What's the story? Context is key

When writing to inform, engage, and inspire, association professionals often assume members will be so eager to get to the point of their content that they can forgo the tried and true elements of what make a narrative work – but skipping out on storytelling is a mistake.


Regardless of how well-supported and concisely communicated your points are, humans are natural storytellers; we crave a narrative to establish context. Story-crafting is critical because it allows the audience to draw parallels to their own life, enabling them to relate to the content in a meaningful way.

Here’s an easy trick that you can utilize to instantly transform a piece from a sales pitch or educational episode to a story – add a beginning and an end. Let’s use a service promotion as an example:

A competent copywriter might say the following about a new association benchmarking program:

The benchmarking program allows members to compare themselves against their peers. Survey participants will receive a report that enables them to see how their company stacks up on a variety of key performance indicators. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to get your finger on the pulse of our industry – join the program today!

This is fine, but it’s just the middle of the story – with no beginning or end. For an instant narrative makeover, try putting yourself in the shoes of one of your audience personas. For example:

BEGINNING - lead with the problem to be solved, why are we here?
Steve has just inherited his father’s business and he’s eager to lead the company to the next level of success. The only problem is, he’s not sure where to begin. Should he double down and refine what’s already working, should he look for other areas where they can stand out in the market, or should he try to mitigate the company’s weaknesses?

MIDDLE - this is the meat, share the information.
That’s why Steve decided to participate in the benchmarking program. Survey participants receive a report that enables them to see how their company stacks up on a variety of key performance indicators. With this data, Steve was able to compare himself to his peers and get a clear picture of his opportunities and risks.

END - what is the result? Describe the impact of the change.
After analyzing the report, Steve realized that his customer throughput was below industry standard. By investing in some inexpensive time-saving equipment, he was able to improve throughput by 15%. This means his business can now compete for more time-sensitive clients.


The great thing about the narrative approach is that your audience doesn’t have to be exactly like Steve. There just has to be enough commonality to get viewers to draw parallels to their own experiences. Adding just one relatable persona can give engagement a dramatic boost.

Of course, if you want to intensify this effect, you can write multiple pieces – each more closely matching a different audience persona – and distribute these pieces to the appropriate demographics, but that’s a blog for another day.

For the next sales piece you write, try setting the information in a slightly wider narrative context. 

Even if you don’t use an imaginary persona, like Steve, the exercise can help you reflect and refine your work. How could you begin or end your piece in a way that offers entry points for the audience to draw a personal connection? Not every promo needs to be an emotional rollercoaster or narrative saga, but adding in one or two sentences that resonate with the viewer can make a world of difference.

Here are three great examples of how narrative can be used to educate, advertise, and entertain:

Example 1Example 2Example 3

Ready to tell your own story? Check out our video services here.


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