At the Being the Story conference the focus was on story telling. More than half a dozen people told their own stories in a powerful event that was TED talks meets the charity sector. It was powerful. It reminded me why communicating can be poowerful. And what comms and PR people sometimes forget.
by Dan Slee
Have you ever been in a room and heard a mother tell you about holding her son in her arms after he was fatally stabbed?
Or how she carried on her son’s boxing club in Brixton even though she was grieving? Because 30 people came round to her house and begged her to?
Lorraine Jones was the mother and Dwayne Simpson was her son. It was a tale simply delivered and one of more than half a dozen at the Being the Story event. A powerful, inspiring curveball of an event curated by the excellent Jude Habib.
What would you feel if you were in the room? You'd feel a powerful sympathy and empathy and if you could help you would.
It got me thinking. Too often comms and PR people don’t get to see real people's stories let alone tell them. They're hidden away.
I’ve often argued that public sector people should ask ‘why?’ when they’re asked to help with a project. Why is this project being run? Who is it going to help? If it helps real people and makes a difference then look to get stuck in. If it doesn’t help people then actually, what’s the point?
I often tell them to keep asking ‘why?’ until they find the real people and then focus your attention on them.
The story of the mother and the boxing club is a real one. Lorraine’s son Dwayne Simpson was murdered just short of his 21st birthday two years ago. He was a community-spirited lad who wanted to make a difference and was following in his mother’s footsteps.
Was this mother’s story more compelling than dry statistics around knife crime? Absolutely.
It made my think of something I’ve blogged about before. If you are looking to communicate heart v head then heart will win.
As a comms person you first need to know the head and the heart of what you are trying to communicate.
But the heart will open-up to a human story in a way that it will never do to a spreadsheet on its own.
So, the next thing I'm looking to communicate, I'm going to ask what is the real person's story is.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.
Picture credit: Flickr: US National Archives / Flickr.