Use storytelling to build engagement in 3 simple steps


Sharing your story is an important and powerful way for you to build support for your project. By engaging others in what you do you can attract new volunteers, get the media attention that you’ve been looking for, show stakeholders your impacts, increase your chances of winning funding and so much more.

The science behind storytelling

Psychologists tell us that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story. Why?  Because storytelling activates certain parts of your audience’s brain, prompting them to turn your story into their own. 

And, if you’ve shared your ‘why’, that story will be memorable because the brain releases dopamine when it experiences emotional charge, making it easier to remember events.

If storytelling sounds daunting then remember – we’re all experienced storytellers. We’ve been trading stories over cups of tea since we were old enough to stew a teabag. Just add these simple tips and tricks to your existing experience and you’ll be able to harness the power of stories to grab the world’s attention and build support for your cause.

The 3 simple stages of storytelling

1. Attract attention

Around 500 million tweets are sent every day, which makes more than 200 billion tweets per year. Amid all that noise you need to attract attention by making people want to stop and check out what you’re talking about.

This can be done in lots of ways. Striking images, memes, GIFs and short videos are a quick way to make people pause on your content and can be pretty easy to create. Quotes can also be a powerful way to grab attention quickly. 

Here’s a GIF we made, using quotes from the participants of a ‘Storytelling for Racial Justice’ workshop. The quotes are simple and powerful, drawing the readers attention.

Using images that tell a story visually or grab us emotionally are more likely to make us pause, as are things that shock us or make us laugh. Can you make the reader feel something? This image from Outdoor Classroom Day evokes visceral memories and taps into good feelings as we can all remember the joy we’ve seen in the faces of kids around us when they’re jumping in puddles!

The recent Caring in Bristol billboard campaign shows brilliantly how you can grab people’s attention by building intrigue and curiosity. Obviously most of us are not creating billboard campaigns but this tactic would work just as well online!

Stonewall’s successful and groundbreaking ‘Get Over It!’campaign used the beautifully simple slogan ‘Some People are Gay. Get Over It!’ to grab attention, showing us that sometimes a simple but powerful message is all you need to turn heads. 

2. Engage your audience

So, you’ve caught someone’s attention. Now you need to turn that attention into engagement with your project or cause. Imagine you’ve attracted someone’s attention on Twitter using a fun meme … now use the caption to tell a story that makes that person care about your work and tell their friend about it too.

Remember to put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Think about how your cause relates to the audience and why they might care, or try to share the experience of your project’s beneficiaries in a way that helps your audience relate to it on a personal level. As humans we are more captivated by things that we can imagine or relate to our own personal circumstances or needs so if you relate things back to your audience you’re more likely to capture their imagination. 

Worldwide Breast Cancer’s innovative #KnowYourLemons campaign made it easy for people to visualise what to look for by relating it to a well-known everyday object.

3. Encourage action

Now you’ve engaged your audience, you want to encourage action. This is key. Every time you set out to tell a story you need to know which action you’re trying to encourage. This will influence how you try to grab attention and how you engage your audience.

Are you trying to change attitudes, make someone laugh, get them to donate money, buy an event ticket, or sign up to volunteer? Whatever action you are trying to encourage, you want to make that action clear, compelling and easy for your audience to act on. 

Make your ‘call to action’ easy to read (think bold fonts and colours), easy to understand (a short simple sentence) and easy to do (make sure your links are working and taking people to the right place). If your call to action is simple, easy and quick people are more likely to do it! 

This kindness postcard campaign went viral because there were very low barriers to action, it was easy to do but had a high impact, helping people to feel empowered at a moment when life felt particularly uncertain. 

Opportunities to tell your story

Storytelling can really help build vital support for your project, and we’re here to help you do it! Here are two great opportunities for you to amplify your voice and tell the world about your project…

Get your story published! Promote what you do, celebrate your successes and share your upcoming events with a local audience! Simply share your story with us and we’ll post it on Semble’s InYourArea page. Find out more.

InYourArea is a nationwide news platform that shares stories covering everything happening near to you and can help your project reach more people in your local community.

Have your voice heard! Have your say on the news topics that matter, from the UK’s Covid response to the future of our cities and whose job it is to protect biodiversity.

Snap up 1 of 100 free memberships for Tortoise Media and you’ll be able to take part in the conversations where journalists decide what to write and put a spotlight on unseen community stories. Get your free membership. 

So, go forth and use your new storytelling skills to build support for your cause! And stay tuned because we have more practical storytelling tips coming your way to help you capture the world’s attention

About the Author:

Chloe works to ensure Semble comms are inspiring and impactful. She’s dedicated to nourishing, strengthening and growing our community through awesome communications. Inspiring and empowering others is what lights her up. When not at work Chloe is happiest in the sea, in a forest, on a yoga mat or lying in the sun.