We talk a lot about using storytelling to create powerful marketing content that will inspire your audience to action. Stories are effective because humans understand the world through stories, not logic, facts, or figures. So it’s important that you can turn any message into story structure, even if it’s not emotionally compelling to begin with.
Sure, studies and scientists put out reams of data, but the studies that actually change things must then turn those facts and figures into a meaningful story. Think any popular science book ever. Otherwise, it has no relevance. It’s just information with no relationship to our life.
This is because stories specifically allow us to connect to one another. We imagine ourselves in the stories, and well-told stories draw the listener in automatically.
Turn Any Message Into Story
Sometimes, your message just doesn’t fit a story structure though. You might just need to share some essential information or a study. Maybe you need to explain your nonprofit’s process and operations.
While you might not be able to get the entire Hero’s Journey, you can still add the elements of a story to make your message more relevant.
Here are four essential questions that, if you can answer them in relation to your message, will help you inject an element of story into any piece of information.
- Who is the hero? We want someone to root for.
- What is the plot? We need to see movement.
- What is the setting? Specifying a setting makes it real and relatable. It’s not just happening in limbo.
- What’s the conflict? Conflict adds tension, which gets us emotionally involved, and it also gets us invested in someone’s success or failure
Conflict might seem tricky, but take Apple’s classic “I’m a Mac” ads. The purpose of these ads was simply to explain some of the Mac’s features, but by comparing them to the features of a PC, Apple injected a sense of conflict.
By personifying both sides, the conflict is heightened, and it also becomes relatable. Now the audience doesn’t just think, “I want a Mac or a PC,” but says, “I am a Mac or a PC” (and of course, you want to be the young, hip, clever Mac, not the stuffy PC).
Stories Connect Us
Stories are powerful because they connect the audience with the storyteller and with those the story is about. A well-told story (check out our series on brilliant storytelling) allows the listener to live the events as if they were there.
Because stories enrich and entertain, we share them with our communities. The better they connect, the more we want to share them.
So, when you are composing your message, ask yourself:
- How does this add value for our audience?
- How will this help or entertain them?
- Why will they share it?
Appeal to their need to connect to each other by giving them a story that allows them to inspire or support their friends, or lets them express their values, and they will spread the word for you.
Any Message Example
Here’s an example of turning dry information into a compelling story from a previous article.
Here’s the basic point: a recent study has shown that 5 minutes of reading a purpose-based story prior to soliciting donations made a university’s alumni fundraising efforts twice as effective.
That’s great, but how do we turn that into a story that matters to you?
- Who’s the hero? That’s easy. The nonprofit fundraiser, tirelessly toiling away on the phones or social media channels to champion their nonprofit’s cause.
- What’s the plot? That fundraiser struggles because people hate being asked for money and donations are just trickling in. A researcher has an idea to make it less painful and more productive, and they head off to test that idea. By the end of the study, the fundraiser now has a powerful new tool that will help them change the world.
- The setting? In the study, the setting was the call center of a university, something that you can probably relate to.
So, here’s the story:
- First, we lay out the problem: it’s hard to get donations, but they are essential to a nonprofit’s mission.
- Next, we explain the quest to solve the problem: fundraisers were given a mission and tools to carry out that mission. They were asked to read a 5-minute story about the purpose of their job and then checked for a performance improvement. They saw a shocking 100% improvement in their success rates.
- Finally, we relate that to your life: imagine what doubling your donations would do for your nonprofit. You can accomplish that by doing X, Y, and Z (check out the article for the exact steps).
Much more compelling than just telling you what happened, right? If we had just left it at the information itself, you might not have felt it was relevant or useful to your life. Hopefully, you can see that by putting into a story structure, it is more appealing to the reader.