Strategic communication

Storytelling: example of a powerful means

Want to know more? Take the full free course Storytelling for conservation action on Frogleaps.

Explore the means you need and master the skills to design and use them

Designing and using communication means requires skills. Each means has its own characteristics. For presentations, you need other skills than for writing a powerful brochure or facilitating focus groups. Negotiating during the Designing and Evaluation phase is a different art then analyzing results to fine tune your strategy.

So when you prepare, dive into each means that you want to use. Then ask for expert advice and support when needed. Next step: practice, practice, practice. And then: frog leap!

What’s the Power of storytelling?

As example, we explain the power of storytelling. We will show you why storytelling is crucial for effective communication. And we will list the skills you need.

Everyone has a story to tell – after all, our lives are simply a collection of stories, told one after the other. Unfortunately, the potential of storytelling is often not used strategically and tactically.

Storytelling can do more for your strategic change than you would expect at first sight. Storytelling is a powerful means to persuade target groups, stakeholders or donors.

Our brains are hardwired for stories to organize information and orient. We need patterns to recognize and understand new concepts and ideas. Stories offer such patterns. Before writing, humans educated younger generations for hundred thousands years using just stories.

Conclusion: stories are a vital means to communicate values and messages about nature conservation.

Gift or craft?

Storytelling is perceived as a gift; some people excel naturally. Luckily this does not imply that it cannot be taught. Storytelling is a craft.

By focusing consciously on the aspects of a strong story, communication efforts have much more impact:

  • Stories are a place where facts meet feelings.
  • Stories show the audience that we understand them.
  • Stories fortify your key point.

Why are stories important for sustainability change?

How do stories power your communication for sustainability change? Good stories make people remember messages. Not only for five minutes but –if the story is strong enough- for a lifetime. Good stories make understanding easier. Suddenly you get the point.

How many stories do you remember from your childhood?

What do your target audiences remember?

We only remember a tiny bit of what we hear. To maintain attention and to achieve passionate understanding, stories are a must. Stories bring facts to life and infuse them with passion.

Using stories strategically for realizing your objectives can bring support from others. The aim of the story can be getting support for your sub goal and convincing stakeholders to endorse activities.

How do you incorporate stories into your project?

Where do you find stories to use for your project? Stories are all around us – everyday life offers material for compelling stories. In fact, everything has the potential for a story; think of: family, religion, friends, things that happen in our communities.

We find stories by tapping into our emotions, looking for situations and experiences which moved us truly. Logic and facts are not the essence of a story.

Building blocks of a story

You can build effective stories by using the following elements:

The characters: ‘who’

Often archetypes play a central role in stories. Think for example of stories like ‘The beauty & the beast’. Most strong stories feature a hero and an antagonist. The hero is for example an NGO working on biodiversity protection. The antagonist can be a community leader resisting a new hunting regulation.

The structure: ‘what, where, when’

A story has a beginning, middle, climax and end. Most stories describe a starting situation which is characterized by a conflict. The conflict might refer to a social problem, obstacles or lack of resources. The hero struggles to achieve his aim, leading to the climax.

The tools: ‘how’

Often a ‘metaphor’ is used to develop a strong story. A metaphor is a comparison used to show that one situation is similar to another one. Metaphors create impact in the minds of readers. Other tools are exaggerations and antithesis, which use contrasts to prove a point. The aim of these literary tools is to express a message forcefully. Plain statements often miss target in the sea of info we drown in (this is a methaphor).


Are you ready to use storytelling for your goal:

  • Do you know the power of stories?
  • Which story gives your mission a boost?
  • Who are the characters?
  • What is the structure?
  • How will your story work?

Skills you need

  • Creativity
  • Literary techniques and writing skills
  • Presentation skills (for face to face storytelling)

This is the last Topic of Key subject 3. Want more? Go to Key subject 4:
Executing your change strategyquiz-frog-retina