Owning Your Story in a Powerful Way.
The following content is an excerpt from Mooncut’s webinar The Power of Story: How to Increase Engagement with Strategic Narrative. Using my own story, it demonstrates the steps on storytelling I covered during the live session—showing participants how to position their audience members as the heroes. Transforming Youth Outdoors (TYO) hosted our webinar series on content marketing, and continues to be a powerhouse resource for nonprofits and individuals, alike. Please enjoy!
Shifting “My Story” to “Our Story”
I admit. At first, I had a hard time deciphering what truly is my story. Like you, I’ve been smacked with “a-ha”s at otherwise ordinary moments. Showering, driving, burning dinner. But it wasn’t until I ran through the Navajo’s Canyon De Chelly, perhaps the least ordinary of all the places I’ve trekked, that I began seeing how the pieces of my own narrative started carving the landscape of some larger story.
I was set to run a 35-mile out-and-back on the canyon floor of the most spiritually significant places held sacred by the Navajo. Not of Navajo descent, I couldn’t enter the canyon alone. But with Shaun Martin, the area’s high school track coach and human hall pass, I was granted access alongside 99 other runners.
We began huddled around a small fire, and waited for the sun to rise above the canyon rim. Then, at first light, Shaun’s father-in-law began a traditional prayer, a blessing for ourjourney through the stream-cut, still-inhabited canyon where Navajo families continue to work the land among sandstone spires, cave dwellings and wild horses. I entered the mouth and yelled, as Shaun suggested, to announce my presence. Then, I stepped into a 5,000-year-old story that had absolutely nothing to do with me.
Shaun organized this race as a way to raise money for his Navajo students—funds for new shoes, better gear, a way to build confidence and courage in these kids so that they might make their way out of Chinle, a place that told them they’ll never amount to anything. His story is humbling. But it wasn’t mine.
What was mine was something the canyon gave me by run’s end. An experience. A reminder. A realization. The thing that showed me how my story weaved into the larger fabric of the narrative we on this webinar are striving to change.
Seeing the Big Picture
Shaun knew if he could just get folks to the canyon, that big things would happen. For him, his students, his people. Doesn’t that sound like you? If only your nonprofit could get folks to do X, Y, Z, how different things might be. Fortunately, you’ve partnered with nature. A force that sells itself pretty well. Your work is to figure out who specifically can advance the story of your organization. Here’s a hint: It’s not everyone.
Why? Your organization penned a mission to make a change. If you think about, that means shifting someone else’s story. Making someone else realize that she can impact the big picture, that he is worthy of being a part of something meaningful. That requires connecting with people on a personal level—human to human. We each have a tale that plays into a larger narrative. If we take that notion a step further, we realize that what we do in our own lives affects how the bigger story ends.
What we know as the nature-obsessed is that this story has the potential to end very badly. That’s why each of us on this webinar do what we do.
This foreshadowing into a bleak future is where many eco-focused and outdoors organizations make a profound mistake. Obligation, overwhelm, doom-and-gloom. You know this story. Maybe your organization perpetuates this dark tale.
We want to shift how outdoors-focused organizations are telling their story, to help you stand out and own your narrative because, when your organization succeeds, we all benefit. Just being introduced through this webinar, we collectively have entered the mouth of some larger story. Now it’s up to us how we write the next chapter and help ensure it ends well. Together, we stand a better chance of getting the story right.