While Solo PR Pros know the value of storytelling, Lisa Gerber has made it her superpower. In her recent newsletter (you can sign up here) she talked about the power of story. I could not stop thinking about it and am thrilled that she is allowing us to repost on the blog today. Read on for the full post.
There is a buffalo on a ranch I drive by almost every day. I’m not sure, but the buffalo looks sad and lonely. I wish it were free to roam around and that it had friends.
It’s not always there, but on the days I do see it, I look away. Why? Because I don’t know what or if there is anything I can do to help it. What would I do? Pull into the ranch and ask to speak to the property owner and ask how he cares for his buffalo (when I don’t know the first thing about these matters, no less). Maybe it doesn’t need my help. Maybe on the days I don’t see it, it’s in another pen frolicking with its girlfriend! Or perhaps its owner is taking it out for a walk.
I look away because I have no understanding of the situation, and I feel helpless to do anything about it.
Homelessness, healthcare equity, animal welfare, conservation. These are just four of the many challenging messages we want people to care about. They are four lonely buffalos who need the help and involvement of each person driving by.
And if we don’t give these people driving by the information they need to slow down and do something, they will look away.
Think about how your stories are getting them to a deeper understanding of the situation and the small steps that give them hope they can be part of the solution; they will look away when confronted by you.
These are urgent messages with much at stake, and leaders struggle to find the right balance in the delivery of the message – they don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, but at the same time, does a positive message drive action?
If we turn to the research to get answers, we get mixed messages.
Studies show that people are likely to check out on negative messages (we look away when the buffalo is out). Other studies show pessimistic stories increase risk perception.
What does your gut say?
Here’s what I know:
People need enough information to understand the situation, and they need to know what is at stake – what happens if we do nothing?
And they need to know solutions are possible. And that our small contribution can make a difference (and what that contribution is precisely).
People look away when faced with fear and guilt because they feel helpless.
They act on anger and hope: when we know our actions can make a difference.
We would love to hear how you use the power of story in your work. Share in the comments below or continue the conversation on social media (#solopr). And if you want to tap into Lisa’s superpower, reach out to her to chat about her half-day workshops.