The advocacy community has gone mad for story. But stories are only as strong as the latest retelling. While compelling characters and evocative details give our stories life, it is email subject lines, tweets, Facebook posts, and headlines that give them legs.
The best stories have a clear message—or moral—that can be repeated over coffee or conveyed in 140 characters. And the messages that move tend to inspire and empower.
In today’s web 2.0 world, our supporters are the most powerful communications asset we have. Broadcast mediums are shrinking, and people are turning to social networks for information about everything from politics to human rights. But the social web is awash in content, and the only way to break through the noise is to build a chorus of voices carrying your tune.
Stories represent a vast improvement over the facts and figures we used to rely on to convince people to pay attention to our issues. Cognitive research has shown that stories circumvent our nitpicky critical brains and connect to feelings, which are the key engaging supporters as evangelists, and, ultimately, to changing hearts and minds.
However, while you might keep an audience rapt for five minutes with a riveting video about the tar sands, or a compelling first-person account of sea-level rise impacts on a coastal community, supporters are unlikely to recount feature-length stories to their friends around the water cooler.
To really engage audiences as activists and ambassadors, you have to equip them with a shareworthy message.
At Resource Media, we have a recipe for creating messages that move people: values+problem+solution. It’s simple enough to work for any medium, and does three key things:
- Builds an emotional connection
- Describes a clear threat to something we care about
Ends on a hopeful note
The climate community is great at describing the problem. Witness recent headlines about Arctic ice melt, rising food prices, catastrophic wildfires. We have spent the past decade describing the monumental challenge facing mankind in exhaustive detail.
And we have gotten better at connecting climate to values. Rising food prices hit our pocketbooks and dinner plates. Wildfires threaten our safety, homes and families.
It makes a strong case against biofuels—often touted as a greener alternative to fossil fuels. But it takes one solution off the table without offering another. The reader is left feeling frustrated rather than empowered.