Heartfelt, Relevant Messages Build Bridges (Case Study: StoryCorps)

Relevant MessagesThis morning’s election news dug into the divide that’s fracturing the U.S. Hearing the stats on how deep and broad these divisions are—rural vs. urban, men vs. women, those with post-secondary education vs. those without—wasn’t surprising. But it was distressing, especially as I contemplate where we go from here.

So many organizations have ignored the chaos we’ve lived in during this extended election ramp up. In sharp contrast, StoryCorps has communicated with non-partisan honesty and heart:

If we’ve learned anything during the 2016 presidential campaign, it’s how deeply divided we are as a nation. For people on both sides, it can seem like the other side is living in an alternate universe. It’s like there have been two stories running parallel to each other that rarely, if ever, meet.

I’ve been moved and motivated by StoryCorps’ #WhoWeAre story gathering campaign over the last few months. They’ve stayed 100% mission-focused, yet fully responsive to the world around us. In fact, it’s because StoryCorps has shaped its messages to what we’re hearing, discussing, thinking, and feeling, that the campaign has sparked my hope and trust at a time when both are scarce.

Here’s how StoryCorps does it:

Acknowledges what’s going on

The fabric of American society is being tested this year—straining against a deluge of discord, division, intolerance, violence, and fear. We believe the true story of this nation, its values, and its people is being drowned out as never before—we’re at risk of losing sight of who we really are.

Offers a realistic path forward

[We’ll] release a series of real-life stories told by everyday Americans that … amplify love over hate and empathy over fear. Stories that build bridges of understanding between people and help us recognize our shared humanityThese extraordinary stories of compassion [are] a unique opportunity to cut through the most negative and dividing election in U.S. history.

Here StoryCorps speaks to universal and abstract values (shared humanity, understanding between people) but lays down a concrete way to get there—story by story, relationship by relationship.

Makes a clear call to action

We’re asking every American to step up and participate not just by sharing these stories with others, but also by reaching out to someone different from them to ask about where they come from, what they care about, and who they love.

Welcomes every voice

We believe every story matters

Shows how it works—to forge a connection with the other side

We put a call out on social media for people who disagreed with a family member about politics and who would be willing to sit down with them to talk it out, and one of those who responded was 29-year-old Jenn Stanley. Jenn, a writer who lives in Chicago, is liberal. Peter, her father, works in construction in Boston, and is conservative.

They’ve been fighting a lot lately and it’s taken a toll on their relationship. So last week they recorded a conversation about why they’ve been at each other so much, and tried to find some common ground.

Offers a valuable WIIFM (benefit)

When we take the time to listen to each other’s stories, we see the beauty, poetry, and grace hiding in plain sight all around us. During these challenging times, this series will inspire us to imagine something better for ourselves and for our country.

It will remind us #WhoWeAre.

Here’s hoping you take this inspiring messaging model to heart, staying real through good times and bad. To #WhoWeAre.

P. S. Read How to Connect in Uncertain Times

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Nancy Schwartz on November 8, 2016 in Branding and Messages | 0 comments
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