I center my life’s work on a simple premise: storytelling has built-in power.
Storytelling is at the core of what makes us human.
To share our experiences.
To help others learn from the challenges we’ve faced, successes we’ve enjoyed, and our collective fight for a better world.
Storytelling can fuel revolutions.
Some of our greatest revolutionaries – people who pushed the boundaries of common conventions to propel the world forward – were and are incredible storytellers. Their ability to mobilize people around a cause through their use of the written word, through great speeches, or in our modern world, through social media lends incredible power to their voices.
Great stories attract attention from people who may not otherwise have a natural affinity to your cause. With that attention, it’s easier to organize people, places, and things which is core to our work in helping multicultural content creators build an undeniable voice.
The Power of Storytelling to Activate a Message
Storytelling connects us to humanity by amplifying lived experiences and prompting thoughtful dialogues around root causes and solutions. However, as proven in this digital-first era, the stories we tell can’t end there.
So often, we find the death and destruction of media amplified without the follow-up of concrete and meaningful ways to take action, which only adds to our collective hopelessness and pessimism. The media shows us the doom and gloom but not what to do to make a difference. How to change the world to fit closer to what we know it can be and should be.
For storytelling, calls to action are essential for supporting activism. We can’t leave people hanging, wondering what steps they can take to make a difference. We need to outline concrete steps and “actionables.”
They can do small things to make a difference, leading to bigger shifts in our thought patterns and beliefs. Otherwise, only false hope exists that isn’t supported by potential action.
We use stories to activate people around key events and moments in time. We inherently understand the power of storytelling as a tool and one solution that ignites the expansion of timely social movements.
A narrative drives the best stories. That narrative has immense power. At its best, storytelling can inform audiences, shape and transform public opinion and ultimately mobilize people to take action at critical moments.
Storytelling is the strongest force to amplify a message and push the narrative of your unique causes.
Now, about narrative. Let’s dig into that a little deeper.
The Role Narratives Play in Pulling Great Stories Together
Narratives are the “umbrellas” which hover over great storytelling that helps to fuel change and activism. We understand that stories are only one piece of the larger puzzle of narratives. In other words, stories bind together to build a narrative.
At Team DB, much of our work is about narrative change. Change can return momentum to sustain and develop key movements, fueling the internal fire that burns within those committed to driving systemic change.
Every piece of content we create, and every movement we support is authentically inclusive and diverse because our work serves purposes important to multicultural and BIPOC creators who need a little assistance amplifying their stories.
When you actively construct a narrative through the shared storylines and approach within the stories you tell in your content, a variety of things happen – which are all positive:
- Shared identity is easier to develop.
- The development of a powerful context ignites movements.
- Consistent engagement fuels interest which morphs into action.
- Diverse voices and creators feel part of something bigger than themselves.
- As you foster inclusivity through the narrative, everyone feels included.
- You illustrate the journey of change and progress, building resilience in the movement.
- A shared vision bolstered by hope becomes the foundation of your message.
With the right over-arching narrative, your stories as a creator have a common through-line, leading people down a path you are already carving through your tireless work and dedication.
You take the initial footsteps, and the narrative helps people who believe as you do to follow right behind you.
As a cross-movement effort, we’ve sat directly at the center of much of this work as champions of transformative change through narrative building. Amplify Pledge is at the intersection of data, organizing, and narratives to champion transformation and change. We translate our movement-wide, policy-focused wonkiness into culture-focused, engaging content and campaigns.
How Narratives Help You Amplify Important Messages
Creating a narrative that guides the direction of your storytelling has various inherent benefits. Each of these benefits helps build a “snowball effect” for your messaging, which amplifies the message and helps it reach more people organically.
When that snowball effect has full momentum, your messaging takes on a life of its own, reaching thousands without any heavy touch on your part. Instead, folks who are a part of your movement become evangelists, sharing it without any expectation of compensation because they feel a part of the movement and believe others should share that experience.
Let’s take a look at the five primary benefits and also their opposites:
- Coherence and continuity vs. lack of clarity
- Engagement and emotional impact vs. lack of connection
- Contextualizing individual stories vs. “isolated incidents”
- Mobilizing action vs. ambiguous “requests to act.”
- Enhancing recall and sharing vs. difficulties therein
Coherence and Continuity vs. Lack of Clarity
A “continuous” story results from stories fused in a narrative arc. This continuity makes it easier for your readers to follow and comprehend your message. With comprehension comes understanding. With understanding comes a desire to share with others what they have learned.
Without a narrative, individual creator stories can seem disjointed and lacking context. When this is the case, it’s much harder for your community to understand the message, much less the role that message plays in your greater cause.
Disjointed stories can seem confusing or unclear when they don’t share a narrative. When your community is confused, they can’t follow the common thread in your storytelling, leading to disconnection from your message.
Engagement and Emotional Impact vs. Lack of Connection
Great storytelling narratives do one thing extremely well: build tension. A good narrative arc leads your reader – or follower – through a series of events that build tension and eventually provide a resolution to that tension. This shift ignites emotional engagement in your reader and makes a strong impact.
That impact leads people to want to share your message.
Without a narrative, that emotional impact is minimized or lost. Without a narrative arc to build the “slow burn” of tension, you lose engagement in your message. The stories seem disconnected, and the emotional pull you need to convince people to amplify your message disappears.
Contextualizing Individual Stories vs. “Isolated Incidents”
Context is everything in narrative-building that amplifies a message.
The arc establishes a larger context for understanding individual stories. Your community fully appreciates the significance of each story when there’s a constant theme. Without context, individual stories seem like isolated incidents rather than a part of a broader social or cultural issue.
When stories seem like isolated incidents, the message the stories are sharing loses urgency and importance. Without the marriage of those two factors, you can’t energize your community to share the message because the message isn’t pressing enough.
Mobilizing Actions vs. Ambiguous “Calls to Act”
Well-constructed narratives motivate communities to take action!
By showing the journey, the struggle, and the eventual triumph (or at least the possibility of the triumph), narratives both inspire hope and demonstrate how change has unlimited potential.
Conversely, if disjointed stories don’t provide a clear call to their readers to act, it’s extremely difficult to mobilize an audience. Even if there are occasional calls to action, it’s not enough if your community doesn’t understand why they should because they don’t feel they have the power, urgency, or ability to do so.
Enhancing Recall and Sharing vs. Difficulties Therein
Remember hearing stories as a kid?
The ones with a beginning, middle, and end that followed a logical structure were easier to remember, right? The same is true when constructing stories to share your passions for cultural change. Stories like these are more likely to be passed along because they are cohesive, and the original message isn’t lost in translation as one person tells the story to another.
When there isn’t a structure in your storytelling, the stories are harder to remember and share. People aren’t going to work too hard to share your message, so in these scenarios, they simply won’t.
To tie a bow on this, the greater structure your storytelling has, the more impactful it will be in amplifying your message.
When people in your community amplify your message, mobilizing change is easier than with weak, watered-down messaging that doesn’t deliver the emotional impact necessary to convince people to act!
Mobilizing Change Requires Incredible Organizations to Take a Stand
At Team DB, we organize millions digitally to do work that matters. To do work that constructs narratives and ignites movements that transform how we think about the world.
Powered by a coalition of creatives, influencers, and movement organizations, we are building a data and communications infrastructure powerhouse that mobilizes millions online, including critical rapid response and coordinated digital activations.
We reach and engage people by creating a clear pathway for young people to move from passive audience members to activists through purposeful action.
Our goal: To make our collective messaging inescapable online.
And we hope to do the same for you! Click here to learn more about how we work and how we help cause-driven organizations like yours make a difference in our world.