5 Components of GREAT Story Telling

What is your story?Blogging, social media and video provide organizations excellent platforms to tell your story. However, if your stories aren’t interesting, then your audience will quickly lose interest….and they’ll stop paying attention to your stories.

The one thing that some of the most viral stories have in common is that they tell the story well. Well, what makes a great story?

However, story telling does not need to be complex or difficult in order to be compelling. After reviewing a number of different sources, I came up with five components of great story telling. With a few tweaks, and a little practice, you can turn your descriptive paragraphs into great stories that lead to excellent results.

1-Begin in the action

Draw readers into your story by beginning with the action. Instead of starting your first paragraph with, “On September 9th, ABC School students had an exciting Patriots Day assembly that included a SWAT helicopter, a fire truck and a flag raising ceremony” why not draw a picture of the students’ actual experience, as if one were watching a video of the story? “On the grassy field, students’ hair blew all around while they watched, wide-eyed, as a SWAT helicopter landed in front of them….” From there, you can then continue describe the audience’s experience, versus merely describing what happened.

2-Evoke Emotions

Using descriptive words and sharing the emotions of the participants, try to evoke those same emotions in your readers. Did some students jump up and cheer when she saw the SWAT helicopter? Or, were they so impressed that they looked up in awe as the helicopter came down onto the field? Including these details in the story keeps your reader’s interest.

3-Keep it True and Real

The good thing is, when you’re in the people business, like education and non-profits, it’s easy to keep stories true and real. Reinforce this by getting quotes from participants. Ask them open-ended questions about how they felt, whether they were surprised or excited about the event, and what they liked the best or what they learned from the event. Their responses highlight the true experiences of your participants, and are much more interesting than the usual canned, “We want to make sure students remember how important our public safety officers are to them.” Zzzzzzzz….

4-Highlight a struggle

Most great stories describe a challenge that was overcome. How many of your favorite movies or books involved a character that just skated through life? Audiences like to know that there was some type of challenge involved. Part of your story could be about the challenges of organizing the event itself—and how your event/community partners came through in the end. It’s a great way to highlight your organization’s gratitude for your community partners.

5-Keep it simple

The day of the week, describing what people wore (unless it’s relevant to the story), and other nuances aren’t necessary for an impactful story. One of the most interesting stories can be the shortest ones. A famous example that I keep in mind when I find myself “writing in the weeds” (i.e., getting too complex) is a six word short story (often wrongly attributed to Stephen Kind and Ernest Hemingway): “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Begins with the action, evokes emotions, true and real, and includes a struggle or conflict.

Bonus Tip-Include a Call to Action

Great story telling can also help your organization gain more supporters and partners for its endeavors. So, including a call to action at the end of your story is a great way to encourage audience members to be a part of the action, solution or support your organization needs to be successful.

Want to learn more? Here are some great resources:

TED Talks on Storytelling

The 5 Common Elements of Good Story Telling

The Secret to Great Story Telling

How to Tell a Great Story

21 Call to Action Examples

6 Easy Ways to Build Your Organization’s Social Media Following

Building your organization’s social media following is comprised of activities that should be part of your overall social media strategy, and occur on an ongoing basisRemember, relationship-building and nurturing is not a one-time activity!  These are six easy ways to build your organization’s social media following, which will, in turn, also build your social media presence.

1.    Cover the basics. Make sure the bios/profiles for your social media accounts are complete. They should include clear and concise descriptions of your organization, your organization’s logo and your website URL.

2.    Share the news — and make sure yours gets shared! Retweet and share posts from others that you are following. And make sure you have sharing buttons on your content (blogs, news posts on your website, and of course, on your social media accounts).

3.    Promote your social media presence. Add social media badges (icons) to your organization’s website, blog, email signature, on your business cards, in your storefront and in email marketing.

4.    Make sure your content is interesting, useful, and interactive. Use photos, videos, write about engaging topics that leverage your expertise, and find ways to interact with your followers.

5.    Provide some exclusive offers to your followers.  Whether you’re a school and you offer free spirit items to the “next 20 followers” that comment and share a photo that you post, or a non-profit, and you offer an exclusive discount on your next event to the “next 10 followers” that share/comment on your status update, make sure that you are asking your followers to take an action (or actions) that helps build your following and social media presence, while providing a valuable exclusive offer that builds your brand.

6.    Network in person and online! Go to Tweet Ups, networking events, and other events in your market niche (or, better yet, start your own networking event/Tweet Up for those in your niche!). Find and follow partners, donors, supporters and others that support your organization’s mission via social media searches.

Check out Sounding Board Marketing & Communications’s Savvy Social Media Guide and Video for more tips on how to harness the power of social media to advance your organization’s goals!  Need help with developing your organization’s social media strategy or presence?  Contact us for more information about our social media services.

10 Ways to use Instagram and Pinterest to Market Your Organization

Photo-based Instagram and Pinterest have built followings based on the compelling, fun and interesting photos posted by users…and in Pinterest’s case, providing decorating, clothing and other sources of inspiration to its millions of users.

Corporations to small businesses are boosting their brand identities and expanding their reach using these free services…why can’t your district, COE or non-profit organization?  Your brand is about great programs that advance important outcomes—education, interventions to help students be successful, making learning fun, great teachers, great staff members, improving a social good, and more.  I’d be willing to bet that there are hundreds of photo opportunities each day.  And with Instagram’s availability on just Apple iOS and Android mobile phones, your photos are available to quickly build awareness and loyalty in a personalized approach.

Here are just a few tips* how you can use Instagram and Pinterest to take your organization’s marketing and communications to the next level.

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Keys to Inspiring Confidence During “The Critical Hour” Category: Crisis Communication

Little did I know, the second entry in this blog series, “Inspiring Confidence Through Communication” would come just three days after one of the nation’s worst school crises — the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

As we slowly learn more about this tragedy, much is focused on the gunman, school safety and the like. However, early in the crisis, the news coverage featured — in addition to the press conferences with the police department — interviews with parents. One thing I noticed about the interviews with the parents was their initial confusion about where they could find more information during the first hour following the crisis, including where to locate their children. As more information and misinformation came out during the early hours following this crisis — including the fact that a key communicator, the school principal, died in the incident — there are several explanations for this confusion.

In the aftermath of this crisis, decision-makers, community members and parents are asking whether more can be done to prevent this from ever happening again. In addition, parents are also inquiring how they will be contacted should a crisis of any magnitude occur at their school. Because they are entrusting the school with their child’s (or children’s) safety, they want to receive the information from the school, first — NOT the media, and not the police.

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