The Story Behind Storytelling

I’ve been studying public relations for a few years now, and something I’ve heard over and over again is the importance of storytelling when it comes to a client or your own personal brand. “A story is your key to success”, one professor would say. “Who doesn’t love a great story?” says another. For years now I’ve heard statements such as these, but have never really listened or truly understood the importance of a story. That is until I discovered my passion for nonprofit public relations. The more I look into nonprofit PR, the more I begin to understand this “story behind storytelling” and what it means for nonprofit organizations. In a sense, a nonprofit with a compelling story to tell means the difference between success and failure. The reason for this is quite simple. Nonprofits are entirely dependent on the support and donations from its surrounding community. What does it take gain this public support? A captivating story that grips the audience and refuses to let go. As it turns out, I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

PR News’ annual nonprofit public relations awards took place on March 11, 2013. Over 200 nonprofit communication executives filled the National Press Club Ballroom in Washington D.C. to honor the best of the best in the industry. When President and CEO of American Refugee Committee, Daniel Wordsworth took the stage to give a luncheon keynote, he spoke to the importance of storytelling when it comes to nonprofit public relations. As reported by a PR News article, Daniel thinks that “the greatest stories for nonprofit communicators are the stories that our clients tell—not our stories,” Wordworth stated. “It’s about clients discussing the differences that organizations have made in their lives. Think about the feelings you want people to have as they experience that story with you.” Even more importantly, Wordworth explains that “people need to walk away from stories feeling like wonderful human beings and that they can make a difference in the world.”

To me, Wordworth’s last statement is the very key to any nonprofits’ success. Frankly, a company story that inspires people to change the world will make them want to be a part of it so they can fulfill this urge. Therefore, once an organization can fully establish and connect with its own unique and personal story, it will be able to fully connect with its audience as well.

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