How to Tell a Story in 15 Seconds

When we think of storytelling, many of us think of the tales our parents used to tell us before bed or the books we had to read in high school. But the truth is, the definition of storytelling is much more universal. As humans, we are shaped by stories. Every experience, every piece of knowledge or information we receive can turn into a story—that is, if we communicate it correctly.

There are a few major differences between the stories we were told growing up and the stories used to promote government programs. When people read or listen to a story in the traditional sense of the word, they tend to set aside time to experience it. They actually want to engage with the story. However, when stories are delivered via email or on a webpage, people tend to be less invested. Government communicators have more to prove when they tell stories; they have to convince people that their content is worth reading. While government information isn’t always the most compelling, the way it is communicated can be—and should be. After all, this is the kind of information that saves lives. It’s the kind of information that has a lasting impact on citizens when it is circulated effectively.

Recent studies have shown that the average person spends about 15 seconds reading (or should I say skimming) an email. To put this into perspective, that’s about one half the amount of time most people can hold their breath.

The good news is there are a few different ways to tell and sell a great government story in 15 seconds.

Identify your goals. You can’t expect a group of people to react positively to your story unless you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish. In your case, a story is only as great as the number of people who read it. Identify your end goal and develop realistic steps to help you get there. Once you have a communications plan in place, you will be ready to deliver.

Organize your content strategically. Much like traditional stories, your message should have a beginning, middle, and end. But unlike many traditional stories, your message should be concise and to the point. Remember that most of your audience will only look at the message for 15 seconds, so try not to focus on every single detail of your campaign. Instead, only highlight the parts that are absolutely necessary. Tell your audience what your campaign is, why it matters to them, and how they can get involved.

Find creative and efficient ways to communicate. As technology continues to advance, communicators are finding new and innovative ways to reach their audience. Imagine the sort of impact you’d have if you could reach subscribers wherever they are. Here at GovDelivery, we’ve helped hundreds of government organizations gain immediate traction through our text messaging services, providing quick alerts to subscribers on the go.

Author: Tara Lerman, GovDelivery