More storytelling lessons from Rick Bragg


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In a presentation entitled simply, “Stories,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Rick Bragg led an enraptured audience at the 2010 Idea Festival on a journey from the impoverished foothills of Appalachia to the bustling streets of Manhattan.  With him, we marveled at sacrifices his mother made so he could have an education, laughed at his effort to appear “manly” as a writer who more close resembled a sumo wrestler and gasped as he sold the bulls that had represented to him all the wealth he ever desired.

Updating this now, I see that Bragg did what business owners and development officers want to do.  He got us more than interested.  He had us salivating to know what happened next, and in so doing, he convinced hundreds of us to run to the festival’s makeshift bookstore and buy at least one of the four titles available under his name.

Sure, he got paid to speak at the Idea Festival, but the real profit was in the merchandise.  He hooked his audience and convinced us to buy more of his product.  Through his story about storytelling, he proved that he had good products (his books)  that were worth purchasing.

If you’re trying to convince potential donors, volunteers, patrons or clients to choose your nonprofit above all the others to which they could give or from whom they could receive services, you want them to be as invested as Bragg’s audience was.  The same is true if you want potential customers to select your business.

It’s not easy to do what Bragg did, but it is possible to incorporate some of his principles into your marketing:

  • Find an image
  • Show your message; don’t tell
  • Craft your language
  • Add flavor and seasoning
  • Include the misadventures (There is no story without conflict; show how a problem creates misadventures and then show how your product or service can solve them.)
  • Pace yourself when telling your story orally

Want a more detailed how-to?  Join me and my co-hosts on Thursday, April 14, 2011, for “Storytelling Solutions for Your Marketing Puzzles.”

Read Part 1 of Rick Bragg’s, “Stories,” and see a slide show of the graphic recording here.

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