The Art of Storytelling for Associations

A captivating story can motivate an audience in ways your typical content cannot. For associations constantly looking to welcome new members, it’s a modern marketing technique you can’t afford to miss.

But the art of storytelling isn’t easy. In an infographic, Adweek outlines the ways including a story with a product for sale can drive up its perceived value by 5 to 11 percent. Now turn that data away from sales and think about membership. 5 to 11 percent more members sounds pretty great, right?

Well, clearly those sales numbers won’t directly translate to membership growth, but the same principles that make storytelling work for sales will work for associations.

Show members what they’re missing

It’s not always the best tactic to deploy, but there’s nothing quite like the fear of missing out to bring a new member into the fold.

So before you go writing that next fantastic piece of content, consider your members’ interests. Scour through your association management software’s integrated email marketing platform to find out which piece of your last newsletter generated the most interest. Review your member profiles to find out if the story you’re about to tell will even be of interest.

Once that’s done, all you have to do is find a subject. A smiling face. A success story. Maybe it’s someone who makes good use of your association’s webinars. Maybe they attend all of your events.

Whatever the case, mastery of the art of storytelling starts with the ability to pick a strong topic or person to feature.

Putting the smiling face of one of your happy members on your association’s blog or website, along with a story about their membership experience, can do wonders for attracting new members.

It puts your prospective member in someone else’s shoes. No more staring at a screen featuring faces without names. Your prospective member will sense a connection with the association, and they’ll get a better understanding of why it’s valuable.

Storytelling works

Last year, LinkedIn measured the growth of storytelling in marketing. Its study found no one had storytellers on their team in 2010. The content strategy was even perceived as a punchline among marketers.

Fast forward to August 2012. Storytelling was on the verge of a boom, rising to 25,000 storytelling professionals in the industry. Jump to late 2017 and 570,000 marketers counted themselves as storytellers.

And while it works for marketing, a quick look around many association websites shows many member-based organizations still aren’t taking advantage of this powerful engagement tool.

Why hasn’t storytelling caught on in the association world? Who knows? But it’s the perfect tool to find your next member.

Consider the immense value of your association’s learning tools. You know the value’s there, but you’re having a hard time describing it. By letting a member tell their story, you’ve made it accessible to people who are new to associations and don’t see value when looking at membership from a high level.

As long as your AMS’ eCommerce tool functions seamlessly, those new members will be driven to renew earlier. Then, all that hard work storytelling will have paid off.

You’ve Got The Art of Storytelling Down. What’s Next?

Once you’ve sold your staff on the storytelling route, you’ll need to find interesting members to spotlight. Then, write the piece and post it on your website. That sounds easy, but it’s far from it.

Content creation takes time. A rookie storyteller might miss the mark when trying to convey your association’s message through the eyes of a member.

The American Society of Association Executives’ 2018 Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference tackled this issue head-on, showcasing a workshop teaching association leaders how to “Grab the Narrative” to create impactful stories. You could also go the other route, which is to bring on a tested storyteller who knows how to get the job done right.

If you’re raring to go and start on your own, Associations Now recently reviewed storytelling tips from a veteran journalist. But if you’re crunched for time or feel your staff’s content could pack a little more punch, bringing on a creative content writer of your own could lift your staff’s member engagement to new heights.