Walk Your Talk (Or Fly It)

Posted: Nov 21, 2013

We’ve already talked about naming relationships in stories, creating obstacles, and telling our own stories. Now, in the fourth entry of our series about storytelling, let’s talk about how to deliver on what makes your organization special.

Surely your organization has many positive characteristics going for it. The key is to pick the characteristics you most want to spotlight and show them in play. This approach is all about quality over quantity.

You’re gonna have to prove it

Almost every organization talks about believing in good things and working toward them. Then they get into describing themselves, which can lead to the unfortunate but common practice of building long lists. Your list might say you are connected, committed, innovative, good listeners, data driven, etc. Remember, whatever you claim, you must back it up with proof. If you can’t prove it, don’t mention it.

Keep it short

The more you say you can do, the more proof you have to come up with, so keep your list of characteristics short. Plus, if you say you have a million things going for you, you will seem like a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Start with three key characteristics and play them up.

Make it match

Imagine your organization is entirely made up of multi-lingual staff. Then your organization should tell a story that only an organization with dozens of languages in-house could tell. But what happens when you start with the multi-lingual angle and then tell a story about your research based work? That switcheroo will be a confusing miss for your audience. Both ideas might be true, but the story doesn’t add up. Your audience wants you to finish what you started. You can always tell two stories.

Let your stories be your guide

If your organization has been around for 75 years, tell stories that show your wisdom and endurance. But if your arsenal of success stories highlights other characteristics instead, play down how old the organization is and go with something else. Sometimes a theme among your existing success stories will emerge and you’ll spot a characteristic you never noticed before— and you’ll already have the proof in front of you.

Stick to your own characteristics

If your grantees are grassroots or your clients are data driven, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are—and that is ok. The audience wants to see your strengths, whatever they are. You’ll confuse your audience by talking about your partners’, clients’, or grantees’ characteristics instead of yours.

Be confident

You know the characteristics that make your organization special, so own them. It’s like Superman putting on his cape so he can go on a stroll. You put your cape on—now fly!