Monday, January 03, 2011

Weekly writing coach: 3 paths to engaging storytelling

They keep telling you to tell stories, right?  "We have a great story to tell," they say, or "can't you help us tell the story of....?"  Storytelling's a buzzword for communications writers, but also a useful tactic. Here are three sources of inspiration, skills and approaches, all paths that will help to lead you to a great story, soon:

  1. The underdog is your best friend:  This post suggests that, instead of favoring your strong suits and latest accomplishments, your storytelling should take us back to your origins, the days before you knew you would succeed. That's because American audiences like and relate well to stories about underdogs. (And the underdog story might not just be about your company as a whole, but about individual experts, customers, users or supporters, or the audiences you help.)
  2. Be a story magnet, and make them come to you:  As journalists scramble for reader-relevant content, this local news operation set up an "empty shop" approach to get people to bring their stories in.  How can you replicate this in your organization?  Part of the success of this project lay in putting the story solicitors right out in the open, where people could find them easily.  A far better approach than asking your colleagues or users via email, then getting disappointed when they don't respond.
  3. Map that story, using Google My Maps:  This example, from a gathering of teachers, looks at using a marker on a Google Map to get a story going.  And while this post is about writing a fictional story, there's no reason you can't translate it to other stories you need to tell.  Think about posting a marker on a Google Map of your campus if you're a university and getting students and alumni to post related markers telling tales about that location, or what they remember most.  Cafes and restaurants can make their locations the first marker, asking customers to continue the story to tell where they went after a meal or a macchiato.  Get creative with this one, which might yield a treasure trove of results.
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