We are in the people business.
Whether it is the people we serve, or the ones that volunteer in our building or with our clients, or the donors that support the mission of this important work, in the end, it is about people.
People also are the heart of a great story. And the story we tell is the critical piece to moving people to action, on behalf of our clients or organization.
Recently, Melinda Lewis presented at a program hosted by REACH and the Health Care Foundation, focused on improving nonprofit advocacy and communication through telling stories. There were a number of great learning points, but a major one for me was improving the structure on which we communicate these stories.
How do we do this? By using this framework:
- Reframe the discussion: One primary goal for telling effective stories is to reframe the discussion around issues impacting your organization. We need people to see the issue through our perspective. This can’t be accomplished with one simple story and example; it takes a variety of key points and approaches.
- The big picture: To build this discussion, we start with defining the big goal/key message. What do you want people to be left with, even if you don’t have to say it yourself? This is the summary statement, the key takeaway a listener could repeat and share with others.
- Key facts for the listener: Following this main message are three-to-four subpoints. These are the meat of the argument, the key facts you want the listener to remember. Each subpoint is supported with personal stories of your clients, statistics supporting your case, all pointing back toward the one key message you’ve already identified.
Working through this process creates 12-16 strong talking points, stories and facts to be used in conversations with your stakeholders. These are your answers to questions during a media interview, or stories you share speaking publicly about the organization.
The result in building and using this framework is consistency of message and engaging people in seeing our issue the same way we do, and arming them with the details needed to retell our story. When people see the issue through the same lens, they are much more likely to act, donate, volunteer and share their story with others.
People acting on behalf of an organization or a cause to impact other people’s lives is the end goal of a great communication strategy, strong stories and the advocacy work we are tasked with.