Storytelling: Cut Through the Noise and Find Your Tribe

I recently watched a TED Talk by musician Heather Dale where she explains how she has a worldwide audience for her music without any backing whatsoever from the recording industry. Her secret? Identify your tribe.

How do you do that? Simple: find the people who share your interests and concerns. Her audience came from at least two instances: a college meeting of the Society for Creative Anachronism and a visit to a science fiction convention. Her discovery: “There’s more of us!”

What does this have to do with university advancement? You, too, can find your tribe and pull them together into a new community. One way to do that: storytelling.

Katrina Boratko, on the website Classy, writes about how her organization, Mama Hope, manages to “cut through the noise” without breaking the budget in order to promote their values of agriculture, women’s rights, education, healthcare and entrepreneurship.

“At Mama Hope,” she says, “one of the best ways we’ve found to build our network is through high-impact storytelling that centers around connection, potential and hope.” She asks a question that we’re betting is entirely similar to a question you might ask: “as a small organization with limited funding, how can we position our stories to break through and engage new audiences?”

Capture Behavioral Engagement (CBE) can help find that audience — once, that is, we can help establish the values that you share with your potential audience. Here are three questions Boratko poses:

  • Who are your dream donors? Alumni who care, obviously, but what do they care about? Find out! Survey them. What websites do they frequent? What content inspires them?
  • What are your assets? Identify the stories you have to share.
  • How can your assets add value to your prospective donor’s (that is, alumni’s) mission? Share their stories, too! By helping alumni see what other alumni have done — the progress, the work, the successes — you can align more people with a message that establishes a community.

And isn’t that what a university is? A community? Of course it is; further, it’s a community that should last a lifetime.

By Sean Hill, Senior Writer, Capture Higher Ed