CAN³ Guru Tim West’s Top Tips on telling your story

Telling stories that matter

Ever wanted to know how to communicate what your social venture does better? Make sure you come along to Good Stories, a day of marketing and communications workshops for social enterprises, held in London on 26 February 2019. In the meantime, the founder of Fable Bureau (formerly Matter & Co) and Pioneers Post shares his top tips

Tip 1: Be strategic

Everybody likes a good story – and social enterprises have some important stories to tell. Your stories will win you new business; they will win you trust and recognition; they will capture the imaginations of your staff and stakeholders, and they will help you demonstrate the amazing impact you have achieved.

Yet, as good as many social entrepreneurs are at telling their stories, they are often let down by a lack of thinking and planning around how, where and to whom their stories are told. A structured approach will help you manage resources and identify your key position on important issues or trends.

There is always a need to be reactive and opportunistic – but starting with a clear plan will keep you on track. Given that both budgets and time are rarely generous in the social enterprise world, it will pay you to think strategically about the way your organisation should communicate in order to achieve both your business and social aims.

Tip 2: Work out what you need to say

It’s crucial that you take time to develop your key messages. This will help you build a consistent ‘brand narrative’, and help your stakeholders understand who you are, what you stand for and what you do. Clear, compelling and confident messaging that explains your vision, and which doesn’t cause confusion, is the order of the day.

Not only should you use this consistently across your communications, your staff can use it in their everyday interactions with stakeholders, helping them become effective ‘brand ambassadors’. In time, and providing you live up to your promises, your stakeholders may also become brand advocates and help spread the message.  

Tip 3: Who are your key audiences?

So, who do you need to get those messages to? Knowing who your audiences are and then tailoring your messages because you understand what is important to them, is fundamental. Take some time to identify different stakeholders and build a profile of each of them – where are they located, what are their demographics, what are their interests, what are their challenges and what can you offer that will help them? This isn’t just about those you are trying to sell to – think bigger picture and about all that you may engage with.

Tip 4: Choose your channels

Once you’ve considered who your audiences are, you need to figure out the best way to reach them. Do some further research – consider what traditional media they might read or listen to, find out where they are active on social media, or what events they attend.

Tip 5: Communicating the social stuff

My final tip! You are a social venture, so you need to make sure you communicate the social part of what you do. It’s sometimes true that the social element can be a disadvantage – to some, the idea of ‘charity’ or ‘social’ can mean that you are offering a lower degree of quality in your product or service. So it’s important to show that your products or services are even better than your competitors in the private sector.

However, many years in this world has also taught me that it is a mistake to reject or hide the social side of your story. In particular, it’s really important for you think about the data you need to collect – so that you can demonstrate and prove your social value, and communicate loudly and proudly about how your enterprise is delivering the positive change it is setting out to achieve.

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema

This article was originally published in July 2016, in partnership with CAN³.