In this edition

Quote of the month

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

— Orson Welles


Welcome to our June 2014 newsletter: The power of stories

Back in February we talked about how stories are memorable because we remember images and we remember emotions. And emotion, not facts, drives action. We explore the power of stories a little further this month.

Enjoy and, as always, we’d love your feedback via Facebook, Twitter or email us.

Regards from the @EconnectTeam:

The human element

By Tom Dixon

I’m in Fiji this week, running a communication workshop for The Crawford Fund with my colleague Toss Gascoigne.

During the workshop, Toss told a story about a Filipino farmer he met while doing a workshop in Bohol.

After the workshop, the farmer took Toss back to his house to show him around.

In the middle of his kitchen stood a huge, shiny, new fridge.

The farmer explained to Toss that he’d managed to increase his taro yields, and with the extra cash he’d been able to buy the fridge.

He was so proud of his fridge that he kept offering Toss drinks, very pointedly from his fridge.

He talked about the fridge, repeatedly showed Toss the fridge, and said what a great difference the fridge had made to his life, all the time asking, ‘Would you like another drink, Toss?’.

This is one story about increasing crop yields that sticks firmly in my mind, though I’ve already forgotten the exact yield statistics.

And therein lies the power of the story.

The human element is what I remember, because it’s tangible. I can picture in my mind the proud look on the farmer’s face. I can picture his kitchen. I can picture the fridge.

Hear a story, tell a story

By Robbie Mitchell

My favourite travel experiences always involve local people. They know the history, the secrets and stories of their region and, once they warm to you, they will willingly and passionately share them with you.

Visitor centres can be great places to reveal the secrets and stories of a region.

I enjoy reading locals’ stories, or listening to an audio track or watching a short video of a local recounting what’s special about their region. It gives me a greater understanding of the region and opens my eyes to things I should look out for when I’m passing by.

FLOW is the Fitzroy Basin Association’s Discovery Centre in Rockhampton, Queensland. The Fitzroy Basin is Australia’s second-biggest river basin.

When we developed and implemented the interpretive strategy for the centre, we knew we had some great stories from local people, but we wanted to capture visitors’ stories as well—tourists, school children, farmers attending Beef Expo, and other locals visiting the centre.

So we created the ‘Flow and Tell’ booth.

When you sit at the Flow and Tell booth, you can listen to one of many previously recorded stories, or you can record your own 1-minute story.

The stories are saved to a computer and moderated by staff before being made available to the public.

Staff at the centre are finding Flow and Tell to be a great tool in helping them generate new interpretive content and learn more about the region.

Have you seen a similar installation? Let us know where you saw it and how it worked.


Telling tales – 7 top tips

By Jenni Metcalfe

All good stories create intrigue, provoke curiosity and add sparkle.

I’ve been telling stories for 25 years—in the media; on websites; in fact sheets, brochures, newsletters and books; and in social media.

Here are my top tips for telling a good story:

  1. Talk about people’s mistakes as well as their successes. A good story has drama, emotion and conflict.
  2. Make it personal for the reader/listener. When you’re interviewing someone for a story, get them to talk in the first person about their own experiences.
  3. Check that the story is relevant to the reader/listener. This might mean finding out about listeners’ perceptions, concerns and motivations about the story.
  4.  Engage the whole community in telling local stories. Let people share their own experiences with others for mutual learning.
  5. Use simple, active colloquial language in your story, and avoid bureaucratic language. Many people are fluent in “stakeholder speak”, but stakeholders are not real people, and ‘implementing agreed frameworks’ means nothing to most people.
  6. Tell your stories in different places and through different media. Try sharing stories in locations where your listeners feel most comfortable; for example, in a supermarket or at a sporting event.
  7. Be visual. Paint pictures with your words to stimulate people’s imaginations. Illustrate your stories with video, photos and infographics.


Blending emotion, science and multimedia

By Mary O’Callaghan

What does it say about a story when, though you know how it ends, your emotions still run high when you hear it again?

The image of a grandmother and young children clinging to the end of a jetty as a violent bushfire licks the water’s edge remains vivid in my mind, though the details are blurred.

When I saw it on the news last year, that one image conveyed to me determination, hope, responsibility. And fear. I imagined myself there.

Firestorm tells the story of how the Holmes family survived the Dunalley bushfire in Tasmania.

Captivating, suspenseful, visually arresting is how I would describe this multimedia (such an old-fashioned word) story, developed by The Guardian last year.

But there’s more to it.

  • It’s educational without being dry. The chapter on ‘living with fire’ blends the latest science seamlessly with the story, and it’s really interesting—if you live in Tasmania, or any fire-risk area, you need to read this.
  • It juggles different points of view to give a rounded story of how events of the day unfolded.
  • The chunks of text are well spaced and easy to scan.
  • The language is colourful, with an easy style.
  • The grabs are articulate, authentic and short.
  • The navigation takes about 5 seconds to get used to.

The obituary for the Great Barrier Reef is another story told in this multimedia style, though much more wordy.

I got to chapter 2 and started to feel seasick, so I’m not sure how it ends. Oh, hang on…