If you don’t read today’s blog from puny human, Tripp Braden, Hulk will smash!!
Now you know the pressure I was under to produce a great blog sharing some of the secrets that Stan Lee has used to keep people involved in his heroes and their stories for over 50 years. There’s nothing worse than a big green Hulk looking over your shoulder as you try to share the secrets of his and The Avengers’ longevity. All the time I spent with Nick Fury in Washington has paid unexpected dividends over the past several days.
The Avengers had a record opening weekend with over $200 million in ticket sales. What can we learn from Stan Lee that would make our marketing more powerful? Stan Lee is the master of good storytelling. He’s been doing it for over 50 years and his stories are as popular today as they were 50 years ago. How does Stan do it and how can we apply some of his storytelling magic to our organizations to create better opportunities?
I believe there are three keys to Stan Lee’s storytelling success. Let me share what I’ve learned from Stan Lee and how it applies to the writing we do for our organizations and causes.
Key 1 – Include drama. The first key of Stan’s success is to include drama. What is drama? Drama is the context in which your message is placed. Drama is the secret of a good story. Most good drama is driven by conflict. Good versus evil, light versus dark, overwhelming situations that would challenge anyone. Drama sets up the story by grabbing your attention at the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the end of the story.
In good storytelling, there are usually several conflicts in the story. The more, the better. In Stan’s stories there are always subplots to keep your attention during slow times in the story. In most cases, these small hooks allow us to choose sides, see ourselves in the characters, and sometime allow us to release ourselves from our daily activities.
Good drama is important to your story because without out it, people won’t come back for more. As a salesperson, I know it might take several calls before a client decides to buy from me. In good storytelling, you want people to read you often and share it with their friends and family. A good story will be easy enough to share but have enough twists and turns that it makes people want to share it with their friends. Don’t be afraid to give a little more detail and maybe even embellish the facts a little. People are not moved by small ideas and lack of detail.
If you’re still reading it means that you are looking to become a better communicator. I believe that in the past we could get away with mediocre writers and still get people to read our stories. With people seeing thousands of messages every day, we must learn to change if we hope to compete for our stakeholders minds. Today, everyone is in the entertainment business and we must teach as well as entertain. If your marketing tries to compete with the facts only, you’ll be lucky if someone reads you once and may never read you again. So, take time to think out your story before you start writing. Look for interesting bits of information about your situation. Learn to look at things from the point of view of your reader not from your point of view. Because we are so exposed to our own situations, we sometimes fail to share it in a way that it’s new or exciting to our readers. Share details that help people understand the situation, but don’t fill in all the details. Allow the readers’ imagination to be an active participant in the storytelling.
Now that I’ve covered the first of Stan Lee’s storytelling keys, drama, I’ll start covering the next element, character creation, in my next blog. This key helps you draw your best stakeholders into your story and they won’t even know you did it. Learning how to create great characters is the next step to make your writing more memorable. But you already know this, because I know where you hide your stash of comic books in your office.
I know your nonprofit faces changes from every direction in this economic environment. Are you facing some of these challenges?
• Doing more with less money
• Decreasing donations for increasing needs
• Aging donor base
• Next generation stakeholders who want a different relationship with nonprofits
• Global competition for donations
• Uncertain tax legislation slowing or freezing corporate and large gift patrons
• Competing with large nonprofits with sophisticated and automated giving programs
• Increasing costs for developing and printing marketing and collateral materials to support your mission, vision, and values.
• Increasing noise and exposure to a wide variety of fundraising messages through social media and traditional marketing channels
All these factors have contributed to the decline of nonprofits. For many leaders, these environmental changes have accelerated the decline and ultimate death of their organizations. So how are you dealing with these fundraising challenges? One of our core principles is that fundraising is dead. We believe that you’ll need a plan for marketing and communications to continue to be successful.
With all these challenges, it’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed. I’ve discovered several key success factors that successful nonprofit organizations share. If you have these key elements in place it will make it easier to share your organization’s message. Without these elements, your message could get lost in the crowd. These elements come from Jim Collin’s book Good to Great and the Social Sectors.
If you’re not familiar with this monograph, you might want to grab a copy of it. For less than $10.00 at Amazon or Barnes and Noble online, you can get a great overview on how to apply the Good to Great lessons to your organization. I’ll be sharing several key concepts from the book in my next blog here at Developing Serving Leaders. I’ve used both the book and monograph Good to Great to help many of my more successful clients take their efforts to the next level. I’ve found if you don’t have a solid foundation in place, no level of marketing and communications strategy can help you build an outstanding organization.
In my experience, many organizations have several of the key elements in place but have been unsuccessful in getting the synergies they need to take their organizations to the next level. Counterintuitively the more elements they have in place the less likely they will become great organizations. So, come back and keeping reading my blog to learn the strategies you need to take your organization from Good to Great.
I’m often asked what it takes to be a good partner to in the business community. To find good partners, you must be one. It makes sense but it’s often easier said than done.
I’ve put together a framework I use when I’m trying to identify good partnering opportunities for my clients. I thought it might be helpful to share it here and see what I could do to improve my partnering skills.
First, I research my potential partners. I review all the material I can find; reviewing their web sites, looking at their social media presence, following them on all the different social networks. I use my Xeesm application to see how many different people I may know that are in their circle of influence. During this time I’m also looking for clues that might help me better understand who they are and what they are trying to accomplish with their cause. Most of my nonprofit partners have the same challenges we have on the corporate side. They need more resources, they need to provide their employees more challenges, they need to get their volunteer up to speed, they could use help in their fundraising activities. They aren’t always certain if they want to be involved in social media.
Now what do I do with the information I’ve gathered? My second step is to put it in a profile. I try to monitor it at least 3-5 times a week. In a very short time, I will be able to determine what I might be able to help them with. I also begin identifying the right person or people to talk with about their challenges. At this stage, I’m looking for someone who might be able to open the door for me. I might share my interest with professional associates who may know someone within the target organization. I also ask these people what they think about the target organization. Have they, or anyone they know, tried to work with the group. What were the results or what frustrated their efforts in their own attempts. This gives me an opportunity to better understand what difficulties I might run into. It also gives me a stronger relationship with my network. I’m looking for their advice and expertise in a way that builds the foundation of a great relationship. You cannot believe what you can learn from others when you ask then listen to what they say. When I complete this phase, I might check back in with the people with whom I started my conversations. I close the loop and thank them for their introductions. I might also ask them if they’d like to grab lunch or some time at the Zoo with me. Many of my best clients love taking pictures and love to improve their photography.
Third, after reviewing all the material I’ve assembled I decide if I want to invest my time in the nonprofit. There are many nonprofits that need assistance but only a small number that I can actually impact in a way that is beneficial for both them and me. I’ve worked with many great non profits over the past 30 years, but I’ve made the biggest contribution where I can add significant value to the partnership. I know what I do best and I also try to make sure the group is ready for my help. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to help and not making progress in reasonable time. Notice I say in reasonable time. In my corporate life I’m used to making faster decisions and being responsible for the results. In the nonprofit world I’ve learned to take my time building trust and understanding before becoming totally invested in the nonprofit. This has allowed for faster results but also allowed for less frustration on both sides of the partnership.