It is well known that storytelling is an extremely valuable tool in marketing.

It is one of the most effective ways to get a message or information across in an interesting and engaging way. And it can be used in a multitude of ways, whether you are telling stories through your website, video adverts or image sets on Instagram.

Studies have shown that storytelling is so powerful that it has physical effects on the brain. It has been shown that stories activate up to 7 regions of the brain, whereas simple factual information only stimulates 2 areas. 1

Information told in a narrative form has also been proved to be more memorable, as well as being more motivational. This is important for non-profit organisations who are campaigning for people to help them, as it means that people are more likely to take action.1

Here are some general tips that you can apply to any type of storytelling to make it as engaging and effective as possible. 

USE SPECIFICS AND DETAILS

Detail helps with memory, and will allow you to create a story that affects people enough that they will continue to think about it.

Including details gives more insight into a situation and in the case of non-profits will be more effective in evoking emotion and sympathy for those in the story.

In talking about bigger issues, the emotional resonance and individual impact can sometimes be lost. Using small details and observations about specific situations can often convey much more reality and emotion while still being representative of wider realities and causes.

EMBODY UNIVERSAL THEMES AND EMOTIONS

No matter what the situation, if you link a story to overarching themes and emotions, everybody will be able to connect in some way, even if they are far removed from the issue at hand.

Through storytelling, people who may have had little sympathy for your cause will feel more compassion and be more likely to support your organisation.

AVOID CLICHÉS

Studies have shown that the part of your brain which is activated from storytelling ‘is also capable of filtering out “noise”’ such as clichés. 2 This is why it is important to tell stories in unique ways, so the brain will process the information properly, and not dismiss it as ‘spam.’ 

If nothing else, clichés are boring. Your aim when marketing is to engage people as much as possible and this will not be achieved by telling them something they’ve heard a million times

SHOW CHALLENGES AND OBSTACLES.

One universal theme is that of struggle, something most people have experienced, even if this is to varying degrees of extremity.

Showing struggle in stories will humanise the subject, and this will cause a more emotional response in readers. By evoking this compassion, you will force readers to feel more engaged and connected to the story, which may prompt them to support your organisation.

HAVE A HAPPY ENDING

Although it is important to show challenges and harsh realities, you don’t want people to come away from your content feeling depressed. As Maya Angelou is famously attributed to saying, people will forget what you said, but not how you made them feel.

With this in mind, when appropriate, try to end stories on a more positive uplifting message, and this will become the view of your organisation that sticks in people’s minds.

BE HONEST

Potentially the most important factor in storytelling, particularly for non-profit organisations, is to be honest. 

If you are as honest and open as possible, people will be more likely to trust your organisation, and true stories are much more likely to resonate emotionally with audiences.

Readers will be able to sense if a story isn’t 100% genuine, even if it is just an exaggerated or overdramatised version of reality. This is a quick way to lose support and trust, and exaggeration will come across as slightly embarrassing and cringeworthy.

Nonprofit marketing is all about appealing to human compassion in order to help others, and therefore people will respond much better to authentic stories.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Although detail is important, as mentioned above, this doesn’t mean that content needs to be extremely complex.

Storytelling doesn’t have to come in the form of long narratives, with plot twists and villains and heroes. Rather, it is a part of everyday life, and can be integrated into a majority of the information you present to people. 

For example, some small adaptations to an ‘about us’ page to turn it from factual information to an origin story. These don’t have to be major changes, but will make information much more interesting and engaging to read.

Keeping things simple also means that people are more likely to remember your story and therefore your organisation, which will make your marketing more successful overall.

Agency For Good are an ethical marketing agency.

We provide completely free marketing consultancy, coaching and training to 3rd sector organisations to help you focus and improve your income and in turn your social impact.

In 2019 we delivered 419 hours to 111 charities and social enterprise and we want to increase this to 500 hours this year so please get in touch.

We also provide high quality but subsidised web design, graphic design, video, social media, SEO, PR and copywriting services.