Deep Dive Breakout 2

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Not all your stakeholders have a great story to tell, or are capable of representing your issues or industry. But some are! The trick is finding them, training them, promoting them, and keeping them on message without losing their authenticity nor diminishing their unique story.

Notes from session:

How to recruit the right people to tell the most authentic stories.

  • There are two general approaches to finding stories: a “large net model” and one-on-one interviews. On your website and social media, ask supporters if they have a story to tell.
  • If you work at an association, you have volunteers and staff who all have stories. Diving in and getting dirty with local organizations leads to great stories.
  • If you have a hill day or national meeting that some people can’t attend, consider having an online version of that so more people can participate
  • The online community created when people share their stories is powerful. Posting one video can lead to dozens of comments of people saying “I’ve gone through the same thing – here’s my story.”
  • Give people the skillsets to share their story. This can mean training them in public speaking, hosting webinars, or inviting them to events.
  • Don’t ask people “Tell us your story!” Ask them questions that draw the story out of them. One organization even had a tool that allowed kids to draw their story.
  • Find people who are responding to your posts or advocating on your behalf. They feel special when you reach out and say “I heard what you said here – we’d love to invite you to share at this event.” People get excited when they feel they are a part of your community.
  • If you can’t find the specific story you want, try flipping the narrative. For example, if you wanted to find a patient who didn’t have access to dental care but couldn’t find them, ask a person who does have dental care what would happen to them or their family if it were taken away.
  • Peer to peer storytelling can help people share their stories. Consider sharing an advocate video with your audience to motivate other people to share their story.
  • Focus on the larger message to empower your advocates to take action. Storytelling is just a tactic – the end goal is empowerment and leadership.

Keeping spokespeople active and engaged while avoiding issue fatigue.

  • Don’t treat them like storytellers, treat them like leaders, advocates, and activists. These are the voices of the people you’re fighting for. As you train them, they pass that knowledge on to people in their communities.
  • Consider leaving your brand out of the final materials. The purpose isn’t representing your brand, it’s about how policies in DC are affecting your advocates’ communities.
  • Create win-wins for your advocates, like a suite of benefits you can offer people something while you interview them. This could be a chance to boost their social media presence, or a byline on a blog.
  • If you want authentic stories, you have to let people tell their own stories. Give them angles of the stories you want to share, but let them be themselves. Stop crafting advocate stories to sound like DC pitches!
  • Vetting your advocates is an important, but time-consuming part of the process. If you’re pitching your advocate to the media, they should be thoroughly vetted. But website properties and social media can be great places to showcase less perfect advocate stories.
  • Cast your net wide! One organization sends out surveys to a targeted audience, then screens select respondees by phone, then choose 1-3 to be advocates. Even if you don’t end up using these people as advocates, it’s still a positive touchpoint with your membership.
  • Internal stories can also be powerful! Look for people within your organization to talk about why they care about their work, and why it matters.

Presenters and audience members suggested the following tools:

  • VoterVoice
  • StoryVine
  • Countable
  • Gather Voices

Leadership buy-in

  • Leadership buy-in can be difficult. When you’re pitching a storytelling concept, demonstrate that you’ve thought through potential problems.
  • There’s a thought that asking members to share stories is opening a can of worms. What if they’re angry, or they want something from your organization? Think of it this way: capturing data on who has a good story does not turn them loose – and the ROI is tremendously powerful. You don’t need 100 stories – you really only need one.
  • Train people! It’s not a man on the street in front of a member of Congress. Train advocates so that by the time they are in front of Congress or the media, they are trusted by leadership or staff.

Key Takeaways.

  • Ask people for their stories, and actually listen! Help people feel valued and special like they’re part of a community effort.
  • It’s a journey – storytelling is just one of the possible tactics, but the ultimate goal is engaged leaders.
  • It’s all about the issues – better their communities, not your brand.