As fundraisers, everything we want is on the other side of good communication. Story is one of the most effective forms of communication available – it’s science! Since the beginning of time, human beings have looked to story to learn from other’s successes and mistakes. Human beings look to story to connect, to feel, and to grow. Without story, we are reduced down to facts, data, figures, and timelines.
If you are looking to take your mission, your brand, your organization, your legacy, your life, or all of the above into your own hands – storytelling is your secret weapon.
If you are not telling stories in your marketing efforts, now is the time to start. I’m about to share my award-winning storytelling campaign strategy in six steps. It’s simple but also extremely effective and you can start implementing it ASAP!
Let’s dive in!
The Secret to A Successful Storytelling Campaign: The Episodic Approach
Marketing statistics tell us that consumers need to see something 3-7 times before they will take action. They need repetition to build trust and, let’s face it, they need reminding.
Additionally, good stories are presented in three acts.
Combining these two concepts is the secret to a successful storytelling campaign.
Here’s what you do in six steps:
1) Brainstorm your most emotion-evoking, compelling success stories. If you want to learn more about how to pack your stories with emotion, click here. These stories could feature people your organization has served, board members, volunteers, staff, etc.; anyone who’s life has been greatly impacted by the amazing work you do.
PRO TIP: Use the Singularity Effect: Pick ONE main character for each of your stories. Too many characters and the audience will get confused.
2) Choose two individuals your organization has impacted and interview them! You will construct a separate story for each individual. Ask them about their backstory. Ask them about what your organization has done for them. Ask them what your organization means to them. Ask them about their future goals and dreams.
PRO TIP: Make sure to get permission to share someone’s story – in writing! Also, bonus points if you record the interview to share online and at events! Getting testimonials in their own words is a huge plus for the authenticity of the story.
3) After you’ve collected two stories, break the stories into the three acts – more on how to do that in a moment. Each act will serve as a separate “touch” with your audience. This will total six touches on e-mail and six touches on social media platforms providing lots of repetition. (Marketing stats for the win!)
4) Share your stories! Send two-sets of three emails. One a day for three days in a row. Give a week in between the two sets. I.E. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… Wait a week… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Do the same thing with your social media accounts. Post one “act” a day simultaneously with your e-mails. This episodic approach will keep your audience curious, engaged, and wanting to know more!
PRO TIP: Give a short teaser at the end of each e-mail and social media post so that the audience knows what to expect the next day.
5) Include a call to action at the end of each touch! Tell the audience what you want them to do! Don’t wait until the third or sixth e-mail to make an ask because you could be missing out on opportunities to engage with your audience. Always have a “Learn More” or “Donate” button or link available.
PRO TIP: Be very specific and singular in your call to action. Remember, a confused mind does not make decisions.
6) Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. Use consistent messaging and don’t be afraid to share the same stories several times. Keeping the names and faces consistent will save you time in acquiring stories and help your audience know you, like you, and trust you. You can share your stories via e-mail, snail mail, social media and at events! Doing so will help the audience feel like they’ve really gotten to know the people in your organization and the people you serve. This will help create loyalty.
So, what do you include in each of your acts?
Basic Story-Structure looks like this:
ACT 1: SET-UP
In Act 1, you will introduce the main character and set the scene. Share where and when is the story taking place so the audience can better visualize what is going on. This should be brief because too much description will distract from the main part of the story – the struggle. At the core of every good story, is the struggle.
Some examples of struggles are:
– character against natural
– character against another character (i.e. relationships)
– character against society
– character against self (self-sabotage)
– character against health
– character against technology
– character against time
Act one will include a good hook and an inciting incident – the event that sets the story in motion. This could be a diagnosis, a job loss, the death of a relative, a proposal, an accident, an important phone call, etc.
To write a good hook, pique the audience’s curiosity. Do this with a thoughtful question, suspenseful statement, or a teaser of coming events.
ACT 2: CONFRONTATION
Act two will include “rising action.” This is where you will elaborate and expand on the conflicts, risks, and dangers experienced by the main character. In this act, you will build tension by including how the character is feeling, what they are facing, and how they are working to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal.
ACT 3: RESOLUTION
Act three is where the “aha” moment takes place. This is where the climax of the story occurs and all of the questions that were raised throughout the story are answered. For many of you, the climax will be the character finding your organization. Share how your organization was the solution to their problems. Share what lessons were learned or what circumstances were changed as a result of the events of the story. Giving your audience a clear takeaway from the story will ensure they are satisfied.
Some of the most powerful stories are those that are still being written. Invite your audience to become an active participant in the next chapter of your organization’s story by including a clear call to action.
Madison Gonzalez is a National Public Speaker, Storyteller of the Year Award-Winner, Best-Selling Author of Dear Mirror, Events Manager, and Published Poet. She is also the Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc., and Indianapolis-based nonprofit that fosters community programs in Indiana for the terminally ill, seniors, families and the home-bound. As a storytelling coach and consultant, it is her mission to empower others to share their stories for impact and income. Madison can be reached at [email protected].