best practices brand stories persuasion

Objective versus impact. Don’t get ’em twisted

Every protagonist needs an objective that is to scale.
I recently worked with a fabulous university communications team that ran into a very common problem with storytelling. They started their stories with wonderful protagonists (often faculty or students doing impressive work) but by the time they drafted the objectives of those stories (what the protagonist could humanly achieve) they were thinking too big for the story. They were conflating the objective with impact.

Objective and impact are different.
If you told a general story about Gandhi, his objective would be achieving India’s independence from the British. His impact, however, went way beyond that. He became an icon for nonviolent civil disobedience internationally. That wasn’t his objective. The same is true for so much of the work funders, nonprofits, and governments take on. The objectives in the stories they tell may be small scale (e.g., teach a kid to read, keep a food bank open, etc.) but the impact they will have could be tremendous. Once you are talking about large scale impact, make sure you have wrapped up the story and made clear that you are leaping.

Don’t confuse your organization’s impact with your protagonist’s objective.
When telling a story, make sure the objective is clear and achievable (though not easily) for the protagonist. And that protagonist might not be someone at your organization. For example, your organization’s objective could be to make sure that single fathers in your county have housing for their families. If you are telling the story of a father about to lose his house, his objective is to make sure his daughters have a safe place to sleep that night.  But if you give that father the objective of helping all fathers with their housing, his story won’t make any sense. The objective will be out of scale. It’s too big for him..and it isn’t even his. It’s the organization’s. Both matter. Keep them separate.

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