How to tell stories that move listeners to action

Mwihaki Muraguri
July 23rd, 2018
Article by: Mwihaki Muraguri
How to tell stories that move listeners to action

Stories have power.

 

Power to change mindsets, shift norms, and bring about transformation in how people interact with the world around them.

 

Take a moment and think about it – our understanding of the world is defined by the stories we hear. Whether from the folktales we hear as children, or the videos and snippets we see each day on news or social media, stories surround us and shape our perspectives.

 

Through my work, I use stories to reinforce positive narratives around identity and to bring uncelebrated aspects of my country, Kenya, to the fore. In exploring the power of story a couple of key lessons have stood out for me:

  1. People are hungry for the positive.
  2. Social media is an unprecedented arena for influencing norms and has the potential to be a force for action.
  3. Stories are as powerful now as they were in the past; it’s only our mediums that have changed.

 

Essentially, stories frame our worldview and good stories that are well-told invite us to a place of empathy, understanding, and action.

how to tell stories
Stories have power. Power to change mindsets, shift norms, and bring about transformation in how people interact with the world around them. #storytelling #creativity Click To Tweet

Bring your "why" to life

While reports and data are still valuable tools, enabling people to understand “the why” is more important than ever. Stories play a pivotal role in bringing your “why” to life.

If you want to accelerate and cement your social impact work, tell stories that move people.

Stories that move have three key elements: They’re built on strong emotional engagement, they’re reinforced with a rationale that connects with the daily realities of your listener/or reader, and they have a clear sense of urgency which propels the listener to action.

These elements aren’t always easy to bring to life in conversations about development. For example, ecological resilience can feel quite distant from individual action; the opportunity for change is often unclear and the subject itself seems too abstract for individual action. Therefore, one solution is to reframe the story to close the distance and spark imagination for action into people’s hearts and minds.

Let’s look at three questions which provide a strong foundation for powerful stories that move listeners to action:

If you want to accelerate and cement your social impact work, tell stories that move people. #storytelling #impact Click To Tweet

1. Why are you telling the story?

Why is it important to be heard? Be ruthless in your exploration of these questions; if the importance isn’t clear to you, it won’t be clear to others.

Are you positioning a problem and its solution? Are you sharing a challenge and need others to join your journey? Ask yourself: “Why should the listener care?”

Remember that what you are seeking to build is a connection, and connections to your story happen when you invite your listeners on a shared journey.

2. Who is the audience of your story?

To achieve the change you seek in the world, you need input from your audience. Tailor your story to be understood from their viewpoint, aligning your message with their interests and their ability to make an impact.

Design your story to land with the listener. Whether you’re appealing to the policy maker, the community activist, the climate financier, or the child whose worldview you seek to change, that person needs to be top of mind.

How to tell stories that move listeners to action
Why are you telling a story? Are you positioning a problem and its solution? Are you sharing a challenge and need others to join your journey? Ask yourself: Why should the listener care? Click To Tweet

3. What is your call to action?

When a story has successfully bridged the social space between itself and the listener, the potential for action is triggered.

It all clicks together: our shared humanity, the shared nature of the problem, our mutual responsibility to bring forth a solution, and the clarity of the listener’s role is understood.

What was your story suddenly becomes OUR It calls for the listener’s input, kickstarting a powerful transformation.

From here, you can begin to structure the story, ensuring it has a clear beginning middle and end.

Explore which medium best builds a strong connection with your listener – is it through written narrative, a photo story, documentary, or even an animated feature?

Next, determine who is best to tell your story – and remember that it may not always be from your own perspective or that of your organization.

With these decisions made, you can craft the authentic story that showcases your work, its impact, and the change you invite others to make.

My last words: remember to keep it human, keep it positive, and seed some inspiration. At heart, we all love a good story that evokes hope for our collective and individual humanity.

Happy Storytelling!

 


Mwihaki Muraguri is a Kenyan professional who has built a career in the areas of health, development, and philanthropy. Mwihaki has served varied institutions across the private and non-profit sector including AMREF Health in Africa,  IDRC, the KCB Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

She is currently the Principal of Paukwa Storyhouse, a firm dedicated to using the art of storytelling to celebrate and spotlight the positive aspects of Kenyan history and contemporary life. In addition, Paukwa provides support to organizations seeking to share their stories of impact.

To discover how the power of storytelling can move your audience to action, join the THNK Executive Leadership ProgramDownload the brochure or find out if you qualify.

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