Facts May Be Holding You -- And Your Mission -- Back

by Jim Verzino

If you’re going to get people to spread your message and hand over their money, you need to give them a good story.

As a Social Entrepreneur (SE), you've probably got a great story, but telling it may be a bit complicated. Depending on your business model, the people using your products or services might not be the same as the ones funding your activities. And your approach to solving a social problem may not be intuitively obvious to those who don't have a deep understanding of the issue.

It's tempting (and familiar) to rely on facts to explain a social good mission or proposition. We've all heard the climate change crisis explained by degrees of temperature in graphs and charts. But nothing makes you sit up and take notice like those images of New York City half under water that made the rounds on social media recently.

The numbers are important, but they don't tell the story. If you build your narrative out of statistics, it will fall flat and fail to deliver the results you need.

So what are the crucial differences between the far too common fact-based narrative and a story that can deliver messaging magic? Here are some keys :

  • Stories have characters - Real people (or animals for that matter) that have things happen to them.

  • Stories are visual – People hearing or reading the story can get a picture in their head about what is happening to the character(s).

  • Stories have an arc – Characters exist in one state (usually a bad one), something happens (like they use your service), and because of that they enter a new higher state.

Humans generally don’t remember facts and figures. They do remember people and pictures. That's why stories are sticky.

If you want to succeed, you've got to paint a picture in the minds of your clients, investors, and partners that shows them the good things that will happen when they spend their money and energy with you.

A few years ago, I helped the team at Ruralogic, Inc. turn a complex message into a sticky story. We used white board video, which is a pretty affordable medium, to get their message embedded into the minds of the people that mattered to their success.This helped them grow from a good idea into a great enterprise that will get more than 2,000 displaced workers jobs in underserved communities.

Here's a glimpse of how we did that:

We could have said . . .

“There are 8 million jobs unfilled and 12 million people out of work in the US. Costs are lower in struggling and rural communities. We use these factors to help bridge the gap between these two seemingly irreconcilable issues related to the skills gap.”

. . . but that wouldn't stick.

Instead we showed how Ted the IT Executive made himself feel good while uplifting his fellow humans and helping his company meet its bottom line.

Stories are fuel for social enterprise success. You need to inspire people to pay for your stuff and use your services. If they don't, you won't make it. So go ahead, tell them a story.

Do you know how to rise above fact-based narratives and design a story that sticks? Take a look here.

Jim Verzino teaches businesses to walk lightly and have a better impact. In his free time he plays the white board. Get to know him.

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