Storytelling…the Messy Way


By Allison McGuire

I am an unabashed fan of the show Girls (NSFW). The show certainly has many flaws, but the reason it speaks to me is because it is messy, complicated, and, dare I say, real. I’m drawn to the characters not only because they have compelling individual stories, but because their collective story is powerful and raw.

Thaler Pekar recently posted an excellent piece in Stanford’s Social Innovation Review (hat tip: Kate Olsen) around the power of storytelling. While we’ve all read articles on the importance of your corporate brand having a coherent, compelling story, Pekar’s piece is especially insightful because it goes beyond the standard storytelling line, and draws on the nuanced, and at times, disorderliness of life.

When applying lessons gleaned from storytelling to your brand, keep this in mind: consumers value authenticity. Your philanthropy story doesn’t have to tell how X dollars translated into helping X number of people, resulting in X stories of success.

Take a walk on the wild side.

For example (and this is true for nonprofits too), explain how X dollars went to—perhaps the least sexy of all—your cause’s operational expenses. Then demonstrate how these expenses are critical to maintaining that nonprofit’s mission, and truly do showcase impact.

Nuance is key. Armed with the social media tools of today, your consumers will voice their support or dislike for your story in very public ways. If you add in a dose of reality, people will connect in ways previously unimagined.

Mellow Mushroom stalks fans with hilarious advertising campaign

Mellow Mushroom’s hilarious campaign stalks fans who follow them on Twitter

Pekar cites Exhale and New York Presbyterian Hospital as great examples of showcasing relatable, surprisingly genuine stories. I’d add Mellow Mushroom for its creepy factor and Upworthy for its dedication to telling real, compelling stories.

Let’s put it this way. If you see your Facebook friend has updated their relationship status to ‘It’s Complicated’, you know there’s a good story there. There’s room for your brand’s story to do the same.

Allison McGuire is the Marketing Associate at Network for Good. You can read more of her blog posts on corporate social good at and follow her on Twitter @calimcg.

2 Comments on “Storytelling…the Messy Way”

  1. thinkgood
    August 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on Think Good Inc..


  1. Pitch Perfect: 3 Steps for Nonprofits to “Speak Corporate” | Armchair Advocates - August 18, 2013

    […] and rational sensibilities. It should also be authentic to your organization (see Allison’s recent post on storytelling). The opportunity to tell your story could appear at any time, so it’s best […]

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