Once upon a time – the power of storytelling

As we know, it’s a competitive market and this means we all – whatever sector we work in – need to work extra hard to secure and retain strong relationships. That’s where storytelling comes into its own. Think of stories as the go-to item in your toolkit, one that guarantees an emotional connection (at the heart of any relationship).

If you are charity seeking to fundraise and increase your pool of donors a story about the difference you make to a community and/or the life of an individual can pull on the heart strings and work wonders.

We’ve been supporting a bereavement charity recently and stories are proving crucial to their success – in terms of raising their profile, fundraising, recruiting volunteers and reaching more people. This charity is gathering stories about children they have supported after a parent has died (often anonymised but still powerful stories). They are also sharing stories that focus on teachers and teaching assistants who, thanks to the organisation, feels equipped to help pupils in their classrooms who are grieving.

Put simply, effective storytelling increases engagement between a brand and its audience, which helps drive conversions and, ultimately, revenue growth.

Stories evoke REACTIONS & EMPATHY and the scientists agree. Research shows that stories excite our neurons which in turn release dopamine, which then impacts emotions.

Storytelling also:
• Triggers cortisol, which focusses the listener’s attention
• Releases endorphins, which act as sedatives to protect us from any discomfort
• Stimulates the creation of oxytocin, a hormone that enhances trust, empathy, and generosity.

Generate this emotional connection and your customer, client or prospect will have a passionate attachment to your organisation. They will want to be involved, to support you. This is great for securing new leads and business but also for customer/supporter retention.

Although storytelling is an art, not a science here are a few tips to steer you in the right direction, advice which will ensure your storytelling has impact and the desired results.

Teamwork Trust – a charity we work with who thrive on stories.

1. Characters
What perspective are you going for? Who is telling your story? This could be customers, staff, service users, volunteers for example. These people or ‘characters’ will carry your story forward – especially effective if they face and overcome challenges.

2. Plot
A great story needs to establish history: past, present, future. The past and present helps your audience understand challenges, while the future could be one of hope (the subtle message being ‘support our cause for a happy ending’.)

3. Conflict
Every great story has a conflict to solve. For the not-for-profit sector this is likely to be your organisation’s mission. Everything you do, all the work you’ve done, is based around the conflict you want to resolve.

4. Resolution
This is all about demonstrating the impact you make. These are your success stories – how lives have been improved, new habits formed, brighter futures forged

5. Now it’s time to share, share, share.
Think target audiences and get promoting. Storytelling in marketing does not have to be limited to blogs or film. Stories can be told in pictures, verbally or in written form. And they can be told and shared across all channels – from social media and podcasts to websites

And finally … we’ve talked about the importance of striking an emotional chord in your story telling and touched on why story telling is so important. But surely there are different types of customer emotions?

All became clear when we discovered a paper published by a trio from Harvard Business School, called ‘The New Science of Customer Emotions – A better way to drive growth and profitability’ [Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas, and Daniel Leemon].

As the report explains, ‘when a company connects with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge. Yet building such connections is often more guesswork than science.’

To remedy that problem, the authors have created a lexicon of nearly 300 “emotional motivators” and, using big data analytics, have linked them to specific profitable behaviours.

Here are the 10 they say significantly affect customer value cross all categories. When you write your story think about these ‘motivators’ and tap into at least one of them.


So, good luck with your story telling and sharing and get in touch if you want any more tips and hints.

We are offering all UK not for profit organisations a free 30-minute Discovery Call. Book your slot here https://calendly.com/jessicapilkington/discovery-call

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