By Erin Donnelly
Bleary eyed, you open your email inbox first thing in the morning – maybe even before your first cup of coffee. The blue light fills the dark room. The dread creeps. The familiar horror awaits: The clutter has built itself a castle out of your inbox overnight. Again.
Of the many messages you must trudge through in your quest to get your notifications to zero, you have strings of text clear as mud, devoid of such arbitrary niceties as spelling or punctuation. You have the same five senders haunting your inbox whose main message is a lack of forethought (How did you get on their mailing list again?). You, of course, have emails of the “unprecedented” variety. And perhaps worst of all, you have the Frankensteins – cold corporate letters stitched together with the same, tired words brought back from the dead to limp another day.
Exhausted, you stop reading. If you skipped it before, surely now you need that cup of coffee.
Sound familiar? This is the tragedy of communication overflow in the 21st century.
Here’s some good news: Your communications don’t have to meet this tragic fate.
There is a way to break your messaging efforts free from the chains of the dreaded clutter category. The answer is storytelling through strategy.
This year, for your PAC or advocacy program, tell a story that endures. Tell a story built on a foundation of strategy.
Below are six key steps to the strategy of storytelling:
1. Gather information. As communicators, it can be easy to fall into the trap of becoming a “yes man” in an attempt to showcase our amenability. However, there is another way to provide more value to your program: Be the one to ask questions first and agree second. The critical first step to telling any story is to dig beneath the tactical request by asking the hard questions upfront. Think like a journalist. Create a go-to discussion guide with a list of pre-prepared questions, gather the necessary background information and context, and then identify any flaws in the request before you begin. Telling the right story means first asking the right questions.
2. Set an objective. You wouldn’t call a meeting without a purpose (hopefully), and the same goes for crafting a communication. We owe it to our audiences to not add to the clutter without good reason. A simple way to do this is to ask what you want your communication to make your audience know, feel and do before hitting send. You can also implement SMART Goals; this is a more data-centric goal setting method focused on creating objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
3. Assess the audience. How you tell your story depends on who you are telling it to. As humans, we like the sound of our own voices – or to put it more aptly, the look of our own words on the page. But here’s the truth: It doesn’t matter how we want to say something, it matters how our audience wants to hear it. The big question we all need to ask is: What does our audience care about and how do we make them care about what we have to say? One of the best ways to more astutely accomplish this is to target your audience. The more accurately you can tailor a story to a person, the greater your results will be. As the saying goes: Communications optimized for everyone struggle to be relevant to anyone.
4. Craft key messages. In our virtual world, the story you tell your audience throughout the year is how they experience your PAC or advocacy program. Key messages are the themes that anchor this story. To craft the best key messages, and package them attractively, collaborate with your team! More importantly, collaborate with the realization in mind that the same old approach isn’t getting the same old results anymore. To break through the clutter, we must let go of past habits to encourage creative, innovative ideas. You’ll never know how saying something differently might get you different results. Strive to be different and strive to be heard.
5. Select the channel. Resist the urge to default to email. Selecting your channel should be an element of the strategy you analyze as thoroughly as your audience. The strength of having so many channels to choose from, is that different channels speak to different people. Research shows readers need 6-12 touches before they remember the information you send them. Putting your message out multiple times through a mix of channels expands your narrative and your chances of being heard. Even if it’s not the first time you’ve sent the message, simply sending it through a different channel might be the first time your audience truly sees it.
6. Measure results. Measurement doesn’t mean assessing if you’ve failed or succeeded. It means learning. At its essence, it is an evaluation of your initial strategy. By looking at the results of a communication and measuring it against the objective you set at the beginning of the process, you can discover what worked and what didn’t about your story’s strategy – and then do better next time. The good news is you don’t have to be perfect on attempt number one. That’s what the data is for! Our stories can and should be evolving. This makes measuring throughout your entire storytelling journey, and not waiting until the end, essential. If you keep an ear to the ground, your audience will inform you of what the story should be. You only have to listen.
With these six strategic steps, you have the tools to make your story a success. Leave the tragedy to Shakespeare.
Ready to tell your story? Let us help! Get in touch today at 866-521-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin Donnelly is the lead copywriter at Sagac Public Affairs. Erin loves telling and developing great stories for America’s top companies and associations. She specializes in entertaining, attention grabbing content that leads to action. From ideation to execution, she delivers creative and compelling copy that gives clients’ communications a powerful voice. By utilizing context and market research, she strategically tailors messages to each specific audience, optimizing the effectiveness of every communication.