Have You Been Telling Stories Again?
Remember when your Mom would warn you against telling stories – like it was a bad thing? Well I’m here to tell you that stories are not only good – they’re absolutely essential to the success of any program, venture, non-profit or brand. They’re key in building community engagement and adoption, they build customer loyalty, advance mission and they connect people to something greater than themselves.
Stories are so important that most program evaluations, grant reviews, awards programs and the like, make specific provisions for how well an initiative shares its story for the purposes of sustainability and best practices. (If you don’t have time to read this whole post, you can jump to the Bottom Line Takeaway.)
Take for instance the naming in 2016 of Columbus as the USDOT’s Smart City Challenge winner for advanced transportation. While many of the 78 original applicants focused on how advanced transportation would help move people in and out of their downtowns with less congestion, or how freight could be more efficiently moved from Point A to Point B, the Columbus proposal focused on one of Mayor Ginther’s highest priorities – reducing infant mortality.
The Columbus proposal elaborated on the life-threatening challenges of infants born in the distressed neighborhood of Linden and how potential advances in everything, from traffic signaling systems to the development of an electronic platform integrating physician appointment re-scheduling with transit tracking, could support the goal of reducing infant mortality 40 percent by 2020.
Another distinguishing plank of the successful Columbus bid was the city’s commitment to collaborate with the other six finalists (Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco) to find ways of formally sharing best practices and helping other mid-sized cities across America replicate their success.
This ability to communicate and transfer knowledge is a core tenant of almost every economic development platform.
Main Street America, a national network of over 2,000 historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts, includes four key points in its approach to economic revitalization: design, organization, vitality and promotion.
Every year, the State Science and Technology Institute (SSTI) recognizes technology-based economic development organizations through its Creating a Better Future Awards program. One of the key considerations, Transferability of Lessons Learned, is weighted as 20% of the judges’ score. It is second only to Impact and is weighted higher than Partnerships, Context, Innovativeness and Ability to Achieve Vision.
In 2015, Columbus was named the Intelligent Community of the Year by the international think tank, Intelligent Community Forum (ICF).
The ICF considers Advocacy as one of the key indicators of an Intelligent Community, equally as important as the other indicators including: Broadband, Knowledge Workforce, Innovation and Digital Equality.
In fact, on its site, the ICF says:
“Advocacy is the energy that powers every other element of the Intelligent Community. It is in some ways the most complex and challenging aspects of community development, but it is essential.
“Successful advocacy provides the foundation for the community’s public identity in its outreach to the world. It energizes economic development, investment attraction and business generation, because the community has built a unique vision of its character and its future. In their own eyes, its people are no longer just living in one community among hundreds of thousands like it. They are in the best place to live, work, start a business, raise a family and pass their heritage to the next generation.”
The problem is – organizations never seem to get around to telling their stories effectively. They develop amazing, life-changing, business-catipulting programs – then stop. Maybe it’s Midwestern modesty – maybe it’s a lack of understanding of the power of sharing stories and best practices, maybe it’s just because it’s hard work – and after all that amazing program development, there’s no more energy left for the telling of the tale.
Bottom Line Takeaway
Successful organizations, brands and businesses implement innovative practices, leveraging everything from advanced technology platforms, to face-to-face interactions, to engage stakeholders and gain customer adoption. Stories are the most powerful way of achieving this engagement. When stories are easy to remember and easy to share, your stakeholders become ambassadors capable of amplifying your message more effectively than all types of media combined.
For a free 30-minute brainstorming session on putting your story to work, contact us.