Focus on people; focus on results, we tell ourselves. How do we communicate that the mission is accomplishing its goals? Stories and statistics. Stories prove we’re doing what we say we’re doing on an individual level. Statistics show that we’re accomplishing our goals on a broader level. The two work together.
Every one of us who writes for the Internet has to listen closely to the needs of our audience and then determine the types of content we can create to meet those needs. Those of us who write for nonprofits understand we define ourselves by the stories we tell, the people we profile and the events we write about.
What kinds of content can you create for your audience?
Stories contain a likable main character who confronts a problem and solves it, requiring the main character to make a difficult decision, follow it up with hard work and become a better person in the end.
While stories resonate with our readers, they are difficult to write because the author has to show life change. Sometimes that change happens inside a person’s heart. That kind of change is harder to identify and write about. Frequently this happens when a person comes to Christ or starts to grow in their faith.
How do you show life-change? Ask your story subjects if they can give you an example. Whenever you can, write about their response to a difficult situation, demonstrating how they changed.
2. Personality Profile
This is a summary of a person’s life experiences, answering questions like: What do they do, and what experiences have led them to do it? It’s not a story because there is no problem to confront and solve, however, you will want to identify a common theme, think of it as your focus, to write about throughout the entire story.
It’s possible you will write about someone who participates in your work on a regular basis. Even though they might not have an obstacle to overcome, they show up week after week, accomplishing the goals of your mission.
You can show what a day in their lives might look like so people can imagine themselves stepping into the work you’re doing.
3. Biographical Summary
This, too, is a summary of a person’s life, only it’s more a listing of the facts as they happened. The writer doesn’t pick a theme to write about in every paragraph or present the main character as having a problem to confront and solve. Instead, it’s a telling of important life events, usually in chronological order.
Inexperienced writers might choose this format to help them gather all of the necessary facts. Once the facts are gathered and assembled, an experienced editor can help identify a focus that could allow the writer to create a personality profile.
A report explains what happened and answers questions your readers might be asking. For example, what happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Who was there? How does it show our mission in action?
According to writing coach Roy Peter Clark, the difference between a story and a report is this: A report tells the facts of what happened. A story evokes an emotional response. A report shows scope on a large scale. 500 students came to our fall retreat. A story shows life-change in an individual. One of the students made a decision to trust Christ to forgive her sins.
This is a summary of a person’s life events that includes quotes from four or five people who explain what this person means to them. This works well when you want to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary of a well-known person.
Each of these forms has its place on your website, in your emails and in your publications. Know what they are and understand the purpose they serve. If you are the editor, know the difference between each piece of content, and be clear with the writer exactly what you expect. If you are the writer, understand the differences between each piece of content, and ask questions to help you understand what your editor expects from you.
Because variety is the spice of life, consider varying the types of content you put in front of your readers. Know the difference between each one. Try each one out to see if it helps you accomplish your goals.