(Image by Flickr user Yau Hoong Tang, used via a Creative Commons license)
Capture Greatness! founder Melissa Rowe‘s column, Social Good and the Solopreneur, is dedicated to local change makers who are doing their part to make their corner of the world a better place. Melissa will discuss launching passion projects to build businesses on shoestring budgets and with a single-person army.
One thing I’ve learned along my entrepreneurial path is that our stories matter.
A couple of weeks ago, I served on a panel discussing storytelling for social impact. The room was filled with people from across the city, looking for advice on how to better communicate what they do so that they can bring in new donors, clients and supporters. As I shifted in my seat, trying to figure out if my planned response was too simple to be stated, I realized that I could work through self-doubt and say what was true for me or I could take the easy way out and just let the other panelists speak. But by being quiet, what would I have been robbing the audience of? My voice. My experience. My story.
People will relate to you, your work and your business through the stories you tell. And if you want to have a fighting chance as a solopreneur, it’s better you tell your story than let others speak in your place.
Not sure where to find your best stories? Here are some tips on how you can put stories to work for your business.
Give Your Business a Persona
We solopreneurs tend to see our companies as an extension of ourselves, not giving it room to develop a voice or identity other than our own. So when it’s time to tell stories about our work, our scope can become limited.
Do yourself a favor and give your business a persona of its own. Assign it a gender, give it a nickname and keep a record of its accomplishments. Ask questions like: “What was a pivotal moment for the business?” “Who does it aim to serve?” “Why does its mission matter to our community?”
This technique will help you develop stories from a variety of sources. You will have your personal narratives, your clients’ narratives and your business’ narratives. Each one will have a different voice and different objectives, which is good because it keeps your audience engaged as they get to know you and your work. Local t-shirt company, Shirt Citizens, does a great job at sharing narratives from multiple perspectives for its Shirts4Good grant.
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Find Your Specialty
Oftentimes, especially in the social good sector, we hear the same kinds of stories over and over. Usually, organizations and businesses with bigger budgets and marketing teams dominate traditional media with their stories.
But like every good movie, no protagonist saves the day without a strong supporting cast. Perhaps, your company is a supporting cast member — a vital piece to the equation that most people aren’t paying enough attention to. See how Temple sets itself apart with its new campaign.
You can capitalize off of your specialty and pitch stories from this particular perspective. Whatever that key element is that your company possesses, you should leverage it in your business narratives to help your audience understand what makes you special to the social impact scene.
Tell Stories with Numbers
Numbers are important. In a space that might be crowded with words and similar initiatives, numbers help organizations set themselves apart. Every solopreneur needs, at least, two sets of numbers to help shape their narratives.
The first set are statistics. Statistics paint a landscape-style picture for your company’s work. They tell the story of why the work you do is necessary and important. Do some research and find good statistics that shows that your work is tackling a real problem.
Paint the worst-case-scenario picture. Some of the best stories to tell are those that appeal to the human emotions of outrage, disgust and empathy. When people are emotionally charged with uncomfortable feelings, they are more likely to take action.
The second set of numbers you will need are your impact numbers. If you have a donor trying to decide between your organization and a competitor, they will probably back the organization with the stronger track record. Quantify what you do, to help others easily assess your impact.
For instance, if you run a tutoring program, you could tally:
- How many hours of hands-on help your staff has provided in the past year.
- The percentage of your students who increased their test scores by a letter grade or more.
- The number of students you serve annually through your numerous services.
Philabundance helps every visitor to its website understand the issue and its impact, using numbers.
Put a Face on It With Images
You know that old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? There’s a reason we still use it. Some of the best stories are the ones that simply tell themselves. You don’t need 50 million words and three consecutive exclamation points when you have the right image.
One practice we can all benefit from is taking more pictures along our professional journey. Try to capture everything — moments of the work being done, prepping for work to get done, and reactions in response to the outcome. Remember, opportunities to tell stories exist all of the time. Use high-resolution photos with your social media posts, on your blog and to accompany website copy, like CORA does.
Create a Call to Action
Good stories make us want to act. We might shed a tear, change our way of thinking, or simply strive to do better tomorrow, but the point is don’t leave your audience not knowing what to do. When we want to build our team, get more funding or close a contract, it’s important to show the other party exactly where they fit.
With two volunteers, can you plant double the number of trees in half the amount of time it would take you alone? With one $60 donation can you provide enough food to feed three families for a month in an under-resourced region?
After you share a moving story, remember to give people an entry point to action. You’ve already told them why they want to help, now tell them exactly how they can help. Check out how it’s done over at The Monkey & Elephant Café.-30-
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