Member stories

Rules of Engagement: Get More From Member Stories

How to find and share stories that inspire action.

One of an association’s most powerful tools for moving members to action is, well, other members. And, in particular, the stories they tell.

“Well-crafted stories, as distinct from anecdotes and examples, do more than relay information,” says Lori Silverman, owner of Partners for Progress and coauthor of several books on business storytelling, including Business Storytelling for Dummies. “They allow us to inspire action and create meaning.”

The problem is most people don’t tell well-crafted stories, so developing great member tales requires behind-the-scenes work from the association. Silverman shares some tips:

1.Start with the end in mind. Maybe you want people to join, or volunteer, or earn their certification. “You have to start with ‘What am I trying to do differently? What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? What are we trying to achieve?’ And then you design an approach to go find the stories that support that,” she says.

2.Be proactive and specific in story gathering. Listen to member discussions and follow up on interesting leads, and when you do ask for stories, use a prompt like “Tell me about …” followed by a specific scenario. “Tell me about your day,” for example, is too vague. “You have to say, ‘Tell me about the highlight of your day,’ or ‘tell me about something that happened to you today that was very surprising,’ or ‘tell me about a moment today when you said I’m fed up with XYZ,’” Silverman says.

3.Focus on people, not data. Research shows that people make decisions based on emotions, not logic, so—despite our modern love for data and research—charts and numbers may only cloud the emotional response you’re going for. “It’s in the unconscious mind where people are formulating decisions before they can ever put words to them,” Silverman says. “Stories impact the unconscious.”


Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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