Quick Consult is a series where members of our team share insights into questions and topics we hear are top of mind for pro bono practitioners at all stages. Crystal Hendricks-Kretzer, Taproot Foundation’s Director of Marketing and Communications, shares a few tips for building out your corporate storytelling efforts.
Tap into the power of storytelling
Telling a good story is powerful. Brands know that telling authentic, real stories engenders trust and inspires engagement with consumers. Especially in this “emotional economy,” stories about your company’s successful social impact initiatives showcase your community partners driving change, secure buy-in from critical stakeholders, and ultimately inspire other companies to raise the bar of corporate stewardship.
You may be thinking “I’m not a communications professional.” What you are, though, is a social responsibility professional leading some of your company’s most inspiring and impactful initiatives. You witness the “wins” up close—few know the stories as well as you. And not putting the spotlight on those stories would be a shame.
Below are a few tips to jumpstart your corporate pro bono storytelling work:
If you don’t have a relationship with your Marketing and Communications team, stop reading this now and go introduce yourself. Chances are, they’ll be thrilled at the prospect of sharing your stories, especially if you clue them in early on. Leveraging their expertise to develop your strategy, craft key messages, mold narratives, and get your work out into the world ensures that the stories you tell are high quality and aligned with your company’s overall communications strategy. They’ll also help you navigate your company’s approval process for sharing externally, which can often be complex. Morgan Stanley is a great example of what this kind of partnership can look like.
Pro Tip: Kick off your intro conversation by asking your Marketing and Communications team about their communications strategy for the company as a whole, followed up with goals for your storytelling efforts. Helping them see how your initiatives plug into their strategy will get them fully on board.
Remember that stories take all shapes and sizes. And they certainly don’t always have to be long-form written pieces. Start small with an inspiring anecdote from your group lead posted on your company’s intranet or an image from your program shared on social media and work your way up to blogs and videos. The goal here is to see stories in all that you do. Then go tap your new friends on the Communications team to brainstorm how to bring it all to life.
Pro Tip: Be sure to listen to your program participants and the social good organizations you serve. Jotting down quotes and gathering images (with everyone’s permission, of course) is an easy way to source soundbite-sized stories that can be shared across a variety of communication channels.
Everyone can tell a story, especially if you empower them. It’s important to help your participants and beneficiaries see themselves as storytellers, too—they are as close to the work as it gets. But in order to get what you’re looking for, you’ll need to make it clear and simple. Work with your communications team to identify intuitive, low-lift ways for employees and nonprofits to share their stories. When you launch your new communications strategy with participants, highlight how vital their roles are within it and how simple the process is to get involved.
Pro Tip: Building story-gathering into your program can look like adding a request for quotes and images into your post-program survey, creating space on your company’s intranet where everyone can share their experiences, or forming a community on social media for your beneficiaries.
Inspired to kick off your storytelling work? Check out Taproot’s new resource, Telling Your Pro Bono Story, developed with contributions from Edelman, Morgan Stanley, and VMware Foundation. This framework guides you through each step of the storytelling strategy—from preparing your key stakeholders to crafting your story to amplifying your message—with real-life examples of this approach in action.
About Crystal Hendricks-Kretzer
Crystal Hendricks-Kretzer is Taproot’s Director of Marketing and Communications. During the day, she thinks endlessly about content marketing strategy and how to activate nonprofits, volunteers, and companies in pro bono service. At night, you can find her doing pro bono for a local workforce development agency and petting her foster dog.