How to Tell Stories that Change the World

Kate Davey and Carl Harris

Kate Davey and Carl Harris

I think I may have the best job in the world. As a storyteller for, I get to work with petition starters on the most interesting and compelling stories I've ever heard -- stories that are changing the world.

Through the power of storytelling you and your supporters can make real change happen. And the world wants to hear your story. 

But, how and where do you start? What crucial information should you include and what should you leave out?

We want to help. So on Tuesday night, my colleague Carl Harris, our Senior Community Engagement Manager, and I gave a webinar called, "Stories that Matter: Crafting Stories that Change the World."

In our webinar, we went over the four storytelling elements to include when writing your petition and how to keep your audience’s attention. 

The four most important storytelling elements for your petition are:

1. High and clear stakes. Stakes are what make us care. To find your stakes, answer the following question: What is the worst thing that will happen if my organization's petition doesn’t achieve victory?

2. Incentive to act. Give your audience incentive to act by making your audience feel part of a larger movement. Describe exactly how your organization's cause can affect your reader, and illustrate this from multiple viewpoints. Will if affect your reader personally? What about their family or wider community?

3. Clear Call to Action. In your CTA, make sure you specifically ask your audience to sign your petition and tell them why they should sign your petition. You can usually do this in one or two sentences.

4. Urgency. By adding a sense of urgency, you increase the likelihood that your audience will follow your call to action and sign as soon as they read your petition.

Now that you know what to include in your petition, here are the four tips for keeping your audience's attention:

1. Show, don’t tell your readers your story. It's important to create a visual for your readers that they can "see" in their minds. Readers are more likely to hold onto thoughts that they associate with imagery.

2. Make an emotional connection as soon as possible. Within the first few sentences, but definitely the first paragraph, your audience should know why you’re writing this petition and why your organization is well-positioned to take action.

3. Use your most compelling argument. By finding where you have the strongest emotional reaction to the issue in your petition, you can also find your most compelling argument to engage your audience.

4. Make sure you have a clear Call to Action. (We covered this above, but it's worth repeating!) This means calling on your audience to sign your petition. CTAs need to be as clear as possible - your audience needs to know exactly what you’re asking of them and why.