As it says on my About page, stories are at the heart of nonprofit communications, but even in technical and business materials, there are stories to motivate your constituents in exactly the right way. The best part of my job is telling stories, from “a day in the life of a network administrator” to the saga of a mother who overcame substance abuse and was reunited with her children.
Years ago, someone asked me what I would do with my writing skills if I didn’t have to earn a living.
I responded that I would collect and write people’s life stories. At the time, I was working on the life story of a woman who had escaped from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. She and her family became “boat people.” A version of that story was published in a local paper and in the Catholic Charities newsletter. Obviously, she and her family had extraordinary experiences and their saga left a deep impression on me.
But my dad taught me that anyone’s life can be interesting.
There aren’t any “ordinary people” or “ordinary lives.” My dad spent much of his spare time in coffee shops around Oakland, asking questions of strangers, friends, and strangers who became friends. He talked to millionaires and homeless people, cops and ex-cons, truck drivers and salesmen, immigrants from every corner of the world, and anybody else who had time for a cup of coffee. I was constantly surprised at the things he heard, especially the hard roads people had traveled and the courage they showed along the way.
I inherited his love of stories.
And I do think they have an important role in business. I jotted down a few examples; maybe you can add some more ideas in the comments section.
In my work today, this is where I find the highest value and interest: communicating how a product, service, or charitable act has really affected how people think, work, and live.
Bonus read: One of the best posts I’ve read this summer is about how to integrate stories into social media marketing. Please check it out.