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Learning Library Blog Looking for impact? Try strategic storytelling
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Looking for impact? Try strategic storytelling

By Jodie Pozo-Olano
April 1, 2015
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Our lives are filled with stories and everybody has one to share. I've not met an individual who doesn't like to hear a good tale. Sure, we don't all like the same kinds of stories, but the reality is stories are a powerful way to communicate.

No matter what role you have as a professional, your story can influence others. Powerful narratives have been used to lead and teach since the beginning of time, first through pictures, and eventually through speech.

All stories — no matter if they are delivered in personal or professional settings — elicit emotions that simulate a reaction: laughter, reflection, empathy. Stories provide context and spark inquiry. They stimulate discussions and debate.

In today's digitally connected world, social media channels have expanded and evolved the way in which we tell our stories. Publishing and consuming stories is easier than ever, but realizing the full potential of all the communication channels available can be overwhelming for individuals and organizations. Words, photos and videos, alone or together, can be used on multiple channels.

Use digital tools to tell your story

As leaders in education, strategic storytelling through a range of tools, including social and digital channels, could have a profound impact on fulfilling your mission. But how do you get started? What tools should you use? Who do you want to reach and what impact or impression do you want the story to convey?

There's no magic formula, but there are some guiding principles. I've had countless conversations with colleagues that started with, " "I'm not sure this is news or worth sharing, but" " My reply most often is, " "there is bound to be a place to tell the story." "

So, how do you get started? Focus on three factors: objective, audience and channel.

Begin by asking why. Why does this story need to be told? What is the desired impact or outcome? What do you hope to achieve? Even in the age of digital storytelling, it's important for individuals and organizations to start with a clear and simple plan. Asking these simple questions will kick off the planning and help you clearly articulate the desired outcome. Without both, it will be difficult to evaluate the impact of the action.

Define your audience

Who are you trying to influence and why? Your story doesn't need to reach everyone. It's helpful to stay focused when defining audiences and best practice is to stick to just three. Clearly defining your audience will also help ensure the crux of the story will resonate and inspire action.

When determining the key audience, consider how the story will affect them. Will the narrative mobilize them into action? Will the audiences identified be able to amplify your message and help you achieve your objective?

How will you tell the story? The sophistication of modern communications channels has opened the door to endless opportunities. Digital platforms provide multiple opportunities for us to engage in stories over the channels we use the most. Is it a story that should be shared over social channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+? Should the story be told via an article, video, infographic?

As you ponder how the story will be told, consider where your key audiences gather. Build the strategy so that you reach them on the channels they love to use. It may also be worth exploring how public relations activities, such as a press announcement or appearance at an event, could amplify the effort.

Educators employ storytelling to inspire students and to boost creativity and critical thinking skills. As adults, we, too, can use storytelling to share our vision for transforming learning and teaching and build support from stakeholders at all levels.

Jodie Pozo-Olano is the ISTE chief communications officer.