Content. Content. Content. You know you need to produce it quickly, prolifically and affordably, but even that is not quite enough, because the content also has to be good.
The demand and pressure is enough to send some communications pros into a tailspin, but what if you could get ahead of the curve and into a proactive place of calm?
What if you could build a bank of content that could help you fill your channels with engaging stories for a whole year?
Mikayla Colthirst-Reid and Sunali Swaminathan are communications professionals with International Justice Mission (IJM) Canada – and they’re doing all of the above. Their work with IJM Canada, a non-profit organization, focuses on raising awareness for human rights issues in the developing world – however, the methodology they use to tell their stories can be applied to any industry.
Here are their 5 tips and tricks to plan, write, post and promote great stories.
1. Start by Understanding Who Your Story’s Central Characters Are
According to Sunali, one of the keys to unlocking the right ‘storytelling formula’ is to understand who your central ‘characters’ are.
“We know who the different people are who are essential ‘characters’ in the story of our organization,” Sunali says. “Essentially, for us, there are three: the local authorities, the clients we’re trying to help and the donors. When we write stories, we write to speak to each perspective.”
“Our stories also highlight the chain of action that involves all of them, (e.g. a donor’s activity helps mobilize a field worker who then rescues a vulnerable group). If one character is missing, such as the donor, nothing is happening.”
“And we follow that same format on social as well,” adds Mikayla. “Each role is therefore highlighted as critical and we want them to know that ‘because you did X, that’s why Y happened.”
2. Map the Broader Conversational Themes and Highlight the ‘Special’ Ones
“When we sit down to map for our content for the year, we start by asking our team members what’s going on at certain times (e.g. quarters/months/days). We then discuss what kind of stories would resonate with those timely ‘themes,’” says Sunali.
“Following with our themes, we have monthly mailing stories, there’s a monthly email, a monthly landing page update as well as social posts that I push out,” says Mikayla.
“We also look through the catalogue of stories that we already have created and see if some would work better at some times rather than others,” Sunali adds. “For example, a mother and daughter story would be saved to be released on Mother’s Day. However, some other occasions, like International Women’s day would be especially relevant to us because our organization addresses gender-based violence – and we may highlight our connection to the celebration in our social posts.”
3. Be Open to New Opportunities for Conversation
“Having a framework for how we tell stories is useful, but you also have to appreciate that your plan might change and you will need to adapt,” Mikayla says. “Something might happen in the world or the media that is relevant to your organization and so you might have to reorganize your communications, but that’s easier to do when you have the support of a content bank.”
4. Have Style Guidelines but Adapt Your Communications to the Medium
“We try to make our storytelling as active as possible, using a lot of active language and talking directly to the audience member,” says Sunali, adding that there is value in providing the same information in many different ways, so that each kind of content consumer can get the message – regardless of the medium.”
“In print, mail and email campaigns we always tell the whole story. However, we balance long format storytelling by bolding out pieces of the content so people can get the essence at a glance,” she says. “We always talk about the cause, the action and the result. Powerful imagery and stats are also woven in, to provide shorter pieces of content that still convey a lot of information.”
5. Social Posts Follow a Narrative
“I’m very much experimenting with building a narrative in social media,” Mikayla says. “This includes playing with curating content to find what gets high engagement.”
“For our content, if we have the full story blog, I’ll create a social post with just a couple lines and an image to draw people in. It could be something as simple as “Rescue” with an image and link to read the full story. These kinds of posts tend to get a lot of engagement and shares.”
“However I also build in links to articles and content from others (curated) that touch on the stories we deal with. This helps to inform audiences about the wider story that’s unfolding globally, and acclimatize people to the issues and why they should care,” she says.
Want more inspiration?
Check out the Sound Stories Podcast Episode ‘Getting Creative on a Creative’s Budget,’ for more from Sunali and Mikayla, as well as a wide range of other expert storytellers from a diversity of industries.
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