In a world with so much content and crises pouring through our screens, how can do-good organizations (non-profits, public agencies, or social enterprises) cut through the noise and engage new audiences? Putting aside typical digital marketing and SEO talk, let’s dive into three sure-fire ways to create digital content that keeps people engaged. (Hint: It has everything to do with the power of “story”.)
First, acknowledge the difference between storytelling and marketing.
If I were to define digital marketing, it would be “a competition to catch someone’s eyeballs and amplify brand awareness. Storytelling, on the other hand, is a journey someone takes you on; full of carefully selected characters and scenes, which leads you to a final, emotional destination.
One has to do with figures, the other has to do with emotional fulfillment.
A book I’m reading, The Best Story Wins, says, “All people crave stories. We love to hear them, see them, tell them, and retell them.” That’s what you want, not for people to simply share your content, but for your community to internalize, take ownership in, and retell your story. How do you know that’s happening? If people are including their own personal stories in post comments and re-shares.
Don’t just think about your sales funnel when developing your creative assets or planning campaigns; think about the emotional journey you want to take people on and build all of your content around that.
Find a way to give people a place in your story, otherwise they’ll scroll past your post and onto one that does.
People are craving opportunities to have an impact on the issues they see on the headlines every day. At the same time, many of these same people doubt in their ability to be impactful. They wonder if they’re skilled enough, wise enough, or strong enough to do something meaningful.
So for you, be open about the gaps that lie between what your organization wants to do and your organization can do at the present. (There should always be a gap, so keep dreaming big.) Share the journey you’ve been on since its inception and what’s stopping you.
Then, be specific with things one individual can do to push the needle forward with one action, and what ripple effect that action will have on your organization.
If you’re filming or recording non-actors for your campaigns, surround yourself with an emotionally intelligent creative team.
Being in LA and a part of the Yellow community, I am really fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly talented women who touch all different parts of the creative process. From art directors, producers, to professional public speakers - I know a lot of people who are comfortable being in front of and behind the camera. You, as a Yellow blog reader, likely do as well.
However, many nonprofits, social enterprises, and public agencies want to feature real-life people (constituents, program participants, and other community members) who typically have zero experience being filmed. As someone who just filmed five short films for an upcoming project, I know something really weird happens to all of us when that big lens is pointed at our face and the tape recorder is by our mouth. We know we’re “on” and it’s really easy to get stiff and stumble over our words.
What I’ve found to be helpful is hiring creative directors who I know are deeply empathetic and emotionally intelligent. I recommended that any and everyone do this. Personally, my most recent film shoot was directed by JJ of HRDWRKER. JJ is eerily good at picking up on people’s discomforts and gently nudging them into a space where they are comfortable sharing their stories. The result is getting digital films that are fun to watch and deeply engaging. When we make the filming process comfortable for the people we work with, they’ll want to share the finished products within their spheres of influence and work with us again.
Bonus Tip: Become a better storyteller by consuming more stories yourself.
If you’re reading this, you might be experimenting with your writer’s voice or director’s eye. Allowing yourself to listen to a plethora of story-based content actually makes you a better storyteller yourself! Reading more books, listening to more podcasts, and spending time on Netflix isn’t meaningless (or mindless) activity - it’s professional development.
When you pop in your earphones, tune into a TV show, or plop on your couch to consume content, you expose yourself to a variety of storytelling structures, voices, and methods.
Over time, you can start to see a pattern in what you gravitate toward.
You’ll see certain words, phrases, and visual compositions seep into your work that actually pull from what you’ve seen before. In a busy, busy world, taking time to go the movies isn’t just a hobby, it’s a professional development exercise as well. So enjoy!
Gabriele Almon is the Founder of The Storyteller’s Summit, which brings creative, entertainment, and influencer communities together to collaborate with do-good storytellers. The summit is taking place in Los Angeles on April 19th, and you can grab 30% off your ticket with code joinus!