Years before he jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch, Tom Cruise starred in Top Gun, the story of Maverick, a fighter pilot, and his various relationships. Remember Goose, played by Anthony Edwards? He was Maverick’s wingman, both in the skies and in the local San Diego bars. Actually, though, Goose wasn’t Maverick’s wingman in the air. In the world of fighter pilots, the wingman is the pilot who flies just behind and off to the side of the leader, providing support and cover. Goose, however, did play this role on the ground!
Just like in the air, the role of the wingman in a bar, club, or party is to provide support and cover for the “leader” by building up his or her persona through stories and casual conversation, as well as by engaging the friends of the leader’s interest.
So what does a wingman have to do with your nonprofit?
The effectiveness of the wingman in a newly blossoming relationship depends in part on his ability to paint the “leader” in the most positive light. Few of us find the person who incessantly talks about himself attractive, so the wingman often assumes the role of storyteller.
And it can work exactly the same way for your nonprofit’s storytelling strategy on social media.
Almost every nonprofit website has a section dedicated to stories…stories of a family the organization has helped, animals it has saved, or a recent event it held. Each story is powerful in its own right, but think about the multiplying effect of stories about the great work you do when told and shared by your supporters.
Listen below to what npEXPERT Vanessa Chase has to say on nonprofit storytelling:
Social media helps your story be heard.
It is the post from an influential Facebook participant or the tweet from a popular P2P supporter that will be actively shared. Those posts from people outside the walls of your organization have credibility among their families, friends, and followers to help tell your story in ways – and to people – you can’t. And this is how these “influencers” become your wingmen.
They build up your organization’s brand and provide support for your mission and communication efforts. And just as the leader will often thank his wingman, you, too, can (and should!) reward your influencers:
- Recognize them: Thank them for their posts, personally and publically
- Provide them information: Share information with them before others so they have the inside scoop
- Engage them offline: Introduce yourself; build a positive and productive relationship
The future success of your nonprofit will be fueled by the relationships you build and stories you tell. Your supporters—influencers, event participants, donors, volunteers and advocates— are your most valuable storytellers. It’s your job to educate and train your supporters and to provide platforms and opportunities that empower them to speak on your behalf.