We were very proud sponsors of a CharityComms event last week focused on storytelling.  The idea of telling stories might make you think of fictional tales but, as our senior consultant, Kirsty Kitchen, told the audience at King’s College, we are all great storytellers and our stories are fascinating because they are true.

Stories are crucial for a charity as they are what brings its work to life.  They help supporters, donors, volunteers and new audiences identify with what’s happening.  They can often picture themselves in the situation and a well-told story with a beginning, middle and an end will help to keep audiences with you, to find out what happens in the end!

The speakers alongside Kirsty included Judith Barnard, director of strategic communications for Sightsavers.  She shared how they told Winesi’s story to bring to life their ‘A Million Miracles’ campaign.  It’s aiming to raise £30 million in the next three years to fund one million operations to restore people’s sight.  It was a very innovative way to tell the story, harnessing the networks of a blogger, offering live interaction with Winesi’s surgery through Google Hangout and even involving schoolchildren in telling their own stories of how it would be to lose their sight.

It had a clear beginning, middle and an end – which involved a lot of singing and dancing when the bandages were removed – and an emotional return home to the grandson he’d not yet been able to see.  There was many a damp eye amongst us in the hall.

Jo Graham, research director at nfpSynergy, explored the role of research in storytelling and how quantitative and qualitative data can provide the evidence to strengthen the story.  Plus, the need to keep the elements of the story clear and simple – you don’t want it to be a bedtime story and send audiences to sleep!

What made this event so interesting was the range of speakers.  It closed with a presentation from Canon EMEA’s marketing communications director, Nigel Taylor.  We might think the corporate sector doesn’t have much to share with charities that they can make use of, but Nigel proved that isn’t the case.  Canon’s recent campaigns told stories not about products but about events that needed a quality camera to capture them.  Advertising (you’ll have seen the one with the deer wandering the streets at dusk?) draws audiences to Canon’s website and social media channels where the stories are developed and expanded.  And all the while, these stories, as Kirsty pointed out in her opening speech, work as part of the organisation’s overall narrative.

We all tell stories every day and we’re very good at it.  But sometimes it’s a bit more difficult to work out how to tell them for your organisation.  This was a fantastic event for sharing ideas and getting charities to think about how it can work for them.  Of course, if you’d like some help with your storytelling, we’d love to hear from you.  Now, have you heard the one about…

Download free Introduction to effective storytelling.