character selection

Stakeholders aren’t real characters

“Once upon a time there was a stakeholder…” Oh, that didn’t grab you? How about “and the stakeholders lived happily ever after…” No go either? Probably because stakeholders aren’t real characters in a story.

The catch-all character doesn’t catch your listener.
When I ask clients (less bluntly than this), “Who cares that you exist?,” they give me a list that is part real characters (Arts-lovers! Landlords! Our faculty! Child care providers!) and part vague catch-alls (Supporters! Allies! Partners! Everyone!). How can you tell the difference between a real character and a catch-all?

If you can’t picture the character, don’t use her in a story.
What does a stakeholder look like? Probably like a lot of things. Too many things. If your listener can’t picture someone clearly, don’t use the catch-all term. Stop yourself and break it down. Ask yourself, “What do I mean when I say stakeholder? Who makes up that group?” Maybe the stakeholders for your cause are parents and pediatricians. Tell a story about a parent or a pediatrician instead. Your story will have a lot more personality and humanity.

Too many different stakeholders? Tell more stories.
Are you saying “stakeholder” because you think you can only tell one story? Forget Joe Schmo Stakeholder and tell dozens of stories until you capture all the different types of subgroups within that giant list of “stakeholders.” Same goes for partners, allies, community members, and all the other catch-alls out there.

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