no cliff hangers. Rather, Simmons provides you with heroic ideas and satisfying endings to each chapter.

See books and summaries for related titles:

Storytelling for Grantseekers: A Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Image credits: designpm.com, business2community.com

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Using stories for advantage: the art and process of narrative

Effective stories that win both the listeners’ hearts and minds are critical communications tools that can enable leaders to achieve difficult strategic goals. When crafted with emotion and logic, potent stories not only help make sense of disparate facts, but they can also motivate people to undertake a formidable challenge or make consequential changes in behavior.

But too often, leaders wing their way through their communications, only to find that they aren’t getting the results they want. What if the reason a leader is not persuasive lies in how they are telling the story? Effective narratives are largely the product of discipline and structure, not merely art or creative serendipity. And discipline and structure can be enhanced by learning how to present them using story-telling techniques. Leaders can learn to be better storytellers and in doing so, increase the likelihood they will achieve their strategic goals.

In our practice, we have found that skilled leaders focus on four elements when crafting effective narratives: audience, purpose, acts, and flow. Effective storytellers know and understand their audience. They have a well-defined purpose for communicating with that audience. Together these insights influence the narrative choices they make about what to say and how to say it.

Effective storytellers also choose the relevant building blocks of information to include – what we call the ‘‘acts’’ of the story. Then they create a flow that sequences these acts into a narrative arc. They connect the ideas, layer in key themes and imagery, and pace the delivery. Taken together, this process can create an engaging and coherent story that communicates a well-conceived purpose to a particular audience. This greatly increases the likelihood that the result will be a desired change in audience behavior.

Each of these four elements involves a fundamental choice for leaders.

Understand these elements, and you’ll be able to get your message across using the right architecture for persuasion.

1. Audience: Effective leaders know what different key audience members care about and what moves them. They see things through the audience’s eyes. Ultimately, the success of your presentation depends on your ability to reconcile how you convey a particular message with how your audience understands the exchange, processes the information, and feels about the experience. All audiences have a rational and emotional side. On the one hand, the audience is looking for a rational explanation for the things they care about. On the other hand, the audience will be influenced by experiences, biases, and feelings.

2. Purpose: Persuasive leaders have a concrete picture of what they are trying to accomplish with a story, and the actions they want the audience to take. The purpose of a story represents
your reason for telling the narrative, to this particular audience, at this particular point in time, and on this particular subject.

3. Acts: Acts are the component parts of a story that help you determine what you’re trying to achieve with each section of the performance. Each act has a specific role, and they combine in different ways to form a narrative. Effective narratives have simple and elegant structures that don’t cram too many acts into the story, and don’t jump back and forth between acts in a confusing manner. Every message should support exactly one act.

4. Flow: Some people are natural storytellers. They are a small minority. The rest of the population needs explicit guidance to make their storytelling flow. Everyone can learn from those effective communicators whose presentations routinely employ a logical sequence of appropriate acts. When joined together in a purposeful way, with thought to the flow and pacing of each step, a series of well-chosen acts can create a compelling and clear narrative structure. Flow involves attention to foreshadowing and echoing, balancing foreground and background, maintaining internal consistency, creating a deliberate rhythm, and incorporating tension.

Putting it all together

As you integrate these concepts into your speechmaking, remember a few key things. Storytelling is as much an art as it is a science. Successful storytelling requires both structure and creativity.

With some practice, leaders can learn to construct effective stories (and how to improve their own presentations by deconstructing the effective stories they hear). Ultimately, this systematic approach promises to illuminate the choices a leader faces prior to making a presentation and provides a proven structure to make them. A deeper understanding of audiences, a more thoughtful and methodical purpose, and a clear and deliberate narrative structure consisting of carefully chosen acts and inspired flow all combine to yield purposeful results – a powerful message effectively delivered, received and acted upon.

Special thanks to Randall and Harms for this excerpt. Read the full article.

See also:

Storytelling for Grantseekers

Content Marketing for Nonprofits

Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes

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Engaging hearts and minds

Yesterday I experienced the equivalent of a “runner’s high,” except that my legs weren’t moving and my arms weren’t pumping. In fact, I sat very still and engaged my…ears. This wasn’t a calorie burning adventure; instead, it was an adventure of the mind.

I sat between two very inspirational nonprofit organizations during a session led by Perla Ni, CEO of Great Nonprofits, about the importance of great storytelling. Perla said, “The nonprofit sector is very fortunate when it comes to storytelling. You don’t need million dollar commercial budgets to create stories that make burgers or cars feel exciting. You are nonprofit organizations and you have many noble and compelling stories about the people and the causes you serve.”

Perla asked each of us to tell our own story to one another during a table exercise. While my mind spins and my pulse quickens when I can help a nonprofit leader with a helpful book or best practice on my website, my story was merely the warm-up act for the organizations that were at my table. On my left were Micklina and Mike with Community of Sudanese & American Women/Men, an organization dedicated to helping survivors of the Sudanese genocide, and on my right were Emily and Lisa with CASA Child Advocates, a nonprofit that gives a voice to children in court when neglect and abuse is involved.

Though each one of us has a compelling story to tell, there are specific strategies you can act on that will help it spread and grow. Here are some take-away thoughts from speaker, Perla Ni:

How to get started with integrating good storytelling in your organization from Demonstrating Your Impact: Engaging Hearts and Minds:

A good story will include a protagonist, a problem and overcoming the problem (sometimes, not overcoming the challenge).

Consider the personal stories you have about your organization’s impact from the perspective of an individual client, staff member, volunteer or member in the community.

Who tells the story is important: 90 percent trust product recommendations from friends, 70 percent trust recommendations from online consumer recommendations, (Nielson, 2009) and only 6 percent believe in advertisement claims (Forrester, 2009).

Think about how you can back up this story with data you have that relates to the program or setting where your story takes place. If you don’t have the data, engage a local university student who is interested in a research project.

If you have multiple programs about which you can share stories, choose two or three that highlight your strongest program. Those stories will eventually shed light on the other programs.

Develop those two or three stories and circulate them at the board and staff levels so they are shared consistently. Don’t be afraid of telling and re-telling on many platforms such as annual reports, brochures, email campaigns, and social media in particular because of networks’ potential, such as Facebook and Twitter, to spread your story more quickly and efficiently. Include photos and video whenever possible.

Listeners will need to hear a story, on average, eight times before they sink in. In cases where direct quotes are involved, do not correct grammar. The idea is to maintain the authenticity of the storyteller’s voice.

Though funders may limit proposals (i.e. foundations) to specific Q &A or data, use the site visit as an opportunity to share stories.

In the case of public policy, bring the storyteller to the legislative session if possible. If you don’t have a good storytelling prospect within your organization, enlist a peer organization for help.

See also:

Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog for posts about storytelling

More information about Kivi’s book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, which includes a chapter on storytelling

Download an executive summary of Kivi’s book to learn more about what’s inside The Nonprofit Marketing Guide

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Doogie Howser was on to something

Last week I sat in a room filled with hundreds of interesting stories. I attended the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon in Denver, Colorado, which is presented by the Colorado Nonprofit Association. This luncheon celebrates individuals, organizations and companies who demonstrate leadership by example in the spirit of philanthropy.

Despite the fact that only a dozen shared their personal road that led to recognition on stage, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What are the back stories of all these people in the audience who share a passion for creating change in the world?” In other words, we all have a story to tell. And my curiosity to hear all of them was a testament to the power of storytelling. An even greater demonstration of the love for narrative was the audience’s commitment to each recipient’s remarks. Everyone wants the ability to logically connect effort with desired outcomes, and we never tire of hearing how someone has made it happen.

In fact, CausePlanet’s featured author of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, Kivi Leroux Miller, stresses the importance of storytelling in everything we do because stories generate authenticity and demonstrate transformative ideas and change in people. Additionally, author of Believe Me, Michael Margolis says, “We are hardwired to seek and make sense of the world through narratives. Anthropologists contend that 70 percent of everything we learn is through stories. Even as we grow into stubborn adults set in our ways, we fundamentally remain a storytelling species. This is just one of the reasons why 175,000 new blogs are started every day.”

If the storytelling two by four hasn’t hit you over the head yet, it’s time to get busy and figure out how to convey your worthy nonprofit efforts through storytelling. Doogie Howser was the first televised blogger when he ended every episode with an entry in his digital diary. If Doogie can do it, why can’t you?

Learn more about Kivi Leroux Miller’s The Nonprofit Marketing Guide or our current feature of Festen and Philbin’s book, Level Best.

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Add storytelling to your job description

Kivi Leroux Miller, author of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, tells us to add storytelling our job descriptions. Why? Based on research cited in her new book, Leroux Miller claims that storytelling is a terrific way to get your audience to respond to your call to action.

Six qualities make up a good story, according to the author:

  1. Keep it short (try for 500 words or for video, two minutes)
  2. Be straightforward (avoid tangents because they will detract from your story)
  3. Be personal (your stories should be about specific people and limit the number of people in your story)
  4. Be authentic (people connect with stories that ring true—don’t write about perfect people!)
  5. Include conflict or imperfections (these elements bring stories to life)
  6. End with a message (make sure your message is clear)

You can find fresh story ideas by interviewing your receptionist, clients, and supporters; updating a newsletter or blog archive; checking the headlines and seeing what’s relevant to your cause; looking at your desk calendar or Chase’s Calendar of Events to see which national holidays pertain to your nonprofit; writing detailed articles about the key phrases people use to search for your site; reviewing trade news aggregators; getting interview ideas from event programs; or reviewing Twitter, SlideShare or social bookmarking sites like Delicious, Digg and StumbleUpon.

Leroux Miller makes such a strong case for storytelling in her book that we decided to ask her about it in our author interview:

CausePlanet: Your section on storytelling is very tactical and helpful for readers. In that section you discuss the wide variety of applications for storytelling. Is there ever the case of “too much of a good thing,” or should nonprofit leaders look for every opportunity to tell a story?

KLM: Storytelling is so undervalued and underused by nonprofits that I wouldn’t worry about overdoing it. Instead, I’d work on writing stories of different lengths from just a few sentences to several paragraphs, so you have something that works in many different venues. Leroux Miller goes on to say in her book that “stories are a nonprofit’s goldmine and if you are not using storytelling as an essential element in your nonprofit marketing and communications, you are robbing yourself of one of the most effective tools available to you.”

Learn more about Leroux Miller’s book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, or Page to Practice book summary.

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Leroux Miller and marketing: Social media and surprises

There has never been a shortage of one-person marketing departments or small budgets in the nonprofit sector. Technology and social media have presented marketers with a groundswell of inexpensive, if not free, opportunities to promote, publicize and organize on behalf of their nonprofit organizations.

While the juxtaposition of these two forces would seem to solve marketing budget problems, these forces actually have created feelings of angst and loss of control for traditional marketers. The fact that all generations (yes, that means seniors too) are represented online is a call to action for everyone still waffling about integrating marketing and social media.

It’s an exciting time for nonprofit marketing professionals and your marketing plans are waiting for you to dust them off and put The Nonprofit Marketing Guide to good use. This month we’re delighted to feature Kivi Leroux Miller’s book and have excerpted our author interview:

CausePlanet: The Nonprofit Marketing Guide is fresh and insightful. What inspired you to write this book?

Leroux Miller: I’ve worked as a communications department of one for going on twenty years, as a nonprofit staff member, board member, volunteer and consultant. I had to learn how to do that on my own for the most part, because while there are books on marketing or fundraising, they are written for large, well-funded organizations or are too academic. As I was struggling to figure out how to do nonprofit communications without a lot of staff or resources, I vowed to someday write the book for people in the same situation. So that’s what I did!

CausePlanet: One of your passages cites a GettingAttention.org survey that found only 37% of nonprofits measure the effectiveness of their efforts. This was surprising in light of how important it is for nonprofits to make their budget dollars count. What surprises you most about nonprofit marketing today?

Leroux Miller: That’s a tough question! I guess I’d say that what surprises me most is how undervalued marketing still is. As I discuss in the book, marketing is really integral to everything from delivering the right programs to the right people, to raising the money to pay your staff well. It’s not just about having a newsletter or a Facebook page. I wish more nonprofits really understood the impact of good marketing on implementing their missions–and how much harder they make it on themselves when they don’t value marketing.

Learn more about Leroux Miller’s book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, or Page to Practice book summary.

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Find the hooks in your story say Heath brothers

Our recent feature of Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath promises some valuable guidance for nonprofit leaders if you don’t mind putting on your sales lens for a moment.

Credible ideas make people believe. Emotional ideas make people care. The right stories make people act. According to the Heath brothers, a story’s power is derived from two benefits: simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act). Both are geared toward generating action. Mental simulation—recreating events or sequences in your mind—works because people can’t imagine something without also thinking about doing it. According to the authors, mental simulation is not as good as actually doing something, but it’s the next best thing. How does mental simulation apply to sticky ideas? The right kind of story is, in effect, a simulation. Going back to the brothers’ Velcro Theory of Memory, the more hooks you put into your ideas, the better they’ll stick. Stories put knowledge into a framework that is more real, more true to our day-to-day lives. They get the audience ready to act.

The authors also make the point that you don’t always have to create sticky ideas. Spotting them is often easier and more useful. They use the story of Jared, the man who lost weight eating a diet of Subway sandwiches, as an example of an inspirational found story. What if nonprofits could count on their volunteers to be on the lookout for symbolic events or encounters that might inspire others in or outside of the organization? Spotting great ideas isn’t hard, but they are easy to overlook. However, there are story templates that have been proven effective, and learning them helps you spot those inspirational stories:

The Challenge Plot: The key element of a Challenge plot is that the obstacles seem daunting to the protagonist. The story of David and Goliath is the classic Challenge plot. Jared slimming down to 180 pounds is a Challenge plot. Challenge plots inspire us by appealing to our perseverance and courage. They make us want to work harder, take on new challenges and overcome obstacles. They inspire us to act.

The Connection Plot: Connection plots are about people who develop a relationship that bridges a gap—racial, class, ethnic, religious or demographic. The movie Titanic and the play Romeo and Juliet are classic Connection plots. Connection plots inspire us to help others, be more tolerant of others, work with others and love others. The authors offer this practical advice: If you’re telling a story at your organization’s Christmas party, it’s best to use the Connection plot; if you’re telling a story at the kickoff party for a new fundraising campaign, use the Challenge plot.

The Creativity Plot: The Creativity Plot involves someone making a mental breakthrough, solving a long-standing puzzle or attacking a problem in an innovative way. Creativity plots make us want to do something different, to be creative or to experiment with new approaches.

The goal of learning about these plots is not to invent new stories, but to be able to spot stories that have potential for your organization. You don’t have to make stories up, but you do need to know what you’re looking for so that when a good story presents itself, it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Stories can also beat the Curse of Knowledge. They embody most of the SUCCESs framework in that they are concrete; most of them also have emotional and unexpected elements. The hardest part about using stories is making sure that they are simple—that they reflect your core message. It’s not enough to just tell a great story; it has to reflect your mission.

Read more about Made to Stick by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, purchase this or one of our other Page to Practice™ executive summaries by visiting the CausePlanet summary store. Find out more about the Heath brothers and their books.

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Tackle resistant problems with personal experience

Most nonprofit executives are familiar with those persistent and pesky problems within their organizations that never seem to go away. Despite your best efforts to deal with the problem or the people involved, when the problem doesn’t go away, most people give up trying to make change happen because they believe it’s too difficult, if not impossible.

The most common tool we use to change others’ behavior is the use of verbal persuasion – but when it comes to resistant problems, verbal persuasion rarely works. Instead, personal experience is much more effective. Try to help people experience the world as you experience it. When you can’t create personal experiences, create vicarious experiences. This is one of the most accessible influence tools any influencer can employ.

Become a storyteller

According to the bestselling authors of Influencer, to exert influence, we need to be good storytellers. We can use words to persuade others to change their minds by telling a story rather than lecturing them. The following characteristics of storytelling make some stories more powerful tools of influence than others:

Understanding. Every time you try to convince others through verbal persuasion, you struggle to select and share language in a way that reproduces exactly the same thoughts you are having in the mind of the listener. You say your words, but others hear their words, which in turn stimulates their images, their past histories and their overall meaning. A well-told narrative provides concrete and vivid detail rather than terse summaries and unclear conclusions.

Believing. People oftentimes become less willing to believe what you have to say when they know that your goal is to convince them of something. This natural resistance stems from a lack of trust. First, people may lack confidence in your expertise and, second, they may doubt your motive. Concrete and vivid stories are influential because they transport people out of the role of critic and into the role of participant.

Motivating. People must actually care about what they believe if their belief is going to get them to change their behavior. If emotions don’t kick in, people don’t act. When they’re told well, stories stimulate genuine emotions.

Read more about Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries or visit the CausePlanet summary store. Learn more about Influencer by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzer.

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