With storytelling such a powerful way to motivate people to take action, it’s strange to think that it’s only really in recent years that it has risen to the fore as an important skill for charities – and other consumer-facing organisations – to have.
To examine how it first grew from zero to hero in the marketing world, LinkedIn in fact charted its rise over one key 12-month period, from August 2011 to 2012, using its member data to plot how, in just this short time, a momentum was created that has seen storytelling take the position it has today as a valued skill and an important campaign tool.
Looking at its data, LinkedIn found that in early summer 2011, practically no marketers listed storytelling as a skill on their profile. Jump to two years later however, and almost a quarter of a million marketers did so: 7% of all marketers worldwide.
So what changed? Well, according to LinkedIn, what began as a buzzword that wasn’t taken particularly seriously started to gain more prominence in August 2011 when Coca-Cola launched its Content 2020 strategy, which saw the brand state its aim of moving from creative excellence to content excellence, listing storytelling as something it wanted to evolve.
Ears perked up. By January 2012, 5,000 marketers listed storytelling as a skill on LinkedIn. By February branded content featured in a new Cannes Lions award and that number had jumped to 10,000. The story continues: a high profile and later Cannes award-winning Chipotle ad, books on the subject including the reissue of a Seth Godin classic, media coverage, and more, until by August 2012, 25,000 marketers had listed storytelling as one of their key skills on LinkedIn.
Since then of course, it has continued to grow and to be recognised as a serious marketing discipline, and what’s clear is its immense value for charities.
Storytelling is something any charity can do, because every charity has compelling stories to tell about the difference they are making, powered by supporter donations.
It also doesn’t have to cost the earth. Mind for example lets people tell their own stories through blogs, promoted on social media:
Cornwall’s own ShelterBox gets its workers to do short vlogs for social media from where they are working, explaining the situation, and what they are doing to help thanks to supporter donations:
Dogs Trust also uses social media to show the impact of its work, telling lovely inspiring stories about the dogs it has rehomed from the animal’s perspective, using photos provided by their owners. The stories very neatly explain how the charity helped that individual animal – which of course couldn’t have been achieved without supporters’ donations – and the happy ending of its new forever home.
The Donkey Sanctuary uses social media too, promoting its compelling stories about donkeys it has rescued, and driving traffic to its site where it posts them in full, often accompanied by Donate Now or Find Out More buttons to make it easy for those inspired to help to do so. It also sends out regular mailings including some of these stories, accompanied by beautiful photos taken at its own sanctuaries.
Of course, what all of these examples have in common is that while they highlight a serious issue – be it mental health problems, abandoned animals, or overseas disasters, they also show what the charity in question is achieving, thanks to the help of supporter donations, managing to draw attention to the need for funds in a positive and motivational way.
What a great way of showing impact and winning support.