1. Unleash your charity’s hidden storytelling talent

    man gathering stories filming in Dartmoor with smartphone

    Many charity story teams are struggling to meet the demands for content from their internal clients and the multiple channels they need to populate. Here are Mile 91 we think you have hundreds of potential story gatherers – you just need to help unleash their talent.

    A few weeks back Ben and I were having coffee with a comms director from a conservation charity. He was telling us about an incident that had happened in an area geographically remote enough that it would have been prohibitively expensive and taken far too long to get a professional crew to the location.

    Yet the local conservationist is charismatic and knowledgeable and the incident of enough public interest that had they been able to get content, there would almost certainly have been social media and possibly press interest. Getting his field teams trained in story gathering skills is now on this comms director’s radar.

    Your frontline story gatherers

    More and more charities are thinking like this and it delights us. The people working on your frontline are the people who every single day are exposed to the highs, lows and spine tingling moments that are going to inspire your audiences. They are there when the magical moments happen. We have lost count of the number of times we have turned up to a shoot and had someone say ‘ooh, if you’d been here last week’ or ‘next month we are…’ Training them to gather stories has the potential to create a huge uplift in the scale, quality and timeliness of your content.

    Of course, charity comms people have been trying to get stories from the field for years – way before anyone had a story management function, a digital asset bank or processes for managing consent. Almost two decades ago as a press officer I would periodically send enthusiastic and encouraging emails, create forms people could fill in and agree optimistic story targets, while the dedicated inbox waited expectantly. If things did come in it wasn’t so much stories as lists of activities that had taken place.

    It’s about more than just systems and processes

    The mistake I was making is that for all the simple systems and processes I was creating, I was failing to inspire colleagues about stories or even explain what I meant by story. All the systems and processes in the world are not going to increase the flow of content from your programmes if you haven’t first taught someone what you need and why.

    Last week I ran a workshop for a group of service staff who are based all around the UK. The charity’s London-based communications team is small but around the country thousands of people are supported by the organisation’s work every year. My plan for the day was not to bombard the group with requirements, guidelines and tasks but to instead bring them on a journey. The entire morning was spent exploring the science of storytelling, considering what makes a good charity story and discussing responsibilities and duty of care. It was not time wasted.

    Inspiring a shared commitment

    After lunch one of the participants commented on how things had “really heated up” as each session layered the learning. By the time we started on the interview skills in the afternoon the group were really clear about the kind of questions they needed to ask and the things they needed to tease out of their interviews to capture the compelling stories.

    The final session of the day was a really interesting chat about what they thought the next steps should be. There were a new sense of shared ownership for the story gathering process. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens next.

    If you would like a chat about how to train your service teams in story gathering skills email me on and we’ll set up a time for an initial chat.

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    *Our 2020 smartphone filmmaking courses in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff all booking now with a 10% discount to Charity Comms members.*

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