How we can bring our stories to life - a guide for charities
we can bring
A guide for charities
Welcome to sounddelivery’s storytelling guide.
A question I often ask myself is, are
we as charities doing everything
we can to communicate our work’s
impact? I think we could do more.
We need to make the most of
everything storytelling has to offer.
This Guide is a great place to
start. Jam-packed with advice
from individuals passionate about
storytelling, it’s guaranteed to give
you inspiration and new ideas.
We really hope it helps you improve
the way you tell your stories.
I’ve always championed the
importance of first-hand, authentic storytelling.
I believe the people that charities support should be a core part of their
communications, fundraising, campaigning and service development.
We need to bring stories and people that until now have often gone unheard
to the forefront.
This Guide will give you lots of insights and tips on how to find, capture and
share the fantastic stories you have available, and show how your organisation
is making a difference, using everything from blogs, audio and video to working
with documentary makers and the media.
I hope it makes a real difference to your work. Enjoy the Guide.
Founder/Creative Director, sounddelivery
www.sounddelivery.org.uk | Twitter: @judehabib | @sounddelivery
Storytelling is the vertebrae of life, running through
the heart of our shared experience.
It’s one of the things that makes us
human. Stories enable us to better
understand someone else’s world.
Aren’t they also how we come to
understand our own?
But why would you want to tell
your stories to strangers? Well
hundreds of people have done as
part of the BBC’s Listening Project.
We enable people to sit down with
someone they care about and have
a conversation that matters. It lets
people say things out loud that might
not always get said – to capture the
hoverflies of life that usually dance across the meniscus of our individual worlds.
Life, especially when it’s tough, can make you feel like you’re shouting in a
deserted forest. Just being heard is sometimes a light in the darkness.
Charities have masses of stories at their fingertips. Telling them in innovative
ways not only gives you compelling material to garner support, but can be
cathartic for the people you help.
Writer, Broadcaster and Host of the BBC Listening Project
www.bbc.co.uk/listeningproject | Twitter: @fifiglover
Guide edited by Jennifer Campbell
www.jennifer-campbell.co.uk | @jccharitywriter
Design by Weaseldance Design
weaseldancedesign.com | @weaseldance
The power of blogging
Seaneen Molloy-Vaughan is Digital Officer at Mind, the mental
health charity. Her personal blog, Mentally Interesting, has over
one million views and was made into a Radio 4 drama. Here she
gives her tips on how to be a brilliant blogger and give a voice to
the people you help
There are many ways to tell a story, but possibly the most accessible and
enduring is through the written word.
Storytelling is a two-way thing. At Mind, people who have experienced mental
health issues write most of our blogs. So our blog isn’t just for support, it’s also
a forum for people to tell their story, and feel understood and listened to. Blogs
can empower and strengthen the people you help.
Don’t use blogs just for the sake of it. Before you commission a blog, it’s good
to ask ‘Why?’ and ‘What will this blog achieve?’ Once you’ve answered these
questions, here are my top five tips on how to harness the power of blogging:
‘Like you, I…’
As charities, we’re often the place that people turn to for help. It’s tempting to
present ourselves as superhuman, with all the answers. But sharing your own
vulnerabilities can be an asset.
Mind recently published a blog by our Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer,
which reflected on a tough, but successful year in campaigning. He touched
upon his own experiences with mental health issues, which many of our
supporters will share. This can be a valuable way of connecting.
Have robust guidelines
Sharing personal experiences can be difficult, and it’s important to support
bloggers every step of the way. A clear set of guidelines, including everything
from word count to how blogs are used, can provide a useful framework
for bloggers, ensure that blogs have a consistent voice and help manage
Include real stories
Case studies are often used as mere footnotes in campaigns, but they’re
the most powerful communications tool of all for charities. Make sure to use
people’s stories, in their own words, on your blog.
As part of Mind’s We Need to Talk campaign, which fought for better access to
talking therapies, we commissioned blogs giving insights into the challenges
people faced accessing therapies, as well as how therapies had helped them
Respect bloggers’ independence
Many experienced bloggers value their independence, so won’t write blogs for
organisations. Why not ask them to put a banner about your campaign on their
blog instead? Get one designed and have it available.
Use social media to diversify and promote blogs
Rather than having a pool of bloggers to call on, use social media to find fresh
stories and the people to tell them. Use hashtags and pay attention to how
they’re developing. And don’t let your amazing stories languish on a webpage –
promote them via Twitter and Facebook, to encourage sharing and discussion.
Above all, be brave! Publish blogs to inspire debate. And thank your
bloggers – sharing their stories can be a huge step in their lives.
Seaneen’s blog: thesecretlifeofamanicdepressive.wordpress.com
www.mind.org.uk | Twitter: @brain_opera
Understand the impact of documentaries
Collaborating with a TV documentary can mean huge publicity for your cause
and the chance for your case studies to tell their stories authentically. But there
are pitfalls. Jezza Neumann, Documentaries Director at True Vision TV and Alison
Rich, External Relations Manager at Changing Faces, give advice from both sides
on how charities and production companies can work together
JEZZA NEUMANN, TRUE VISION
www.truevisiontv.com | Twitter: @jezzaneumann
True Vision specialises in making documentaries about human
rights. My films include Poor Kids, which highlighted child
poverty in the UK and aired to three million people on BBC1.
Understand documentaries’ impact
We look to charities for lots of our case studies. We get mixed reactions.
Some won’t speak to us. When they provide case studies for news, it’s easier,
they have more control and can protect them. It’s also instant coverage and
Documentaries are long haul, with less control, but they can have a much bigger
impact for organisations overall. They are powerful, timeless films which will
resonate for years. Charities should make sure their staff understand this.
Why not get a documentary maker to talk to them?
Don’t dismiss out of hand
Often, charities say our documentary isn’t right for potential contributors –
without even asking them. We totally understand their hesitation. But I just want
charities to give us a chance. I firmly believe in face-to-face meetings.
You can tell a lot from looking people in the eye. It’s annoying when we’re
dismissed in an email.
Give us access
Finding the right contributors is a creative process. Often charities want to
decide which case studies are best. But the obvious people aren’t necessarily
right. We know it’s difficult, but we prefer to meet a range of people to find the
ones who work.
No editorial control
We don’t offer editorial control, apart from viewings for accuracy. We’re clear
what our documentaries are about upfront. Usually contributors find taking part
enjoyable and empowering.
ALISON RICH, CHANGING FACES
www.changingfaces.org.uk | Twitter: @faceequality
‘They live in the shadows, afraid to leave their homes…’
The night of the world’s first face transplant, that was the opening line on BBC
news. It’s these attitudes we’re trying to improve at Changing Faces, the charity
for people living with conditions, marks or scars affecting their appearance.
While we’ve made great progress on this working with documentary makers,
deciding whether to participate in films and the process itself requires planning
Generally, we feel it’s better to be involved in a questionable show and try to
make it better than not to be involved at all. But sometimes you have to say no.
We did to Channel 4’s The Undateables, about people with disfigurements
looking for relationships. Not only did we hate the name, we believed it should
show couples with similar conditions who are in strong relationships – rather
than implying that everyone who looks different finds dating and relationships
Understand the impact of documentaries (cont)
Duty of care
For us, support for case studies starts long before a filmmaker calls.
People who join our media volunteer scheme fill out forms about their interests
and what media they want to do. Every volunteer gets guidelines, with tips about
everything from how to handle interviewers pressing you to what to do if you’re
recognised afterwards. We try to attend their first meeting with the producer,
then keep in touch constantly.
With social media, anyone can get hold of anyone. Sometimes companies
contact case studies directly. We prepare people for this, and encourage them to
contact us for support.
Maximise the opportunity
Your organisation should get maximum publicity from documentaries you help
with. Your contact information should appear at the end of the programme, and
feature on the channel’s website.
Evaluate your success
Some ways to measure a documentary’s success include viewing figures, social
media activity, increased donations and the impact on your case studies. Our
case studies mostly get a huge amount out of participating in a documentary.
Five tips for making great audio
Radio producer Victoria McArthur creates captivating,
unmissable audio on The Listening Project, a BBC initiative
to record conversations between people in the UK about what
matters to them. Below she explains how your organisation
can do the same, creating powerful stories told in your
service users’ own voice
Remember the basics
It’s important listeners aren’t distracted by background noise. Don’t let
interviewees wear jangly jewellery and leave phones outside. Use a
carpeted room for less echo. And remember that leather sofas squeak!
Relax your interviewees
The best conversations happen when people relax. So we make surroundings
calming, with low lighting. We spend an hour beforehand chatting with
participants so they feel comfortable. We also encourage easy-to-answer
questions to start, before moving on to harder ones once the interviewee
has their flow.
Don’t prepare too much
The best conversations happen when people listen to each other properly and
respond naturally. So we don’t prepare participants too much.
We suggest a few questions to expand the conversation if they’re stuck
(like ‘How did that make you feel?’). We make it clear they can laugh, cry
and interrupt to their heart’s content.
Five tips for making great audio (cont)
Make sure your interviewee is ready
If someone’s gone through a difficult experience, you should only involve them if
they’ve had time to process it, and it won’t upset them. Trust your instincts.
Use your final question to get a strong ending. We suggest participants ask
questions like ‘Do you have any regrets?’ or ‘What are you proudest of?’
www.bbc.co.uk/listeningproject | Twitter: @vicmcarthur
Creating audio slideshows: Q+A
Powerful images. Compelling audio. Marrying the two together
makes an audio slideshow – an impactful yet underused way
for charities to tell stories. Paul Kerley, BBC Audio Slideshow
Producer, tell us how charities can use this effective tool
What are the advantages of audio slideshows?
It’s a very intimate form of communication. If you have strong images, it really
makes people focus on them and absorb their message. Audio slideshows can
also be cheaper than video and need less equipment to create. If you can’t get
a camera crew to a remote location, they’re a great compromise to bring still
images to life.
What’s your top tip for creating an audio slideshow?
It won’t work without excellent images. The audio is important, but secondary.
What’s your process for creating an audio slideshow?
Start with the pictures. Make sure they’re engaging and exciting, and you have
enough. We use 8-10 images per minute. Our audio slideshows are a maximum
of 4-5 minutes, and many are shorter.
What about the audio?
Once we have the images, I start thinking about who to interview to tell their
story. For a three-minute slideshow you’ll need 20 minutes of audio to edit from.
Personal stories and first-hand testimonials, with the interview questions edited
out, work best. Add in some music and natural sounds like waves crashing too,
depending on the images.
What’s been your most successful audio slideshow?
One featuring English Heritage’s images of Britain from the air. That’s had over
a million hits. The photos were wonderful, as was the narrator.
Do you get any material from charities?
Christian Aid provided us with some images demonstrating the stigma of HIV
worldwide. We like photos of places and subjects it would be difficult for us to
access otherwise. I’d like to see more charities thinking about how they can be
using audio slideshows to tell their stories – and making them.
www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine | Twitter: @paulkerley
Using digital to get more media coverage: Q+A
Rob Dyson is PR Manager at Whizz-Kidz, the charity which helps
disabled children lead more independent lives.
He shares how he uses authentic voices and digital to get press
coverage – and how you can too
What’s your approach to using digital
to get media coverage?
US marketer Jon Hamm says: “Audiences have always asked for stories –
they’ve never asked for content.” I think this distinction is really important.
When someone tells us a story, it comes alive in our minds. It invites us to
A rule we seldom break at Whizz-Kidz is that we tell our stories through the
voices of disabled young people themselves. The quickest, simplest and most
shareable route to doing this is digital.
What’s been your biggest media success using digital?
One highlight was when we took young Whizz-Kidz Ambassadors to the Party
Conferences, where they asked MPs and journalists questions including what
was on their iPods and who the most famous contact in their phone was, using
micro-podcasting app Audioboo.
We tweeted the podcasts, tagging the interviewees, so they got retweeted.
We also sent them to journalists with “selfies” of the young people with the
politicians, getting coverage in publications including the Guardian.
This ultimately scooped us a Public Affairs Award for Party Conference
How can organisations use digital to get media
Capture high-res photographs and video of your users whenever possible.
You’re much more likely to have media success with the “complete package”
– first-person accounts of your impact, photographs of real people and clips of
them talking in their own voice.
Any other tips?
When stories get published – republish. Link to them, tag journalists to thank
them, and tweet (Facebook, Pinterest, etc) to your supporters. They’ll be
impressed their charity has secured coverage, and will enjoy seeing the impact of
their donations and volunteering.
I really believe that it’s vital to put the people we work with at the heart of our
communications – this approach has made a difference to the coverage we get
and strengthens our relationships with our users.
www.whizz-kidz.org.uk | Twitter: @robmdyson
Three journalists give their top tips for providing digital content and
real service users’ voices to the media:
‘Let your service users be your charity’s ambassadors. Case studies add detail
to a journalist’s story and also explain to readers – and potential donors and
supporters – the work your organisation does. Also, think digital when launching
a report, project or event. What pictures can you offer? Is there a video that
describes or – even better – shows what your charity is doing?’
Clare Horton, Health and Social Care Network Editor, the Guardian
‘Use social media to “join the dots” between journalists and groups with a story
to tell – they might not know each other exist. Journalists love finding a fresh
voice on a big topic – help them do this, and you’ll soon be very popular indeed.
Most newsroom staff will freely admit they are skim readers. So keep details of
the content you are offering brief (ideally in bullet points) and visual (do you have
a photo or graphic or YouTube clip which can tell the story/explain a report in
Anna Doble, Head of Online, Channel 4 News | @annadoble
‘If journalists are going to tell a story with impact, we need the people who
are most affected, who are passionate about it, to talk to us. Real experience
is always the most compelling way to explain dry policy and big issues. And
we often need them quickly, so collect the right people. One day we will come
Priya Shah, BBC Radio Journalist, Jeremy Vine | @priyapas
Five things I’ve learned about video
Joe Freeman is the Social Media Manager at Sue Ryder.
He shares his top advice on creating fun, engaging videos that
give the people you support a platform to speak
Every minute, 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. This
presents a huge challenge in getting your video seen. But that’s not the only
obstacle. You’ve got to make sure the right target audience watches it too – at
least up until the good bit with your key messages.
Creating a successful video is a big ask. But it is possible. Here are a few things
you can do to give your organisations’ videos the very best chance of success:
Tell a story
Your charity does amazing work. Video is one of the most powerful ways of
telling people about it and making them feel as passionate about the cause as
you do. There’s nothing more powerful than hearing the stories of the people
your charity helps first-hand. Get out there, immerse yourself in everything your
charity does, find those stories and film them.
Don’t over-complicate things
There’s a perception that making a video is really hard. It doesn’t have to be. You
just need to tell a story and film it so people can see and hear what’s going on.
Obviously there are some basic skills involved, but you can learn these.
Focus on finding stories that resonate with your audience – that give them a
reason to watch, share and maybe take an action at the end. You don’t need to
be able to produce a polished masterpiece that’ll be studied by film students,
with glorious panning shots and CGI effects worthy of the next Star Wars film.
Keep it short
I think charity videos should be no longer than two minutes. Any longer, and
viewers tend to switch off. You should be able to tell your story and get across
your key messages in this time.
Of course, there are situations where a longer film is called for, but you should
seriously consider whether your target audience will appreciate it before
spending time, effort and money making one.
Of course you can go even shorter. Vine is a brilliantly easy video app that lets
you create six-second films you can quickly share online. It’s a great way to
create fast, digestible content. You should be able to fit a key message into
six seconds. Try it.
Set realistic goals
It’s unlikely you’ll get thousands and thousands of views, but try to make sure the
ones you do get matter, and are from the right target audience. Video can make
a real difference to how you talk about your work, and is a huge opportunity for
your organisation. Don’t be discouraged if your first go isn’t brilliantly successful.
Immerse yourself in video
Watch other organisations’ videos. What are they doing well? Is there a format
you could replicate? Get your creative juices flowing and give some new ideas
Joe’s blog: jptfreeman.wordpress.com
www.sueryder.org | Twitter: @JosephFreeman
Getting your stories out there on a budget
Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of creating video, audio,
pitching the media and working with documentary makers?
For those strapped for time and cash, Jude Habib, Founder and
Director of sounddelivery, explains some quick and easy ways to
get the voices of the people you help out there
As charities, we could and should be doing much more to bring our stories to
life and make them accessible to a wider audience. But I understand that time
and money is a problem for some organisations. The great news is that there are
many ways of getting our stories out there on a shoestring budget:
Comment on news articles, blogs and features online
How many of you see an article on or offline that connects with your organisation
and take time to post a comment on it? The comment box on blogs and features
on sites like the Guardian presents an opportunity to get your message across
and raise your organisation’s presence.
Write a blog post instead of a press release
Next time a news story that’s of interest to your organisation hits, write a blog
post about it instead of a traditional press release. Send it to journalists and
encourage them to publish it – they’re always looking for expert perspective on
But remember, journalists like to publish blog posts first on their own site.
So wait until they’ve put it online then publish it to your own site. And of course
cross-promote it on social media!
What’s on TV and radio?
I try to spend at least 20 minutes at the weekend looking at what’s going on
across radio and TV for the coming week and see what PR opportunities there
might be for my work or the work we’re doing for clients. Many charities aren’t
When BBC drama Waterloo Road featured a dementia storyline, no charity took
the opportunity to join in the conversation online about it, missing an opportunity
to connect with the elusive 16-25 year-old age group. Also, if there’s a news
story relevant to your organisation, call the media and put yourself forward as a
guest/expert – journalists love when their jobs are made easier.
Be your own social reporter
Using just a smartphone, you can be your own reporter, and gather interviews
and videos to use in your own marketing or to send to the media to generate
I recorded an interview with a youth worker I met at an event in the House of
Lords. I uploaded it to my Audioboo channel, tweeted it out and sent the link to
a Guardian journalist who featured it in the paper. We need to be proactive with
Organise a multimedia toolkit of content and archives
Journalists increasingly want multimedia content. Make sure you can have quick
access to great quality photographs, and video and audio if possible, in case a
PR opportunity presents itself.
Use AskCharity and other online resources
AskCharity is a free service to help journalists and charities. Journalists can
use it to find case studies, spokespeople and information from a wide range of
charities. Charities can use it to build their media contacts and coverage.
Also look at the #journorequest hashtag regularly to see journalists’ requests for
case studies and stories.
www.sounddelivery.org.uk | Twitter: @sounddelivery, @judehabib
Turn your storytelling into results
Giving your service users a platform to tell their stories and
supporting them to get their voice out there can empower them
greatly. But you can also use their stories to encourage people to
take action to donate to, volunteer or support your charity.
Matt Haworth, Co-founder of digital agency Reason Digital, lets
us in on the secrets of using your stories to get results
The story of how Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person on a
crowded bus proves that the best stories aren’t just interesting, but inspire action
too. But how do you inspire action with your digital stories?
Here are my five top tips:
Think of your favourite tale. Did it make you laugh, cry or maybe just feel angry?
Stories that pack an emotional punch aren’t just more likely to be remembered
and shared, they’re more likely to inspire action too.
A Save the Children study has shown that campaigns that appeal to the heart,
through an individual’s story, are likely to raise 109% more than ones that appeal
to the head, with facts-and-figures.
Don’t ask, don’t get
It may seem obvious, but it’s true – if you don’t make it clear what you’re asking
of your audience, they probably won’t take action. Use simple, clear nudges
throughout, relating back to the difference that a donation can, has, or could
have made to the story.
Involve your audience
Everyone likes to feel part of the story, part of making a difference – part of
something. An involving story gives them this.
Take Martha Payne. She used her blog, Never Seconds, to log and rate her
school dinners. It wasn’t until someone commented saying how lucky she was
to have school dinners that she decided to use her story for good. She has since
raised over £131,000 for Mary’s Meals, which sets up school feeding projects.
People could see her story come alive – and so they lived it with her.
So, invite your audience to change how your story ends by taking action.
Put asks at the beginning, middle and end
Drunken snaps on Facebook, a video of a cat falling off a bed on YouTube – the
internet’s full of tempting distractions. That means you can’t always rely on
people following your tale to the end. So, when it comes to inspiring action don’t
leave it until the last few seconds. Weave your calls-to-action throughout your
Capture your audience
While capturing your audience’s attention is always good, capturing their contact
details is vital too.
A donation doesn’t always happen instantaneously, but starting a relationship
with your donors may mean more support in the long-term, even if the short-term
isn’t as fruitful. Subtlety is key. Asking potential donors to sign a pledge or sign
up for cause alerts are two ways to encourage these valuable relationships to
start. After all, donating is a big commitment.
www.reasondigital.com | Twitter: @reasondigital
SOUNDDELIVERY CAN HELP YOU TELL YOUR STORIES
sounddeliveryis an award-winning digital media training company and storytelling
consultancy with a passion for digital storytelling. We help organisations to navigate the
changing media climate and harness the opportunities that social media offers. We also
work to connect charities and the media together to build long-term relationships. We build
confidence and knowhow through practical, hands-on training, create powerful content that
engages and inspires people into action and give a voice to people and issues that are underrepresented in mainstream media.
Talk to us about our portfolio of services, including our wide range of training workshops,
such as digital media training for staff and storytelling support for beneficiaries.
Visit www.sounddelivery.org.uk, follow us on Twitter (@sounddelivery) and Facebook
(www.facebook.com/sounddelivery) or give us a call on 020 7993 6340.
Cityside House, 40 Adler St, London E1 1EE
T: 020 7993 6340 | e: email@example.com | w: sounddelivery.org.uk