Nicholas Kristof — journalist, author, op-ed columnist, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes — knows how to tell a story. Yet even he has struggled to strike a chord with readers on tough social issues. So, he turned to the field of social psychology (Sound familiar, social marketers?) and the research of Paul Slovic, Ph.D. to move readers.


Kristof shares two basic lessons about storytelling for change:

1. Emphasize helpfulness.
People are moved contribute when it feels good to do so — when the situation isn’t seen as hopeless.

2. Focus on connection with an individual, not a group.
Empathy fades with each additional person mentioned in a story or campaign.

Basically, he suggests looking “for heroes, not victims,” in order to prompt action. Kristof urges those involved in causes not to feel too “pure and sanctified” to use marketing techniques. Marketing can make people feel lucky to assist, and in the end, we can show how their help can be “every bit as refreshing as say, drinking a Pepsi.”

This is what social marketers do, at their best. We find ways to make specific social changes more acceptable and satisfying to individuals and communities, based on their own deepest desires for social well-being. Of course, we affect more than communication — we’re all about marketing at every level (pricing, products, distribution, service models, etc). Yet we’re often looking for a way to connect with a target audience through the power of storytelling.

Where to begin? Well, now there’s an app for that — the Connection Storymaker, available on Google Play and itunes.

If you’re interested in storytelling, check out the site, “Connection: Hollywood Storytelling meets Critical Thinking”.

Review the article, “Nicholas Kristof’s Advice for Saving the World” and see his New York Times blog On the Ground.


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