How to Identify the Best Stories in Your Organization
You have an event, or a new initiative that you’re organization is preparing for and it’s been determined you need a video to help tell the story. You have a laundry list of things you want to say, your boss expects key messages and spokespeople from your organization, board members, supporters, customers and the list goes on. Where do you start? How do you determine who will be in the video? Or even more important, how will it come together and what stories will you tell?
Start with the end
That’s right. The first step is to ask yourself, “what do we want the audience to think and feel at the end of the video?” Will they laugh? Will they cry? Will they feel angry and upset? Inspired? As you close in on the exact emotion, consider what will be the call-to-action after they’ve seen the video and make sure it plays into the emotion of the piece. Keep in mind, people often remember, not what you do and say, but how you make them feel.
Crowd source story ideas
Once you know how you would like the audience to feel at the end of the piece, you’re ready to start thinking about stories. The people you work with and work for know your organization better than anyone else. Ask them what stories they have heard that fit the feeling you’re looking to emit from your audience. If the stories don’t inspire you as they’re explained, that’s your first litmus test. Don’t entertain the stories that don’t sound interesting or consistent with the emotion you’re going after.
A basic rule in television news reporting is to avoid “officials.” For example, if there’s a house on fire, the story is the family, not the fire chief. This is not to say that the fire chief doesn’t play a role, but he is a secondary character and used to help put the fire in perspective, or provide insight that the family can not communicate.
Same goes with your story – your CEO, president, board members, etc. are not the story, unless of course they actually ARE the story. Use your internal leaders sparingly if at all, like the fire chief, they are secondary characters. Too often organizations get caught in the web of internal politics and they ruin a perfectly good story with clutter and key messages. Keep in mind, the story is produced for the audience, ultimately, not your CEO. One caveat: often an official can be extremely useful in providing some organizational history and filling in the gaps that the main character can not cover.
Find a Star
Once you know how you want your audience to feel at the end of the video, you’ve collected the story ideas from your internal team and you’ve managed to keep your leaders out of it, or at least to a minimum, find the story with the most compelling hero. Think of your video like a movie. Every movie has a hero and a supporting cast. The hero is the character with whom the audience identifies. This person should be compelling because they will carry your story for you. From there, determine the supporting actors and again, avoid using “officials” if at all possible. Naturally, we think of the star as being the person who looks great, speaks well and will represent the organization well, right? Wrong. Find the hero that tells your story the best. Your hero may be someone who can’t even speak.
Dodge the politics
Ego is one of the biggest pitfalls of a video. When you engage in including certain people in a video for reasons other than the fact that they are an essential part of the story, you walk a slippery slope. You will find yourself spending more time than necessary and you will find yourself trying to wedge in a sound bite with from someone who should not have ever had a place in the story. In the end, your piece will be weaker for having the excess sound. You may look like a star to the boss, but it may be at the expense of the story and more importantly, your audience.
Identifying your best story requires focus, discipline and a commitment to your message. Your best stories will show themselves when they clearly align with the goals and objectives of your event. Strip away the excess and hone your message and once you get the story, don’t mess it up!
Ed Heil is the owner and president of StoryTeller Media & Communications an inbound marketing and public relations agency and video production company based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Ed blogs on topics related to inbound marketing, social media, media relations, news media, video production and crisis communications.