Connect Through Storytelling

Storytelling is in. It has been one of the best forms of communicating since Adam and Eve nibbled on the forbidden fruit.

To be better school communicators, we need to tell more stories. We can shout about our positive test scores, our high graduation rates, top-tier college acceptances, and the number of staff with master’s degrees, but most of these stats are not nearly as effective as a great story. Case in point from the following Subaru ad:

Dear Subaru:

“My niece needed a reliable car so I gave her my ’94 Subaru Legacy. Then one day, for the first time ever, it wouldn’t start. Our mechanic simply asked us to try our spare key. It started right up! After 200,000 miles, the key had worn out before the car.”

Ginger C. Hood, VA.


Connection made. So much better than an ad saying that statistics prove we are reliable and that our cars will last for a long time. “The key wearing out before the car” sticks with us when we think of Subaru.

We have thousands of great stories about our staff and students every day. Talk about them. Tell the story about the counselor who turned around a struggling student as she nurtured her from elementary all the way through high school. Talk about the exceptional teachers, food service folks and principals who make it all happen. You have thousands of stories to prove what you want your schools to be known for. Just tell them.

A good story trumps a list of bulleted facts just about every time.

Start telling your stories now.

Rich Bagin, APR, NSPRA executive director

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4 Comments on “Connect Through Storytelling”

  1. Debra Marlow Says:

    A young man, now 20, who grew up in a neighborhood with the highest crime rate in our community and 85% free and reduced price lunch was served in elementary school by Communities In Schools of Chesterfield and wrote the following:
    “At school, I was taught to be honest, to love and to care, to be respectful. . .when faced with a life decision, nine times out of ten my thoughts go straight to Camp Adventure. In just those two short years, I grew so much, not only in height, but as a person…When thinking of camp, one memory sticks out above all others. I can still smell the peanut butter and jelly, the fresh loaves of bread, and the heart in the air that was going into each and every individual meal for the homeless. The day we went to the homeless shelter showed me so much. Camp gave most of us the first warm-hearted feelings. Those feelings that you receive when you know you’ve helped someone other than yourself. That feeling never leaves your heart. I will never forget the expression on the people’s faces when they saw nothing more than fourth and fith graders, who had such great big hearts, sharing love openly to these strangers. It was all because of our teacher. He showed us how to share love and care for others…. From him, I learned all the qualities and the true meanings in life…and because of him, I am the person I am today…no matter the situation, no matter the the hardship, I will make the right decision, and I will strive for better all because of him. Maybe someday when I am done studying at college…I can restore to him the love and care that he gave me. . .because of him, I will keep striving.”

  2. Betsy Kohn Says:

    Check out how we are telling some of our “Success Stories” in our local paper and online… Our district often gets a bad rap – but this has met with a lot of positive feedback. (Including a letter to the editor, in a column that prints a lot of negatives.) The cost to our district is zero… I write and photograph, the ads are sponsored by local businesses, and layout/ad sales is done by a local ad agency donating their time to us.
    http://mcaswiki.mcas.k12.in.us/Communications/Success_Stories

  3. Nicole Kirby Says:

    Great point, Rich! Here is one of my favorite examples from my district of telling a story – in the superintendent’s annual speech to the community, we shared the story of a young man who overcame terrible odds thanks to his elementary school. This story communicated more about how much our educators care than anything else we could have said.

    It’s near the end of this video, at the 50:30-minute mark:
    http://ch18.parkhill.k12.mo.us/currentprograms/EdFoundationBreakfast2009.wmv

  4. Mary Olson Says:

    We try to tell an interesting story of a highly successful graduate (and occasionally a student who has done something really outstanding) in each issue of our community newsletter. For example, we featured a graduate of one of our five high schools who finds new species of mammals in remote corners of the globe and an immigrant student who is legally blind and has autism but who, nevertheless, won a prestigious Young Soloist Competition for piano performance. Our Graduate Spotlight/Student Spotlight is one of the most successful features of the newsletter.


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