Tell Me a Story | npENGAGE

Tell Me a Story

By on May 5, 2011


In continuing Lacey Kruger’s and my series on content strategy (If you haven’t yet taken a look at Lacey’s post on content inventories, be sure to check it out. Lots of good stuff there), I wanted to share with you an interesting article, published recently by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, about building a narrative based organization. In The Benefits of Building a Narrative Organization Thaler Pekar outlines the advantages of cultivating a narrative approach throughout your organization.

She makes a number of great observations, two which I’d like to address here. One, every organization, whether they know it or not, has an organizational narrative which is at the core of their mission, values, and brand. It’s important that your organization is cognizant of its “big story,” and tells stories which support it. For a quick primer on making your organizational narrative explicit, see my blog post on message hierarchies. Two, she refers to the ability that stories have to engage an audience. Stories do this by making the situations described more tangible, relatable, and memorable.

Just this week, Outreach International sent out an email appeal incorporating these ideas and other storytelling best practices. Go ahead, read it. I’ll be here when you get back….

Pretty good, right? There’s a lot to like about this appeal, but I want to break down some of the elements pertaining to organizational narrative and audience engagement that I think are particularly effective:

  1. It’s relatable. The email opens with a question: “Remember asking your Mom to tell you about the day you were born?” A lot of people are able to latch on to this question; it’s a great emotional hook.
  2. It’s specific. This email centers around the story of one woman, Zione, giving birth to her child, and the struggles she faced.
  3. It’s dramatic. All great stories need a conflict, rising action, a climax, and a conclusion of some sort, and this one has all of these ingredients.
  4. It’s universal. While Zione’s story is personal, many women around the world face similar issues.
  5. It’s concrete. Outreach International lays out exactly what they did to help Zione, her child, and the village they lived in, and what the results were.

Do you have stories like this that you could tell at your organization? Are you effectively communicating them to your audience?


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