Strategic Storytelling: 3 Tips to Tell Powerful Stories

We are innate storytellers. Some people may come to it naturally, others have to work at it. But storytelling is ingrained in nearly every culture and a key tool for sharing important values and information.

The ability to tell a powerful story is an important part of strategic communications. Statistics, facts, and figures may be hard to remember, but stories tend to stay with us.

We are sharing three tips on how to tell stories that will bring your issue(s) to life when communicating with your key audiences.

Know Your Audience

When sharing a story with your audience, think about the core group: consider their goals, their views on your organization, and their readiness for the topics you’re discussing.

Their views and readiness could drastically change the way you tell your story, so it’s important to keep them in mind. Are they in favor of something you want to share good news about? Are you passionate about a new trend they may not be ready for? Your presentation could influence the key group that cares about and trusts what you have to say, so make sure you know them well.

Utilize Anecdotes (Especially with Conflict)

Anecdotes are an incredible storytelling tool to add to your strategic communications toolbox. Think about which you connect with more: a story from a small business owner about how he was able to save his struggling rafting shop thanks to the declaration of a national monument nearby. Or, a slew of facts and figures about how employing the Antiquities Act to designate public lands has a direct correlation to economic growth in the region?

Anecdotes provide four key additions to a story: they’re humanizing, they have an impact, they provide linkage, and they give credibility.

  • Humanizing: Anecdotes are a way of personalizing the issue and making your business or issue feel more human.
  • Impact: Anecdotes can help your audience understand your perspective in a more powerful way.
  • Linkage: Anecdotes can personalize an issue much faster than reciting statistics, historical facts, or personal biases.
  • Credibility: Anecdotes allow you to “borrow” someone else’s credibility through quotes or others’ experiences.

Take Tips From Quality Storytellers

There are some fantastic storytellers out there so learn from them! One of our favorite storytellers, Andy Goodman, has a five-point guide to storytelling that we’ve found to be concise enough and applicable enough to be useful for a variety of audiences. Here is our retelling of his approach:

Step One: Start With a Common Assumption & Connect

Find a common starting reference point, such as a well-known feeling or aspiration, attach details to it, and validate that feeling. This helps your audience relate to you. Anchor the story in one person’s experience, not the experience of a group. This will help your audience build attachment.

Example: Like many small business owners, Joe has worked hard to grow his restaurant, which is located in a rural community adjacent to federal land that many seek to conserve. Since his restaurant opened, Joe has tried implementing various cuisines. Eventually, he figured out what makes tourists and visitors happy—his Dad’s world-class chili.  Ever since he introduced it, crowds have come every bird-watching season.

Step Two: Introduce a Point of Conflict

Name the conflicts & show them. Everyone roots for the underdog—barriers promote attachment to a character and/or cause, and the harder they struggle, the more memorable they are. Make it descriptive—use details to bring the story to life.

Example: Tourists of all kinds have come to enjoy the wild lands near Joe’s town. Unfortunately, mining companies want to drill near the location of a crucial habitat for the very same birds that attract visitors and the trails beloved to hikers and ATV riders. Without intervention, the mining may chase away the birds…and the visitors.

Step Three: Make Heroes & Opponents Easy to Identify

You’re the hero of this story! You believe in your cause, so know and own that. Opponents can up the stakes, but remember, you get to set the terms in this story.

Example: Due to the threat of these mining companies, Joe created an online petition asking the President to conserve the local land, forever, as part of the Antiquities Act. Local business owners, civic leaders, and politicians followed his lead— recognizing that tourism would generate far more revenue for the town than the extractive mining interests.)

Step Four: Include Granular Details & One “Takeaway” Fact

Make your audience feel the story. Get specific—were your shoes scuffed after a long walk? Does the story take place on a day so cold you could hear the snow crunch? What color glasses was the boss wearing? Add in a memorable takeaway that will stick with the audience after you leave.

Example: In his quest to protect local lands and the local economy from mining, Joe has walked and door-knocked on every home and business in a three-county area. His Red Wing boots—always tied with bright orange laces—have become synonymous with his conservation efforts. Now, Joe and his boots are welcomed at most doors with an offer of hot coffee and a smile.

Step Five: Show the Way to a Happy Resolution

You don’t need a clear resolution for your audience, just show them a path to it! What’s your end goal, and why are you (or why is your cause) essential to get there?

We have some good news—you don’t have to know everything. Learn from those storytellers you admire and apply their tips and tricks where you can. After that, it’s all about practice!

Example: Last year, Joe led a small group of local business leaders to visit Washington, to encourage their members of Congress to advocate to preserve the land permanently to boost visitors and tourism. Without him, the mining company may have already begun work in his area. Instead, the local land is safe under the Antiquities Act and his business continues to thrive.

Tell Your Story With Full Court Press Communications

Not sure where to start with telling your story? Full Court Press Communications specializes in strategic communications and telling our client’s stories in a clear, effective way. Learn more about our message development, thought leadership, and communications planning services, or contact us today to get started.

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