Share Facts and Anecdotes

Both facts and anecdotes play an important role in communication.  In broad terms, the facts provide the logic and the anecdotes engage the emotions.

A sustainable call to action requires both facts and anecdotes.  People will respond to a message when either a fact or anecdote is present.  However, anecdotes without statistics cause staff, students, parents, and supporters to wonder if success occurs frequently enough to justify their involvement.  When that happens, their commitment declines.  Statistics without a good anecdote causes them to wonder if there is sufficient value.  When that happens, their commitment also declines.

How facts and anecdotes are woven together in communication is an element of style that depends on the communicator and the audience.  The goal is to communicate a clear, compelling message that is sticky (hard to forget/easy to remember).  A compelling call to action will start things moving.  A sticky message will ensure that the recipient of the message is able to easily remember why they engaged and why they should remain engaged.

Facts lay the foundation.  They prove that success is possible and happens frequently.  They give the listener confidence that what they are being asked to support is reasonable.

Anecdotes engage the listener’s emotions.  While either positive or negative emotions will create a compelling call to action, it is easier to sustain positive emotions.  Therefore, in most cases, it is best to focus on the positive emotions.  In addition, positive emotions are more likely to create hope and optimism.  Those two make it easier to cultivate the listener’s future involvement and sustain their involvement.

In the right combination, the facts and anecdotes together make the message sticky.  The other things that make communications sticky are short and clear messages.  Clear messages contain simple words and concepts that are easy to grasp (written at a third-grade level).  Keeping it short helps to reduce the clutter and ensures that the message is delivered and understood before a busy person’s attention drifts to the next item on their to-do list.

Frequently refreshing your inventory of anecdotes and facts will ensure that every message has something new in it.  It also helps keep people from discarding the message without reading it because they think they have already heard the message.

Next Step:

Keep your facts and anecdotes fresh

Pair facts and anecdotes in each message

Customize every message to fit the unique interests of each of your audiences (parents, students, donors, etc.)

Ensure your messages are compelling and sticky

End messages with a call to action

There is no reason to take up anyone’s time with a status report.  If everything is running smoothly, there is no reason for anyone to care.  Only exceptions matter and only if you want some action taken.  Therefore, tell people about the exception in a way that engages them and ensures your call to action is compelling and seems like something within their capacity.

The preceding process should be used with every message to every audience (staff, board, donors, public, etc.).

Some of the benefits of a well-crafted message are:

The message increases the sustainability of your school and the perceived relevance of your mission

The message increases the engagement of the recipients

The message increases support because the value and effectiveness of your school and mission are better understood

Take It Further:

Use the call to action to increase board member engagement and to limit board micromanagement

Ensure the facts and anecdotes never dilute or distract from your message


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