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Emotion and Storytelling: Growing Your Small Business/Non-Profit by Pulling Heartstrings

Is your content worthy of your life story? The life stories of your audience?

You are quite literally spending your life creating content, so ask yourself: Does it enhance the world it lives in? Does it enrich the lives of others? What is your role? To borrow the phrase shared by Cleveland, Ohio, author, journalist, and Content Marketing World presenter Regina Brett, you need to find an opportunity to create content at the intersection of what makes you happy and what the world’s “deep hunger” is.

This inspiring session provided tips for telling emotionally-driven stories:

  1. Aim high: What are your goals and missions? What would your one word be to summarize them? Choose your bulls-eye, pick your target, and create content to serve this.
  2. Be original: Dig for the story within the story. (Does the content support your mission?)
  3. Get very specific: Collect information with an eye to the most important details.
  4. Find the right voice to deliver the content – your genuine voice: Circle the wagons to determine how donors/ customers/ supporters see you (e.g., ask people who actually know, not just the CEO). Then, put a face on that voice with your content.
  5. Choose the right words: As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
  6. Listen wholeheartedly: This may be the hardest step!
  7. Stories keep people alive: Know your audience. Think of one person that you’re writing for.
  8. Use all of your senses: For instance, even video on its own doesn’t engage all the senses (e.g., smell). Get involved and feel the story, then present that richness to your audience using as many senses as you can.
  9. Show me: What are the rich details that show through the content?
  10. Ideas are everywhere: No editing when you brainstorm.
  11. Tell the big story small: What is yours? Is it memorable, like the story of a 14-year-old buying a home? And leave out the parts that others will most likely skip. Instead, go straight to the essence of the story (e.g., pick one angle to begin and end with).
  12. Who tells great stories? Identify these people beforehand.
  13. Create a story box: This is like a suggestion box to encourage stories.
  14. Reward your storytellers: Find ways to incentivize your readers for sharing their stories.

Your story should change people

Finally, Regina offered this reminder: “Don’t allow anyone to prevent you from telling the story you need to tell the world.”

Incidentally, Brett is author of God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours — a book that came from a series of newspaper articles her editors didn’t initially want. Since publication, the book has been translated into a dozen languages.