We previously introduced the idea of public narrative and explained that it highlights three different facets of an organization: the story of us, the story of self, and the story of now. But what exactly differentiates those three different stories and how they are told? Let’s take a look at each of the three core components of a public narrative and examine how they operate.
The Story of Self: Pinpointing Your Call to Leadership
The story of self is perhaps the easiest to understand, even if you’re not convinced that your own story is of special interest. The truth is that humans are storytellers by nature, and though you may not realize it, each of us tells dozens of little stories every day through normal conversations. The story of self is an extension of that everyday storytelling focused on what brought you to the values embraced by this community.
With that in mind, the story of self doesn’t need to be an epic drama, a nail-biting memoir, or a literary sensation. It’s as simple as explaining the path that led you to becoming a leader in this organization. You may want to talk about the people or life events that shaped your purpose; you may want to point to a devastating loss or a moment of particularly intense challenge that pushed you in this direction; or you may want to talk about how the goals of this organization have shaped your life in a broader sense. Whatever the approach, your story of self should help listeners to understand what drove you to become a leader in this cause.
The Story of Us: Uncovering Shared Values, Hopes, and Dreams
If the story of self tells your own tale, the story of us takes a step back to paint a picture of the community as a whole. However, it is still a story, which means it still benefits from a narrative structure, albeit one where the community (rather than an individual) encounters challenges and is changed as a result.
Effectively charting the story of a community requires finding specific moments (known as choice points) that point to the values of the group as a whole. Like any good story, these choice points can cover a wide range of emotions, from failure to humor to triumph over adversity. But whatever the tone, the story of us must be told with deep empathy, and with the goal of clarifying the purpose that binds this group together as an “Us” rather than just disconnected, self-interested individuals.
The Story of Now: Emphasizing the Urgency of Action
You’ve explained what brings you as an individual to the organization, and what brings together all the other individuals into a community with shared values. All that’s left is to make it clear why acting on those values is necessary. The story of now provides the opportunity to take the previous narratives that were focused on the past and turn them into something immediate.
As the part of the public narrative focused on strategy, you may be tempted to make the story of now one of impending disaster. After all, what better way to push people to act than driving home how bad the situation you’re trying to address is? However, it’s just as important that the story of now include elements of hope. If you want to drive people to action, they must believe that an improved future is possible as a result of that action. The goal of the story of now is to convince listeners not only that inaction will make things worse, but that they can actually make things better by choosing to act.
If you’re seeking more information and guidance on each of these stories or on crafting a public narrative as a whole, sign up for a Wild workshop now. Wild Project workshops teach you how to use all the tools necessary for outstanding leadership, including public narrative and storytelling.