Storytelling is a powerful tool to make your messages more memorable. Numerous studies have shown that listeners become more engaged and are able to recall facts more readily when those facts are told through a story.
Storytelling piques a reader’s or listener’s interest and gives them context to associate with those facts that you are trying to get across. And if your audience can relate to the story…all the better. While storytelling takes a bit more thought and effort than just spewing a list of facts and figures, the great news is that you have a membership full of great stories to help you deliver your message.
Storytelling is particularly effective when you are trying to communicate big ideas and mission-critical messages – the kind of things that you want to take up residence in your members’ memories.
One message that many chambers struggle to deliver is the chamber’s role in advocacy and how that work benefits members. Lofty wording and describing your organization as the “voice of business” may resonate with some, but let’s face it, a lot of members just don’t get it.
Let me give you an example of doing it right, with storytelling.
Communicating Advocacy Through Storytelling
I had the pleasure of doing some work for a medium-sized chamber on the West Coast. One of the projects was to help them come up with a strategy to better communicate the value of chamber membership to their small business members. As we dove into the project together, it was clear that the chamber was providing a tremendous amount of value for its small business members, but there was a disconnect in communicating that activity.
It was clear that a storytelling strategy was in order. The staff shared with me some amazing member success stories that clearly and convincingly communicated the value of a chamber membership. So why were some members not getting it?
The disconnect was that these stories were not being shared on a larger scale. When you work at a chamber, you are so connected with the community, that sometimes it is easy to forget that not everyone is as connected as you are. Not everyone knows what you know. Stories worth sharing should be shared, with everyone.
Sharing Member Success Stories
One of those member success stories was that of a restaurant on the community’s main drag. The restaurant owner was frustrated because he saw an opportunity to grow his business by adding an outdoor dining area, but he could not get approval from the city to do so. At the end of his rope, he called the chamber. Chamber staff helped him connect with the right person to get his request moving through the process. The result: he now has his outdoor dining area and he has experienced a significant increase in customers.
That story clearly demonstrates the chamber’s ability to help its members solve issues that are standing in their way of growth. It’s a classic advocacy success story, and it is easy for a chamber member to relate to it, particularly when it is attached to a real business/person. Success stories of real businesses and real members in your community give the rest of your members and prospects the context they need to understand how the work you are doing is relevant to them. It gives them pause to think, and plants a seed in the back of their minds that if the chamber was able to help that business with a problem, maybe they can help me if/when I have an issue that needs resolved.
Even if your members never need your help, they now understand at a very relatable level what it is when you are talking about advocacy. So, think about ways you can use the real stories of your members to help make your messages more memorable.