A Story Works.

Story.StoryWorks _logo

It’s potent and personal prose. Tales of tribulation, trial and triumph.

Story composes and captivates us ―  engages and incites us.

Our stories help us communicate more effectively ― adding color, authenticity and heart to our transactions and texture to our lives.

But, what is your story?  

Are you telling . . . or showing?

Is it a report or an experience? Detached or intimate?

Intellectual or visceral?

It’s all in your mind.

The brain is a complex and intricate operating system that calculates, synthesizes and mystifies.  Though we may believe we are making logical, data-based decisions, neuroscientists are recognizing that emotions are truly the catalysts.  In fact, they drive most of our behavior.

Emotions bypass the maze of embedded neural patterns to generate the feelings that guide our actions, choices and behaviors.  In a sense, emotions are the biological lubricant for all our decisions.

Logic is the final step in the process ― delivering the conscious rationalization needed to justify an unconscious impulse.  That’s where mindfulness can play a key role.

Researchers confirm that more than 90% of our behavior is generated outside of consciousness. So, that means we act based on feelings of trust, confidence and connection ― while we actively seek the data necessary to support those feelings.

The challenge is to recognize this and leverage it ― with the power and purpose of story.

As your plot thickens, join me to learn more . . .

 

Making it Matter: The Results

Here is my third and final chapter in my series ― “Inspiring Response: 5 Ways Story Can Turbo-Charge Your Message.” Measure your success and impact ― for the organization, as well as the donor or partner.

wishing-wellThis is where you construct your narrative thread to communicate your relentless commitment to outcomes ― measurable, repeatable and impactful.  Romance and tout your results with authority and conviction. Celebrate the victory, because triumph is compelling. And let you story do the heavy lifting. Make it multisensory, multidimensional and visceral. Help the donor feel and even “be” the result.

What does it look like, feel like, taste like, smell like, sound like? Bring the obstacle, need, conflict and/or solution to life for the reader. Also, what does it mean for the donor and the mission as a whole? This is area the can also include strengthen a sense of connection to purpose and something bigger ― another key motivation for giving. But always, always, always include the prospect, friend, donor or evangelist in the equation ― whether you are able to deliver a “happy ending” or not.  Describe impact with laser intensity.

Make it matter by making it intimate.

Beatriz stood at barely 4 feet 8 inches.

But the petite, slender  widow was pulling the weight of someone twice her size as she stumbled barefoot across the dusty, scorching-hot remote rural road outside a small farm in Bolivia.  She was all alone ― struggling tirelessly to survive . . . a nearly impossible job without access to safe, clean, clear water. A small, hand-dug well was her only source of hydration.

Every day, she hoisted enough 30-pound buckets of water out of the dank, dingy well with a tattered rope to briefly sate her two cows, vegetable garden and her own perpetual thirst. Not only was the water contaminated, but the decaying interior walls were crumbling and collapsing into a thick pile of jagged rock and muck that reeked of rot.

But thanks to the compassion of friends like you, Beatriz is receiving a miracle ― CLEAN, HEALTHY WATER.

Today, her new well, lined with sturdy concrete rings, protects her precious, life-sustaining source from contagion, filth and debris. And a hand pump makes her water easier to retrieve and more hygienic. For Beatriz and others, your gift is quenching more than thirst. You and other generous friends are saving almost 8,000 fragile lives worldwide ― providing hope, health and possibility ― now and for years to come.

So, your captivating story is crafted. What’s next? Well, now you are ready to build the ecosystem to leverage its power ― across platforms, media and constituencies.

Develop a strategic marketing plan that orchestrates owned, paid, shared and earned media buckets. Urgency, calls to action, other testimonials/success stories, social engagement, and effective relationship management are some of the key components. But start with the story. Can’t wait to see how it ends . . .

If you’d like to learn more, reply below. To maximize your appeal, start with the story one.

Inspiring Response: 5 Ways Story Can Turbo-Charge Your Message

writeheart“Story is the DNA of all meaning.”  – Annette Simmons

Do your appeals have undeniable power? Do you enthrall, captivate, motivate ― and drive response?

With only weeks remaining in 2016, the cavalcade of carefully crafted requests will soon commence. For most of us, they will arrive from all points, directions and media ― email, snail mail, APPs, Facebook, texts and tweets. What will grab us? And more important, what will snag the  imaginations of our prospects? What will be deleted? Filed? Ignored? Dismissed? Or worse . . . unnoticed?

Some will be cloaked in gratitude. Others will lament the ubiquitous budget gap or unexpected organizational need. Still others are likely to promote a seductive donor challenge, captivating contest, new initiative, capital effort or recognition group.

But they should all have one thing in common ― a compelling story.

What’s the hook? And I’m not talking about a cheesy advertising gimmick or giveaway.  The power to resonate comes from the human, emotional connection.

Big, looming, seemingly logical organizational problems ― like deficits, shortfalls and even unmet needs are just that. The organization’s problems. As communicators, we must focus on the donor’s or prospect’s needs ― they are often triggered at an imperceptible, emotional and even subconscious level.

Though Marshall McLuhan might argue, the message is just as salient as the medium in this case ― especially given the media miasma engulfing us at every turn.  As I wrote in a prior post, I feel effective messaging must address the entire brain ― engaging the emotional, logical and habitual brain circuits.

Behavioral economist George Lowenstein confirms “our subconscious explains our consumer behavior better than our conscious.  Ninety percent of all purchasing decisions are not made consciously.”

Working as a writer, communicator and crafter of hundreds (maybe thousands) of appeals and calls to action throughout my career to to date, I have identified a few key elements that are absolutely essential.  [Where appropriate, I have changed names to protect client confidentiality

The Pain

This is probably the most important concept. And it’s personal.  What is the emotional state ― or discomfort your message can resolve for the prospect or donor?  According to brain theory, everything begins with an emotional nudge, which connects to the cerebral cortex or executive function of making a decision.  And the most important thing about framing a powerful request or appeal is articulating the pain in an intimate, relatable, visceral way. Compare these two.

        “I was deployed in Saudi Arabia on 9/11 . . . And I can still hear the screams . . .”             

         Corporal John Ray’s* battle-weary voice cracks and catches in his throat.

        “We were in combat overnight . . . and we weren’t prepared,” says the slight, sandy-haired U.S. Army veteran ― as he slowly brushes a single droplet of sweat from his brow. 

       “The nightmares never stop, but I just wish I had enough to eat . . . “

                                                                       (versus)

       “Veteran hunger is a growing problem in America . . . And their struggle is significant.”

The top copy is weaving a human story that’s drawing the reader into a specifically defined conflict ― not a daunting global cause that is difficult to quantify ― or feel. More to the point, one tells and one shows.

The  Problem

The next step is the core challenge or problem.  How does this pain manifest, and how does your organization or operation contextualize the issue you are addressing? Get granular. Explain why is your mission is significant, and why should we care? Again, it’s important to construct a very personal, human narrative. Here’s an excerpt form a letter:

It was January 2007. I was on a mission trip that rattled me to my very marrow ― and ultimately changed my life forever. We brought more than 285,000 nutritious meals for hungry, struggling children who were barely surviving in the war-torn squalor.

Shockingly, the meals ran out too soon. There were just too many suffering, vulnerable girls and boys like Maribel  . . . in such dire need.

 We simply did not have enough to go around . . . All  I could do was stand there and weep. So, I had to do  something. 

Are you hooked?  And better yet . . . are you wondering about the next three components? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for these and other stories. It’s a real cliffhanger . . .

In addition to the five pillars of a great appeal, there are  many other components of your content concoction. Of course, we must artfully integrate urgency, all calls to action, testimonials/success stories, various digital platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) interfaces. But start with this formula. Start with the IMPACT ― and you will definitely turbo-charge your results.

If you’d like to learn more, sign up below. Tell me about your project. Also, watch for the next installment.  Maximize your appeal. It all starts with the story of one.