Storytelling is an ancient art. This post is not about the ancient art of storytelling. It’s about playing the supporting role in other people’s stories.
Take the example of Nike Plus. By setting up an online platform, Nike played the supporting role in millions of people’s stories about how they were losing weight and becoming better runners. This was a story that their audience desperately wanted to tell so with the opportunity to share their story, people were also happy to ‘share their dollar(s)’ with Nike by buying their products. Read How Nike’s Social Network Sells to Runners for more on the success of this campaign.
Kiva.org is an excellent example of a not-for-profit organization that has built a beautiful platform for sharing stories – entrepreneur’s from the developing world share their stories with Kiva (and their partners), then Kiva publishes those stories online and their platform allows people to become part of this story by investing in those entrepreneurs. Kiva then continues the story by providing updates to the investor as the entrepreneur pays back the loan and experiences success.
The story of how, by making a small investment as an individual, you can effect meaningful and ongoing social change in the developing world is compelling and it is a great story to tell to your friends and family “I invested $25 dollars in an entrepreneur from Ecuador, to help him buy inventory for his store – he’s paid it all back now and has employed 2 new staff – I’m going to re-invest that money in an entrepreneur from Kenya’. Having heard this compelling story, those family and friends are much more likely to share their dollars through Kiva and then tell all their friends and family about it. By building a platform that brings people together to share in a story, Kiva has created the perfect conditions for those same people to share their dollars and Kiva’s story.
In this way, playing a supporting role in story-telling can be a powerful tool for organizations and nonprofits to engage more people in their own story. When devising your communications strategy don’t just think about the story you want to tell, think about the story your audience wants to tell and how your organization could support them to tell it. You don’t need a big budget to build a platform, think about ways you could utilize your existing platform, blog, email newsletter or social media updates to support your audience to tell their story with you in the supporting role.
As an aside, I got the title of this post from the intro to ‘How to Make it in America’ which I’ve got a bit addicted to – but it illustrates the point well – New York City plays the supporting role in millions of peoples stories and this is what makes it the subject of so many stories!