SMEX18 – Telling stories

The keynote speech at this year’s Social Media Exchange (run by soundDelivery) was given by Dr Sue Black. Sue led the campaign to save Bletchley Park (do go if you haven’t been) and aims to have trained 1 million women through her #TechMums programme by 2020. She set up the BCS Women network and was recently named as one of the top 50 women in tech in the Europe. Her message was ‘If I can do it, so can you’.

This had also been the message of the day. Speakers shared tips and examples so others (mainly people from small charities) could develop their skills so they could do it too.

After a quick warm up, here are my top takeaways….

warm-up exercise at SMEX18 - everyone with their arms in the air

1. People want to tell their story

I went to sessions by Jessica Barlow who launched the @nhs account and George Olney, Stories Journalist at Crisis. Both of them work as facilitators of stories.

Take a look at the archive of stories as Twitter Moments from the brilliant @nhs account to see the insights being shared by medical professionals and patients. Then look at Crisis’ EverybodyIn campaign which works a bit like Humans of New York, sharing photos and stories from homeless people across the country.

screenshot of Crisis' stories

People want to share. They want you to understand something. They want you to learn. Listen.

How can you help the people you work with to tell their stories? Is your organisation stuck, not doing anything with stories in case it goes wrong or is off-message?

The Crisis stories don’t mention Crisis. The stories are helping us to understand the causes and impact of homelessness. The charity doesn’t need to get in the way of this.

Similarly, the @nhs curator is given freedom to talk about what is important to them. Tweets are not edited or approved. As a result they are engaging and authentic. [Read more about Twitter takeovers and rocur.]

> Get out of the way. Help people to tell their stories. Your organisation doesn’t need to be the story.

2. Stories come in different forms

We are in a golden age of content. But this means there is a lot of noise and you can break the rules. So now is your chance to be creative!

Look at Emma Lawton’s video blog. Since April 2017 she has been vlogging every day through her PD365 series on YouTube. This heavy content commitment means she has had to be creative and find different ways of sharing different messages.

screenshot of Emma Lawton's vlogs showing lots of different styles

Luke Williams ex of RNLI shared lots of examples of charities using 360 video, virtual reality and chat bots (take a look at Luke’s slides). More and more organisations are experimenting with new formats for stories. An immersive story where the user gets to experience something rather than just reading about it, will have greater impact.

> What format will have the most impact for your story? Experiment and just do it!

3. Personal connections matter

The most moving story was from Alison Hitchcock who wrote letters to her friend Brian through his treatment for bowel cancer. She subsequently set up From Me to You, a campaign to encourage people to write letters to friends, family and strangers with cancer.

A simple letter can be like holding someone’s hand. It can be a distraction. What a beautiful thing to do.

> How can you make a personal connection to help someone?

4. Just do it

Barbara from Behind Bras and Andy / David from Hair Unite shared their experiences of seeing a solution to a problem and rolling their sleeves up to get on with it.

Jessica from NHS England was the one who thought that a curated account would work to tell the hidden stories away of the health service press releases and tabloid stories. She researched and risk-assessed it, pitching the idea to colleagues.

Crisis know that they need to reframe perceptions and prejudices of homelessness in order to drive the change to end homelessness. Sharing stories and photographs helps them to do this.

> Don’t wait for someone else to make something happen. Be part of the change you want to see.


What were your highlights? What were your takeaways? Please do share.

Also, do take a look at Gemma Pettman’s blog post in which she shares the tips she picked up at the event.

More on storytelling

Can I help you? I am a digital freelancer, working with charities on their content, comms and digital strategies.

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One thought on “SMEX18 – Telling stories

  1. Pingback: Digital do’s and don’ts from SMEX18 | Gemma Pettman PR

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