Storytelling for Action Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference Yale University New Haven, Connecticut April 17, 2011 Roger Burks, Senior Writer at Mercy Corps and Co-Founder of Pictographers @loudmind
We all tell stories daily - we share with friends and family how our days were, how we felt, who we met, things we found out and other interesting pieces of information. We are made from stories. Storytelling is at the heart of who we are
TO PERSUADE. Our main task as communicators for nonprofits and NGOs is to persuade our readers to:
Give a donation
Volunteer their time
Spread the word about what we’re doing
Take other action on our behalf
Storytelling is at the heart of who we are How do you do that? You tell them a story. Why?
Storytelling is at the heart of who we are Because PEOPLE RELATE TO OTHER PEOPLE - NOT PROGRAMS. Which is the more compelling story to you? “ Mercy Corps Congo prevents morbidity and mortality by providing lifesaving services to both displaced families and the general population, filling gaps in water and sanitation services when needed, and advocating for improved services within the humanitarian coordination units .” Or…
Storytelling is at the heart of who we are “ Her name is Laurene. She lives in a church. She is 10 years old. “ She is among thousands of children who have taken refuge in urban Goma's gritty neighborhoods rather than risk dangers in the camps. They're being housed in churches, schools, community centers and other public buildings - but they're neither getting the food nor most of the other assistance that those in the camps are receiving. “ Mercy Corps has stepped up to fill the void and meet at least three of their most critical needs: clean water, sanitation and hygiene…but it's not easy to explain why we didn't bring food today. “ So Laurene sits quietly on a church pew, in the place she now calls home, and waits for something to eat.”
Storytelling is at the heart of who we are Some studies show that you have less than one minute to convince an online reader that your piece is worth reading. YOUR JOB: Connect your readers to a name, a face and a compelling story as quickly as possible. But how do you do that? Ask yourself these questions…
Is the story inspirational and the character memorable?
Is there a clear course of action that can be taken after reading the story?
How easy is it to take that action?
What do you want the
reader to do? What kind of
story do you need to write
to accomplish that?
How to tell a better online story Five steps to laying out a good online story 1. Compelling title/headline 2. Intriguing lead or hook 3. Good story-specific photos 4. Length – around 400-600 words – as well as short paragraphs 5. Ways to take action: donation links, petition, newsletter sign-ups, social networking tools
In journalism school, one of the first lessons we learn is the
basics of information gathering:
This is how you get the full story on something. These are also
the questions you should ask as you build your culture
How to build your culture Who… … is your champion? … is your core group of writers and contributors? … is your audience? … needs to buy in?
How to build your culture What… … are your stories? … are your opportunities? … are your challenges? … is the skill level and time commitment of your writers and contributors?
How to build your culture When… … do you plan to add and update stories? How often?
How to build your culture Where… … will you post these stories? … will you promote these stories?
How to build your culture Why… … will this benefit your organization?
How to build your culture How… … do you get started? … do you keep this going?
What a storytelling culture can look like (and how it can change)
What a storytelling culture can look like OUR CHALLENGE With four writers on staff, frequent staff contributors and stock from excellent freelance photographers, Mercy Corps was able to put together human interest stories, in-depth special reports and feature sections that rivaled high-end magazines. The problem? Most other staff was scared away from contributing anything at all.
OUR RE-EVALUATION: Focus on how our staff can participate more with limited time, training and access to technology. What a storytelling culture can look like
OUR REALIZATION: The content types we were offering on our website didn’t create enough opportunities for our diverse worldwide staff, made up of a variety of technical experts – and 95 percent host-country nationals. What a storytelling culture can look like
OUR SOLUTION The Mercy Corps Blog “ A daily look into the work, thoughts and ideas of our team around the world” Launched May 2009 What a storytelling culture can look like
OUR PITCH Q: So what should I write about? A: What are you passionate about? Ask yourself: Is this something I’d tell someone who doesn’t work for Mercy Corps? What are the things that make you excited about your job? Something interesting – or funny – that you come across in the course of your day? Your perspective on a current event or issue that has something to do with Mercy Corps’ work? What a storytelling culture can look like
Disasters in Indonesia, Samoa and Haiti were our first test of real-time emergency blogging
More than 25 field correspondents
182 blog posts about Haiti from more than 30 bloggers (field and headquarters)
Frequent updates encourage return visits (and possible donations)
What a storytelling culture can look like
“ Your Facebook page and web site has kept me up to date much faster than the standard media seems to have done. I've just been looking around the net for information and you were right there.” – Darcy Sholts, a comment on the Mercy Corps Facebook page What a storytelling culture can look like
Links to the Blog have become our main social media strategy – an extension of our storytelling culture.
Since January 12, 2010 we have gained:
19,700 Facebook fans (started with 4,000)
8,300 Twitter followers (started with 1,500)
More than $40,000 in donations through social media-sourced links
What a storytelling culture can look like
Don’t underestimate the potential of your staff as an audience. If your staff read your stories on an ongoing basis, you have a better chance to turn them into storytellers. They’re also great at spreading your organization’s stories through their own social media networks. What a storytelling culture can look like
A variety of stories to capture a variety of experiences From a recent mercycorps.org content inventory: Beneficiary or client story Autobiographical piece Field visit Personal reflection Staff profile/interview Program update News update Emergency update Photo essay Photo with long caption Audio slideshow Video with long caption Rough video Stand-up video Polished short-form video Polished long-form video Video interview Event- or campaign-driven video Written travelogue Technically-focused piece Poem