The most effective way for an organisation to tell its story, establish its value and build support, is by demonstrating the impact it has on real people. Facts and figures are important, but we respond more powerfully when we hear about, and connect with, other individuals. This is true whether we are reading a leaflet, website, tweet, blog or newspaper article, whether we are looking at still or moving images, or whether we are listening to radio news bulletins or podcasts.

For many of our projects at Amazon, we spend time gathering and creating content to be communicated. Commissioning research, highlighting compelling statistics, crafting key messages and enlisting expert spokespeople are important, but case studies are often the real gems.

We have written before on creating a library of case studies for use in communications campaigns and many organisations have used the guide on our website.

Because of the nature of our work, our focus has generally been on finding case studies to fit into a defined campaign, to illustrate a pre-determined story, to bring to life an agreed focus. So the search has been restricted by project objectives.

But how about putting those objectives and key messages to one side? How much more interesting and enlightening might it be to let real people and their stories dictate the direction of the campaign?

Increasingly we are working with organisations that are open to engaging service users, residents, grant recipients, volunteers and staff to not just tell, but to shape the story. And we’re coming across others who are empowering community reporters to source content and spread awareness. If the organisation is also one that listens, this engagement work can have the enormous added benefit of influencing service delivery, and indeed its very vision and strategy.

Of course, there is a place for both types of approach. The trick for communications teams is to be open to possibilities and to pull in colleagues from other departments, to make sure they are part of the dialogue. All the more reason for comms to be about engagement and participation. And to be central to a charity’s work, not an add-on or after-thought.

What works for you? Get in touch via the blog or on Twitter @amzpr.