Brothas and sistas: While the challenges we face in building a just world might seem endless, one thing remains true—stories have always had the power to touch people’s hearts and minds, and light the way forward.
Throughout history, people from all walks of life who were determined to bring about change have used storytelling not only to persuade, but also as a way to resist. Many of these stories have helped businesses, nonprofits and social movements rewrite the dominant script to give voice to the voiceless and vision to the unseen.
But here’s the thing: Even though social justice has so much potential, a lot of times the stories about it just don’t hit the mark. They end up sounding like disconnected rants that don’t really resonate with people.
There is a better way.
By understanding how people naturally process information, and crafting your communications accordingly, you can ensure your words resonate and empower action.
In this post, we share three storytelling frameworks from the fields of journalism, business and social movements that you can apply to your social enterprise’s blog. Using these frameworks gives both you and your cause the storytelling advantage. We also want to caution against one classic blunder many organizations often stumble into.
By adopting these storytelling best practices, together we can spread new stories of possibility far and wide.
One of the most impactful types of blog posts is the human-interest story, a form of storytelling that capitalizes on our inherent curiosity about the conditions and experiences of others.
A human-interest story is a type of narrative that focuses on the experiences and emotions of real people, rather than just facts or statistics. These stories are effective in creating impactful blog posts because they have the power to evoke empathy and connection from readers.
By highlighting personal struggles, victories and experiences, human-interest stories bring a sense of relatability and humanity to complex social issues. They also allow readers to see themselves in the story and understand how they can make a difference in their own lives.
One successful human-interest story is featured on the website for the Equal Justice Institute, where they tell the personal journey of a man named Walter McMillian who was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. The story talks about Walter’s relentless pursuit of justice, aided by Bryan Stevenson and his organization.
Their collaborative efforts ultimately resulted in Walter becoming one of the first people to be exonerated from death row in modern times.
Notably, his case garnered significant media attention and subsequently contributed to the release of numerous innocent people who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.
This powerfully told story not only sheds light on the systemic issues within the criminal justice system, but it also humanizes the individuals affected by it.
A human-interest story typically follows a narrative structure, similar to that of a novel or movie. This helps to engage the reader and keep them invested in the story until the end:
- Lead (Introduction): The story begins with a compelling lead that hooks the reader. This could be a provocative question, a startling fact, or a brief anecdote that encapsulates the essence of the story.
- Setting: Next, provide the setting of the story. This includes the time, place, and context in which the events take place.
- Characters: Introduce the main characters in the story, especially the protagonist. The characters should be well-developed and relatable to the audience.
- Conflict: The conflict forms the crux of the story. This is the problem or challenge that the protagonist is faced with. The conflict should be compelling enough to hold the reader’s interest.
- Plot: This is the sequence of events that unfold in the story, leading to the resolution of the conflict. The plot should be coherent and logical, with each event building upon the previous one.
- Resolution: This is the climax of the story, where the conflict is finally resolved, and the protagonist achieves their goal.
- Conclusion: The story concludes with a summary of the main points and a reflection on the lessons learned. The conclusion should leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction and closure.
- Call to Action: If applicable, the story can end with a call to action, encouraging the reader to engage further with the issue at hand.
Breaking News/Reaction Story
A breaking news or reaction story is a timely report of events as they occur. For social enterprises, this narrative style serves as a powerful tool to announce new initiatives, partnerships or accomplishments.
The essence of a reaction story lies in its immediacy—it’s about delivering fresh information to the audience as promptly as possible.
- Start by stating the news clearly and concisely at the beginning of the story.
- Follow up with important details such as who is involved, what exactly happened or is planned to happen, when and where it took place, and why it is significant.
- Next, incorporate reactions from relevant stakeholders, like team members, partners, beneficiaries or industry experts. This can provide additional perspectives and create a more engaging narrative.
- Remember, while the news itself is vital, the way it is presented can significantly impact how your audience views it. Therefore, it’s crucial to strike a harmonious balance between delivering news promptly and ensuring the story is well-structured, coherent, and captivating.
- Finally, always verify the facts before publishing. In the rush to break the news, don’t compromise on the accuracy and credibility of your story.
A prime example of a breaking news story used by a social enterprise is the one published on the Lawyers for Civil Rights’ blog.
The organization, which is dedicated to combating social injustice through legal action, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Harvard on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning affirmative action within college admissions.
The blog post began with the compelling headline, “Federal Civil Rights Complaint Challenges Harvard’s Practice Of Giving Preferential Treatment In Admissions To Children of Wealthy Donors and Alumni.” This type of headline immediately communicates the news and its significance.
The story then gave a detailed account of the unfolding event—the organization’s legal action against Harvard for its alleged discriminatory practice of favoring applicants with familial ties to wealthy donors and alumni in the admissions process. The blog post featured comments from Lawyers for Civil Rights leaders and gave a shoutout to the other organizations that are backing the lawsuit, which provides a multi-dimensional view of the action.
Overall, the blog post made an impactful and compelling case that Harvard’s admissions practices significantly favor white applicants, consequently disadvantaging people of color.
Their entire argument highlights a deep-rooted problem within our nation’s education system, where students of color, regardless of their academic abilities, are frequently marginalized as a result of institutional practices.
The story wasn’t just about sharing facts, it had a powerful message calling out those discriminatory practices in education.
It concluded with a link to the lawsuit so people can make up their own minds whether the case has any merit. This blog post effectively used the immediacy of the breaking news story format to bolster the organization’s advocacy efforts and engage its audience in meaningful action.
Thought Leadership Piece
Thought leadership, in essence, is the creation and sharing of insightful, industry-specific content that establishes an organization or individual as an expert in their field. It’s about leveraging knowledge and expertise to answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.
This type of content, often delivered through blogs, articles, whitepapers, webinars or speaking engagements, helps to build trust and credibility with a target audience.
It also positions the author or organization as a reliable source of information.
From an SEO perspective, thought leadership plays a crucial role.
A high-quality, relevant and authoritative piece content not only attracts more visitors to a website, but it also encourages other sites to link back to your content, which improves your site’s search engine ranking.
Additionally, search engines like Google prioritize content that offers value to users. Therefore, well-researched and expertly crafted thought leadership content can significantly boost a site’s SEO performance.
Moreover, for social enterprises, thought leadership is particularly impactful. By positioning yourself as an authority in your respective field, your organization can attract more attention and funding, foster partnerships, and drive systemic change.
Choosing relevant keywords for your thought leadership pieces is a data-driven exercise that involves understanding your audience, what they are searching for, and how they are searching for it.
- Start by using SEO tools to research keywords related to your field or topic. These tools can provide valuable insights into search volumes, keyword difficulty and competitiveness.
- Once you’ve identified potential keywords, consider their relevance to your content and audience. The chosen keywords should naturally fit within the context of your content and align with the information needs of your audience.
- Incorporating these keywords into your thought leadership pieces should be done strategically and thoughtfully. You should place the keywords in the title, headings, subheadings, introductory sentences, concluding paragraphs and meta descriptions. However, it’s important to maintain a natural flow in your content. Overstuffing your content with keywords, known as keyword stuffing, can lead to a poor user experience and can potentially harm your SEO ranking.
- To make your thought leadership pieces engaging and valuable, consider using data, personal experiences or expert opinions. Data adds credibility to your content and helps to cement your arguments. Personal experiences provide authenticity and relatability, while expert opinions lend authority.
By including these elements, you can really make your content stand out and grab people’s attention. This will not only increase the chances of your content being shared but also give a boost to your SEO performance.
Limiting Blog Posts Promoting Your Social Enterprise: Why it Matters
Now, let’s talk about a big mistake to avoid when creating blog posts for your organization: Only talking about yourself.
Limiting the number of blog posts promoting your social enterprise can help you avoid coming across as too self-promotional.
While it’s important to showcase the work and achievements of your organization, constantly bombarding your audience with promotional content can make them feel like they are being sold to rather than informed or engaged with. This can lead to a negative perception of your enterprise and may even deter potential supporters or customers.
Instead, by carefully selecting the timing and frequency of your promotional posts, you can strike a balance between promoting your organization’s work and maintaining a genuine connection with your audience.
Moreover, limiting promotional blog posts also allows room for other types of content that can showcase different aspects of your social enterprise. This could include informative articles, success stories, behind-the-scenes peeks, and even interactive elements such as polls or quizzes.
By diversifying your content, you can provide a more well-rounded view of your organization and its impact, and keep your audience engaged and informed in different ways.
So there you have it: Three powerful storytelling frameworks that can elevate your social enterprise’s blog and captivate your audience.
Whether you opt for the human-interest approach or the fast-paced breaking news narrative, or establish your brand as a thought leader with insightful commentary, each framework possesses unique strengths that can be customized to suit your organization’s message.
But remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Don’t fall into the trap of constantly promoting your social enterprise through every single blog post.
Instead, use these frameworks strategically to showcase not only your organization but also the stories of those impacted by it.
And, no matter what, keep telling your story because it matters more than you know.
High-quality, relevant visuals play a pivotal role in enhancing the impact of storytelling in blogging for social enterprises.
Visuals can evoke emotions, prompt engagement and significantly boost comprehension. Rather than using generic stock images or leaving your posts devoid of photos, take the time to find or create meaningful visuals that align with your organization’s brand and the story you’re telling.
Images of your team in action, GIFs, infographics or even user-generated content can provide a more authentic, compelling visual story.
These images not only break up text-heavy posts and make them more digestible. They also play a crucial role in helping readers connect with your message on a deeper level.
Remember, people remember 80% of what they see compared to only 20% of what they read, so let your visuals speak volumes.