Skip to main content

The Blueprint for a Great Story

Storytelling has quickly become a vital leadership tool in the digital age, something that I have written extensively about in Digital Leadership. Social media and a variety of other technologies allow for the mash-up of text, hyperlinks, audio, images, and video to craft compelling narratives that showcase all that is great in education. The tools we now have available allow for the creation of supercharged stories that can be shared with a vast audience near and far. For these reasons, it is crucial for educators to become the storyteller-in-chief to not only share but, more importantly, to celebrate the work that is done in schools across the globe.

So, what makes a great story? There are many pieces of advice out there that one can peruse through a Google search. However, I believe the image below captures the essence of what not only makes a good story but one that also effectively conveys a powerful message that caters to your stakeholders or a specific group you are targeting.


Let’s take a look at each of these elements that together create a blueprint for a great story.

Audience

It is essential to know for whom you are writing. Depending on your position, this will vary, of course. I like this point from Crystaline Randazzo:
But the truth is you have to give people the kind of content they want in order to keep their attention. And in order to give them what they want, you need to get to know them better. Once you start giving your target audience content they want, they are more inclined to engage with your other content.
Knowing what your audience cares about or is interested in is key, but it is equally as important to listen and understand what they want to hear and how they want to engage in the story. The act of listening will allow you to create a message that has more meaning. Consider their goals and priorities, not just yours. Doing some research on who you are trying to reach and why will also go a long way to crafting an impactful story.

Subtlety 

How you tell a story will make or break it. No one likes bragging — even those who humblebrag stick out like a sore thumb. The key to a great story in education is to make sure the message resonates in a way that doesn’t turn the audience off. To avoid this, make sure you follow the golden rule, which is “show, not tell” from multiple perspectives. Subtleness creates the conditions for more two-way dialogue

Inspiration

It goes without saying that for a story to be remembered and have an impact, it should be inspirational. Tapping into emotions is part art and part science that dramatically impacts not only a connection to the message but also more of a willingness to share it. An article in Scientific American sums it up nicely:
Stories stimulating positive emotions are more widely shared than those eliciting negative feelings, and content that produces greater emotional arousal (making your heart race) is more likely to go viral. This means that content that makes readers or viewers feel a positive emotion like awe or wonder is more likely to take off online than content that makes people feel sad or angry.
Truth

It is easy in today’s digital world to vet anything, including the content, ideas, points, and strategies inherent in any story. Honesty is a virtue, and a lack thereof will discredit both the message and the person conveying it. In other cases, many stories in education just share a positive outcome or point. While this definitely caters to a particular audience, being truthful about the journey and the challenges that are overcome along the will only strengthen the narrative. Substance and results matter in education, and stories should convey as much. 

Promise

In BrandED, we discuss the importance of delivering on a promise to those we serve, most notably our learners. We define this as a compelling core connection to the value educators, school, or district guarantees to their community.  It’s about benefits, not features, that have a unique value and that work to develop pivotal connections with your target audience. So, what does this really mean? Below is an excellent synopsis from Emotive Brand that I have edited slightly:
A contemporary promise articulates an idea that goes beyond the rational benefits that worked in the past and extols a higher-order emotional reward. It’s not a slogan, logo, or headline. It is not, by definition, a public statement (though it can be as long as you and the work truly live up to it). Indeed, its uniqueness and differentiating power comes not from what it says, but how it transforms the way you or your school creates strong and meaningful connections with people.
What the above statement conveys is the blueprint of a great story and how the promise establishes and sustains relationships. The best way to integrate this is to dive into your vision and think about how you can combine mission, goals, personality, values, and results in a deliverable story for stakeholders. 

As you begin to embrace or improve in your role as storyteller-in-chief, I hope this blueprint helps. In the words of the America Press Institute:
A good story is about something the audience decides is interesting or important. A great story often does both by using storytelling to make important news, information, ideas, and events interesting. A good story, however, does more than inform or amplify. It adds value to the topic.
You build relationships by making good stories great. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What Could Be

With the beginning of each new year, it seems like everyone on the planet is either talking about or embarking on some type of resolution. I will be the first one to say that this used to be me each and every year. In almost every case, I tried to commit to something health-related like getting to the gym more or eating better. However, as time has passed, I have reflected on this annual tradition and deemed it to be quite silly in the greater scheme of things. Why should it take the passing of each new year to commit to change on both a professional and personal level? As such, I have not made nor pursued any resolution in many years.

An article by Mary Ellen Tribby in the Huffington Post sums up quite nicely why New Year’s resolutions don’t work:
As a matter of fact according to a study by The University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 39% of people in their twenties achieve their resolution goals each year.
And the number keeps decreasing with age. By the time you a…

Top Posts of 2019

Well, another year of writing has passed, and it was a big one as 2019 marked ten years since I began my blogging journey. To still be churning out posts on a weekly basis is quite the accomplishment for a guy who never wrote nor intended to write for a public audience. For me, the push I needed came from Ken Royal, who, after hearing what we were doing at New Milford High School and then visiting, stated unequivocally that I had to share our story. Well, after begrudgingly agreeing to pen some guest posts for him, I built up my confidence and launched my blog in March of 2019. After that, the rest is history.

Blogging has certainly changed over the past ten years. Back in the day, a typical post would garner numerous comments. They would also serve as a catalyst for vibrant Twitter conversations. Another change has come in the form of developing unique topics or spins on what is already out in cyberspace. For me, in particular, I have experienced a great deal of difficulty trying to d…

The Impact of Single Parent Families

There is a rising pattern in families the country over. The quantity of separation procedures started is mounting and it is auspicious to discuss the effect of families on the youngsters and the organization of the family itself. As a matter of course, the nonappearance of one parent in the family structure negatively affects the connection between the parent and the kid just as their individual associations with society in general. They need to manage partiality busy working or in the network. The lower financial persona that is credited to them to make them an objective of misuse and hardships which ought not be available at all in any case.

The image doesn't become more clear concerning the youngsters. A few investigations have called attention to both present moment and long haul impacts of child rearing. Kids who come up short on the supervision of a male parent for the most part are inclined to wrongdoing, illicit drug use and resistance. A little girl in the family is boun…