Storytelling with a purpose

Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network Fall 2013 Annual Conference conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Nicole Lampe, Head of Digital Team at Resource Media.  Follow Nicole on Twitter – @nicole_amber.

Nicole LampeLogging into the Dallas airport WiFi on the way home from New Orleans, I was forced to watch a 16 second cereal commercial that ended with an invitation to share my story on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. The commercial’s message was, “Some things, like how the baby got into your belly, are hard for kids to digest. But Rice Krispies is #easytodigest.”

From what I can tell, the idea here is to get moms to bond with the brand by talking about kids’ tough questions. Naturally, Kellogg’s kicked the campaign off with a Twitter party hosted by mommy bloggers, and is featuring tough questions on both its website and Pinterest board.

Kellogg’s is doing a few things right. As the smart folks from GMMB and Flow Nonfiction noted in Thursday’s “Make me care” session, the best digital stories are authentic, co-created, and platform opportunistic.

They’re trying for co-creation, even offering prizes for those participating in the Twitter chat. They’re working every social media platform. But the campaign hasn’t picked up much steam that I can see because it doesn’t offer anything customers need. It’s all about feeding Rice Krispies’ content machine rather than facilitating real connections between moms.

Contrast this with AARP’s work on social security. AARP is gathering stories to help members make good decisions about when to start collecting, and to advocate for ongoing benefits. Members are happy to share their stories because they see the purpose behind AARP’s ask.

While companies like Kellogg’s might have more resources than most mission-driven organizations, we have a competitive advantage: purpose. Kellogg’s is using stories to sell, but groups like AARP use them to serve.

That doesn’t make every nonprofit story campaign a winner. In order to elicit authentic stories, and drive social sharing, the end game has to be apparent from the start.

Your grantees’ supporters are savvy. They will show up for causes when they believe their actions will make a difference. And that means every story campaign needs two things: a clear path to change, and a foundation of trust.

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