Why Your Organization Needs a Good Storyteller

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Matthew Snyder. Matthew is a twenty-something writer and world-changer. He likes to share ideas and is actively involved in the modern-day abolitionist movement. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewlasnyder and like him on Facebook.

Rudyard Kipling said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Most organizations have forgotten the art of storytelling, which is why their messages aren’t being remembered.

Photo credit: Jilly Clardy (Creative Commons)
Photo credit: Jill Clardy

For a while, there was a resurgence of the importance of sharing stories, but then like most fads, it began to fade away. The trend has once again become facts, statistics, and the incessant boasting of what country is suffering from the greatest injustice.

This needs to change.

I grew up in the generation that made it “cool” to start your own 501(c)(3). My peers found tremendous value in doing good in the world. But the number of non-profits that have had to recently close their doors is unnerving.

Whether it was due to lack of funding, poor leadership, or just plain discouragement, the core reason is the same: Their message wasn’t being heard.

One of the biggest mistakes non-profits (and other organizations) make is they don’t actively engage in the art of telling stories. They wonder why their messages aren’t going viral and why their campaigns and strategies seem to never work.

If this sounds like you, here are some points to remember:

Statistics don’t go viral, stories do

People don’t relate to statistics. Sure, they can communicate a broad scope of things. But your audience isn’t going to remember whether it was 16,000 or 25,000 people around the world who die of hunger every day.

What they will remember is the story of the six-year-old in Swaziland who walks seven miles every day for lunch.

What’s going to motivate you to give: numbers or narratives? Do you even have engaging stories to share? Better get started.

Social media is your biggest ally

Don’t deny the pros of engaging in the diverse culture of social media.

For example, Twitter is a great place to share news and introduce people to content. Facebook is a wonderful platform to interact with people and really get them to wrestle with and share your content.

If Facebook boasts of nearly 750 million active users who push around more than 30 billion pieces of content each month, what are you doing to get your message to stand out from the rest?

Do you have even a strategy? You don’t have time to waste on this.

People pay attention to creativity

What’s going to make you sit up and notice your message — a bullet point list of facts or an engaging story that illustrates?

I will always watch an artfully crafted video before I read a ten-page blog post. So will most of your audience.

Don’t neglect this one important detail when it comes to storytelling: be creative.

  • Invest in a graphic designer.
  • Invest in a videographer.
  • Invest someone who can creatively share your stories.

It’s that kind of investment that can mean the difference between success and failure. Never underestimate the value that creativity can add to your message.

Like Kipling, I believe that the history will not be forgotten if it’s shared through stories. And it’s my hope that my generation maintains a grasp on this potent art of creative storytelling. I would hate to see us become another statistic.

If you need help boosting your storytelling-abilities, I would love to connect with you.

How have you seen non-profit organizations creatively and effectively spread their message? What’s a story you remember? Share in the comments.