ethical storytelling

Dear Nancy: Our last two year-end campaigns were centered around client stories, each powered by a photo or two. We got fantastic feedback on these stories and I planned to feature similar profiles this year.

That plan changed radically last month when our social workers urged us to put our clients’ privacy first and stop using client photos. Our staff has agreed to respect their expertise and honor their request.

What are some practical alternatives I can put to work in these last few weeks? And how do I move forward with client photos in the future, as our stories are far less memorable without them?

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Nancy Schwartz in storytelling | 0 comments
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Does the protagonist of your story know what she’s getting into—how you’ll use her story, and the risks are of sharing it? Probably not, if you’re like most communicators. Let’s change that.

Organizations like ours—that share stories regularly to activate our people—wield power and influence. When a protagonist lends us her story to share, she opens herself up to curiosity, criticism, misunderstanding, and sometimes even physical harm. It is our responsibility to respect those whose stories we share, ensuring they 1) are comfortable with the way we use their stories and 2) stay safe.

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Nancy Schwartz in storytelling | 2 comments
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Best Buddies International

Like many of you, I’ve been working with storytelling for more than a decade now. And, like many of you, I know we need to do it better.

We use too many over-simplified stories—black-and-white stories that don’t ring true. Stories that are all about us, don’t have relevance to our supporters, or don’t map to our organizational identity. Stories that leave the reader or listener thinking “so what.”

That’s a real waste of our supporters’ and prospects’ time and attention. In fact, it’s alienating. Telling one-offs or weak stories like these makes your people feel you don’t understand or care about them. That means they’re less likely to stay engaged and provide the help you need. There’s a better way.

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Nancy Schwartz in storytelling | 3 comments
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