Your story and your message work together.

While stories give a framework or environment for what you are trying to communicate, messages are clear, specific thoughts on what you are seeking to deliver. 

What makes your story interesting to others is the picture you paint about what the future looks like when you succeed. Your messaging makes it clear what’s in it for the rest of us when you do. To sum up, stories give context while messages provide a conclusion. 

Appropriate messaging is needed to support your storytelling. If you’re interested in learning more about the difference between your story and your messaging, reach out and schedule a 15 minute phone call.

The Purpose of Storytelling

What evolutionary purpose does storytelling provide that has helped humans survive and thrive on Earth? 

The survival mechanism that stories provide is as a delivery system for meaning. What does it mean to be human according to your tribe? And how to live those shared values. Humans needed cooperation, tom live in family and tribal groups, to survive. Stories showed how. Stories helped humans to survive. 

Pre-history, humans looked at the sky with awe and wonder and made meaning from the stars. Connected them into the shape of animals and archetypes, and gave us mythology.

Mythology is the most powerful form of storytelling. 

American mythogy is compelling. George Washington, father of our country,  could not tell a lie. Abraham Lincoln, as a clerk, walked for miles to give a customer her change, a single penny. And the frontier, and the wild west, and world wars, and industry! We explore, we extract, we erect! 

The earliest humans looked to the sky. Today we look at our phones. 

Once you realize our mythology no longer protects us from danger or holds us together, we then look elsewhere. We find meaning in nature. We make meaning in small gestures of kindness to each other. And many, according to box office numbers, look to MARVEL. Yes, the comics. Larger than life characters, fighting epic battles, overcoming enormous obstacles, for the highest stakes imaginable. Avengers: Engame had us looking up into the big screen cosmos and asking the same question that our ancestors asked staring at the Milky Way–what makes being human worth the struggle and the loss?

What’s you story? Is it clear what you stand for? Are the stakes high enough? While human civilizations are much advanced, humans remain tribal.

If you don’t know what your story is or if it connects, let’s talk. Your ability to be inspirational, or even memorable to your clients or donors might hinge on it.

The American story is being rewritten as we speak. Change your story before the story changes you.

Stats Aren’t Stories

A nonprofit agency was struggling to make stories out of data they they captured for their annual impact assessment report. One statistic–1 in 5 children can’t read–was the basis of a story they wanted me to help them with. 

Statistics need context. A story needs a protagonist. When in doubt, or as a story prompt, try the journalistic, WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY. 

Sally came home crying when her friends at school made fun of her because she can’t read. 

There was more to weaving data into story for this agency, of course, but you get the idea. A story, especially a nonprofit story, is best told from the point of view of those you serve. If you’re not sure why this matters or how to accomplish this let’s meet for coffee or chat by phone.

Communication takes place within the other person.

Do you want to be branded or be real?

When a organization’s brand underperforms, so does the organization and its stakeholders. What might be responsible for an underperforming brand? Too much emphasis on identity than story. Too much emphasis on reach and frequency than authenticity and consistency. A story that plays it safe. A story that is hijacked as it moves farther from the leader who is the defacto author of the story. A story that isn’t based on a deeply rooted belief system.

How does an organization “be real”? Clarify and articulate why you exist in the first place. Besides making money, what is your purpose? What good are you trying to do in the world? Why does that matter? What’s in it for the rest of us? If you build story around the answers, the story has the power to attract allies to the cause. It’s a call to action that other people, who think like you, have been waiting for. A story rooted in universal truths aligns your plans with your actions. It gives your message consistency. Your ground truth is an under leveraged asset. Your competition can’t replicate it. You can use it as a business driver.

If you want to learn how to clarify and articulate your higher purpose in the form of a compelling story that attracts allies to the cause, coffee is on me.

Pitch Your Story Forward. What does the world look like when you succeed?

In addition to longer form engagements with businesses and non profits, I work one-on-one with people who are in transition. The transition may be from one job to another, one phase of life to another, or a shift in their mindset about their purpose in life. In every transition the core issue is identity. Who am I without the job title? Who am I without the past to prop me up? How much energy have I expended building a structure to support an idea that is no longer useful? How do I answer the question: What’s next? 

Interesting, to me, is that most of my one-on-one clients are women who have had their fill of society defining them since birth. A man’s daughter, the older sister, a man’s wife, a child’s mother, an aging parent’s caregiver, the supportive woman behind the successful man, and so on. These women were looking for clarity around what makes them unique, relevant, and powerful. They wanted a story that is pitched forward and free from the limitations and expectations of their past. To get there they knew they had do some deep soul searching to uncover their higher purpose–besides making a living–and get to the irreducible core of their existence. Not just what do I want, but why does it matter? Not just a list of skills, strengths and experiences, but explaining how they work in harmony to create a new and powerful force for good. And creating a personal narrative about what the world looks like when they succeed. If the story is compelling it will atract allies to the cause. 

If you’re interested in your own journey of self discovery, leading to “aha” moments, and a story about the difference you’re making in the world, coffee is on me.