The Seven Deadly Sins of Startup Storytelling

This piece originally ran on The First Round Review published by First Round Capital.

pencilSo you called a cab, but no one’s showing. The only thing the cranky dispatcher will say is “He’ll be there in 15.” You call back in 15, and he now says, “Driver’s on the way. Any minute now.” Click. It’s cold, it’s getting dark, and you’re already late. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that let you tap into an unused supply of empty cabs and cars to get you where you want to go, perhaps with a little style? So goes the legendary inspiration behind Uber, a story now encapsulated in a single tagline:

“Everyone’s private driver.”

When it comes to persuasion, companies have traditionally appealed to the left side of the brain — logic, pricing, specs. Emotion, however, has proven to be the better marketing tool. As Daniel Pink, author of Drive, writes, “Right-brain dominance is the new source of competitive advantage.” Appealing to the right side of the brain allows for deeper engagement by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do this: Tell a story.

That said, the way you tell a company’s story is (and should be) quite different from the way you’d tell a story at a party. While the same techniques for success apply, too often business stories fall flat or set unnecessary fires, particularly in the domain of start-ups. You see it all the time. But in my experience, you can’t teach a company how to tell its story — just like you can’t teach someone to have a certain personality. Instead, I’ll give you the big don’ts.

1. Telling, not showing.  One of the most fundamental maxims of storytelling is “Show, don’t tell” — and for a good reason. Rather than talking at your audience, telling them what to do or feel, share the story so that it unfolds naturally and your audience comes to their own conclusion themselves. People don’t just absorb facts and information. They actively listen to stories and, in real time, make their own inferences.

When you’re sharing a story, do so in a way that lets your audience envision the setting, picture the protagonist, and really feel the conflict that he or she is facing. Describe what’s happening as if the action is unfolding right now in front of you. As Mark Twain said:

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” 

 

What this looks like in practice: Go to the “About Us” section on your website. Is it mostly text? Is the information pure data or are you using stories, personality and perhaps even humor to illustrate who you are?

Also take an inventory of the tools you’re using to share your company’s story. Done well, video is the most powerful antidote to the poison of telling. Rich in its ability to stimulate the senses visually and viscerally, it can convey complex ideas quickly, or emphasize subtle but important differences.

A key example is FiftyThree, creator of a digital drawing tool that’s a significant departure from other styluses on the market — particularly the way it folds in the best elements of analog tools. Called Pencil, it’s positioned as a better stylus, and unique in how it incorporates palm rejection. But rather than waste time explaining that terminology, or how Pencil is superior, the company released a beautifully shot narration-free video of artists actually creating with Pencil and demonstrating the intuitive quality of its features.

2. Too much jargon. We have all read countless press releases and seen presentations filled with nonsense words like synergy, platform, paradigm. What do they mean, anyway? We comfortably laugh at Alec Baldwin’s pompous character Jack on 30 Rock as he invents concepts like pos-mens (positive mentions) and upward-revenue-stream-dynamics, but to most people outside of our industry, we probably sound equally obtuse. Among the many plaudits heaped upon Steve Jobs, his emphasis on simplicity ranks high. You must recognize that it’s you and your product that need to fit your customer, not the other way around.

In his introduction of the famous Think Different campaign, Jobs told his audience, “To me marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember very much about us — no company is. So we have to be very clear about what we want them to know about us.”

Filling a story with technical terms, acronyms and superfluous words is the best way to lose your audience. Hippocrates (MDs know him as “The Oath Guy”) wrote: “The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.”

In Practice: Under Jobs, Apple adopted a relentlessly simple, humanistic mode of communication. Today, successors like Square (“Sell on the go.”), Venmo (“Make and share payments.”), and Evernote (“Remember everything.”) make important and often elaborate capabilities accessible. They do this by filling in the blank for their customers: “I really want to _______.” Then they do it.

3. Too impersonal. It doesn’t matter if your organization sells razors, builds cloud infrastructure, or designs medical devices, human beings are still driving the action. Personalize the protagonist of your story. Make her seem real enough so that the audience feels a stake in (and wants to know) what happens to her next.

 

“People connect with other people, so make sure you focus on the real-life characters in your story.”

 

Subway famously took the opportunity to turn a true story into pure gold. College student Jared Fogle demonstrated that you can lose a ton of weight on a diet of Subway sandwiches. Much more compelling than promoting a slate of healthier new sandwich choices, here was a real-life story of a guy who Subway customers could connect to. And he was using their product to lead a better life. Originally written up in a campus newspaper, he was subsequently recognized as an asset by a local Subway franchise, then by Subway’s Chicago ad agency. Jared became the modest but quietly charismatic spokesperson for the brand. The Jared story ran as the lead campaign for Subway for 10 years — during which sales doubled.

In practice: What could be more personal than a hard drive in the cloud? Practically anything, right? But as the saying goes, it’s all in how you use it. When Dropbox hit a big customer milestone, they celebrated by launching a site thanking their customers while encouraging them to share what Dropbox has enabled them to do. Some people wrote and stored novels, others shared baby photos with distant grandparents, still others lost and recovered their honors theses — all thanks to Dropbox. The continuously scrolling page filled with customer images and text submissions brings a whole new dimension to the company and, best of all, gets out of the way to let customers share what they care most about with each other.

4. Starting from the beginning. Unless you’re telling the story of how to land a plane safely or the proper assembly of an IKEA bookshelf, resist the urge to begin at the beginning. Chronology matters much less than having your story follow an interesting arc. And as luck would have it, the stuff you need to hook people doesn’t tend to happen early on. Events need to build, one after the other, emotionally rather than sequentially. To really impact people, your story should describe increasing risk and increasing consequences until the final, inevitable conclusion — but not necessarily the one that the audience expects.

As you think of the elements of the story you want to tell, imagine them as modules, first capturing them on Post-Its, then mixing them up. This easy exercise will break you of the oppressive habit of presenting things in order. Now, Post-Its in hand, think like a movie-maker. Open on a moment of truth. Make people feel it. Engage the senses. Then reach back to the past to savor the contrast. Even if people know how your story ends — it’s usually the product you’re asking them to buy — you can breathe life into the journey of how you got there, how your other customers discovered you, and why it’s made a difference.

In practice: Bank of America chose to flip chronology in its recent Portraits campaign. Opening on an old couple taking a photo together, we start to go back in time with the couple’s extended family setting up and taking photos, reaching back in time through significant, often challenging events. Grandchildren disappear, adults become children, and we’re left at the beginning: a young couple on a couch with their whole lives ahead of them. The effect is mesmerizing. What might have been a cloying, overly-sentimental ad is elevated with visual interest, a rare combination of creativity and familiarity that grabs attention and warms the heart.

5.  Lack of conflict.  Something always goes wrong in companies, particularly start-ups.  But screw-ups also present opportunities to shine by telling a story of responsibility, apology and remedy. Not only are customers more loyal to brands that readily apologize, the backlash to brands that don’t own their mistakes are disproportionately costly.

Engaging stories do not chronicle a straight line to success.  Imagine if Rocky won every fight… no one would watch. It’s the doubt and concern that keeps us engaged. Hone in on your protagonist’s problems or barriers to achieving his goal. What is standing in his way?

 

“By incorporating moments of vulnerability or doubt, you create empathy and lend authenticity to the story.”

 

Lululemon missed a huge opportunity to apologize when it shipped a batch of, um, overly-sheer yoga pants. The faux pas was made oh, so much worse when founder Chip Wilson suggested that his customers’ fat thighs were to blame for the problem. Pouring insult on injury made sure that the company’s eventual apology fell on deaf ears. The incident prompted a disastrous quarter for the company and Wilson’s resignation.

In practice: While some accused her of being slow on the uptake, Marissa Mayer seized the opportunity to humanize Yahoo’s brand and demonstrate leadership while offering a clear, sincere apology for last month’s widespread email outage. She empathized with people and the problems the outage caused and took responsibility without making excuses. She even offered insight into the problem itself that anyone could identify with: “Unfortunately, the outage was much more complex than it seemed at first…” Hearing these few words, most people can think of a time when something similar happened to them. That’s where empathy begins. And only then can you recover.

6. Fabrication. Your story needs to be authentic. A major cancer center in Washington once asked a customer named Audrey, who happens to be a triathlete, if they could use her photo in a cancer awareness campaign. When the bus and magazine ads launched, much to the surprise of Audrey (and her large network of friends, family and fellow athletes), she was positioned as a cancer survivor. How much more powerful would this campaign have been if the featured image were that of an actual cancer survivor? For everyone who knows Audrey (or heard her story), this reputable institution has now tarnished its credibility forever. People want to hear and be moved by real stories.

 

“A fake story begs for a backlash.”

 

Make stories part of your culture — and more than that, the integrity of your culture. All-hands meetings can be pivotal here. Stories are often the best way to relate how a company is doing, what people are doing well, and what they could be doing better. And when leaders do this with transparency, honesty and humility, they make their employees feel good about their work — even if things aren’t all peachy.

In practice: Capturing moments, good or bad, in story form can authentically connect your employees to your company, and increase their commitment to their work. Consider kicking off staff meetings with stories instead of progress reports. There are a few ways to do this. As you go around the room, ask everyone to briefly talk about the strangest thing that’s happened to them since the last meeting, or a customer story that involved the greatest amount of surprise. Did someone use your product in a new way? Did a hater become a believer?

7. Proprietary. Companies with a stranglehold on what their corporate story is and who can tell it are missing a world of opportunities. And they’re doing so at a time when social media makes it easier than ever to connect and share. Stories told by employees and by customers are incredible, sometimes invaluable assets (see Jared for Subway). Recognize the value in stories from internal and external sources, design ways to collect them, and enable your customers, advocates and employees to be storytellers too.

The best tactic here is to create an internal “story bank,” or database of stories, where employees and even customers can write and submit stories complete with titles. These stories can then be tagged by keyword, so that people looking for particular anecdotes or examples can easily find them. This also makes it easy for employees browsing through customer stories to reach out to the authors.

Nike, Apple and eBay all harness stories as tools to crowdsource ideas — especially what their consumers are really passionate about. In doing so, they give employees the language and initiative to tell personal stories of meaning, and to amplify and distribute brand initiatives in story form.

In Practice: Comcast pioneered one of the very first effective campaigns on Twitter when it launched @ComcastCares. Once a hotbed of Comcast hate, Twitter became a huge brand building environment and customer service win for them. Comcast wrote the book on how people telling negative customer stories on social media (all-caps rants about poor cable service, photos of the cable guy asleep on their couch, etc.) could be co-opted and turned into authentic and powerful testimonials.

To start, Comcast simply trolled Twitter for mentions of the company, identified complaints, and addressed individuals publicly on the platform. Employees introduced themselves by name (not as the faceless Comcast Customer service organization) and combined apology with sincere effort to help. Comcast quickly found that even the angriest individuals stop raging when a reasonable person is trying to help them in a public forum. From there, it built its strategy by acknowledging its negative image and visibly working to flip it on its head.

On the other end of the spectrum, JPMorgan skipped these critical steps and discovered the hard way that the rosy story they were telling themselves (and wanted their audience to retell) was not what caught fire when they launched #AskJPM on Twitter. Misjudging both the medium and the moment, the hashtag that they thought would showcase sage financial advice solicited public outrage not seen since the original Occupy Wall Street protests. The company quickly shuttered the campaign, but #AskJPM lives on as a social media joke and cautionary tale.

As content marketing increasingly becomes the norm, tactical storytelling is sure to be broken down to a science. But there’s danger in being overly reductionist.  What makes good stories work is the same unpredictable, creative, unintuitive quality that makes humans human. Breakout success won’t follow from the rote application of step-by-step guides or how-tos. Design your strategy to avoid the seven sins above, however, and you’ll be in good shape to forge a voice of your own.

Coming full circle, back to Uber, you can see how sparing, simple text is used to convey an authentic message that not only poses a problem, but presents an appealing solution in less than 30 words. Stories don’t have to be long to be great. And the best ones tend to make the customer their main character.

Launching with Story

Saturn V Rocket LaunchJust as the success of a story depends on how engaged the listeners are, a business launch is as exciting as the customer believes it to be. Because stories drive 60% of conversation, the thrust around your organization’s appeal and excitement to the customer hinges on your ability to tell its story. When preparing a new product or service launch, a smart company will tap into the tastes and cravings of its customer base with an appetizing story. The following are four questions to ask to make the launch successful with a good story that ignites the conversation and gets your target audience excited.

What is the Single Focused Goal of the Story?

It is important that before your company roll out the launch, it is very clear why people should care. Show in a fantastic way how your product or service will make your customer’s lives better. This can be as comparatively simple as a campaign that donates a pair of Tom’s shoes for every purchase, or the elaborate launch of the new BMW Z series a James Bond movie.

Why Would Someone Pay Attention?

Launching a product or service should create a sense of surprise. The story surrounding your product should invoke a “have to be there” feeling. Demonstrate the impact with a protagonist and a challenge. Steve Jobs did this successfully when introducing the iPod, “The coolest thing about iPod is you can take your entire music library with you right in your pocket.”

Why Would the Audience Care About It?

When your launch is a multi-faceted story that invokes senses, emotion and desire, you will engage the customer at their core. Make the story something that the customer wants to be a part of. This could be through grass-roots events leading to a climax, guest speakers or a cause they believe in and cannot miss being a part of. The effect of an incomplete launch is an untrusting, disingenuous feeling, much like Phillip Morris changing to the Altria Group amidst tobacco lawsuits.

Why Would Someone Share It?

Your story is a success when it is retold again and again. Amplifying your story via word of mouth, between friends is the best way to get messages out and to evangelize your brand. This could be as ornate as a high budget video with a celebrity or as simple as a photo graphic that followers could share. You can build virality into your business with a mechanism that requires sharing in the product or service model. For example, jeweler Tiffany & Co. shares different definitions of love and invites customers to share their perspectives and personal stories.

 

Based on material from the book, The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. Jennifer Aaker covers use of story in business in her new Stanford Innovation & Entrepreneurship course, The Power of Stories to Fuel Innovation. Learn more about bringing the power of story to your business.

What do you want for your birthday?

Bonde boy, Cooper Smith holding a basketball

Cooper Smith, Boy

Disclaimer: My son, Cooper is the biggest basketball fan of all time. Coop donated his 11th birthday to the malaria-fighting Nothing But Nets campaign. I don’t recall redirecting my presents to save kids in Africa at his age. It was pretty amazing when Coop got a shout out on national TV and then a video thank-you from Golden State’s Stephen Curry himself (during the playoffs!). Coop had no doubts before, but now he’s completely certain that doing good feels great. Cooper and Chris Helfrich, the Director of the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign collaborated on the below for The Huffington Post. -- Andy

 

Chris Helfrich, Director of Nothing But Nets

Chris Helfrich, Director of Nothing But Nets

As director of Nothing But Nets, I get to meet a lot of inspiring Americans doing amazing things to save lives by sending $10 nets to prevent malaria, a disease that still kills a child in Africa every 60 seconds. I’ve met a 13-year old Boy Scout who hiked 100 miles to raise money and awareness, an 8-year old who became the youngest girl to ever swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco in order to raise money to send hundreds of nets, and a fashion designer who has created a line of net-inspired accessories to send nets and save lives. In fact, since 2006 hundreds of thousands of people have joined our movement and raised $45 million to send over 7 million nets to keep families safe from this deadly disease. But an 11-year old boy challenging a basketball superstar to a fundraising contest? That’s a new one for me.

I was copied on a letter below that 11-year old Cooper sent to his idol, Stephen Curry, that demonstrates the fun spirit of the Nothing But Nets campaign and the fact that anyone can be a champion in the fight against malaria, whether you’re a 5th grader or the best basketball shooter on the planet. NBA Cares is a founding partner of Nothing But Nets and has been getting its fans and players excited about fighting malaria since the campaign was launched almost seven years ago. This is a perfect example of the power of this partnership in action.

Dear Stephen,

You are amazing. I hope you nail a bunch of three-pointers in the playoffs and help save a lot of lives.

I heard about your contribution to something called Nothing But Nets — for every three pointer you sink, you donate three Cooper in a netnets to a family in Africa to keep them safe from malaria. So I looked Nothing But Nets up on the web, and found out about how a kid still dies from malaria in Africa every 60 seconds. But it takes just 10 dollars to save a life! So, during my birthday last week, all my friends donated to Nothing but Nets. And we raised more money to help over 210 families protect themselves from mosquitoes! When you go to Tanzania this summer to help distribute nets, we’ll give you cards that we wrote for the kids over there to deliver along with our nets.

Can you do me a favor and sink a lot of three pointers in the playoff games? I promise I’ll raise a lot of money for Nothing But Nets if you do. Even more than you!

I may not be able to beat you on the court (yet!), but I bet I can beat you at raising money for Nothing But Nets. Game On, Steph.

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Four Steps to Success Through Giving

Give and Take by Adam GrantIn his new book, Give and Take, our friend Adam Grant presents surprising stories about how we underestimate the success of givers—people who consistently help others without expecting anything in return. Adam’s an academic, behind his stories are data, so you can dig in, understand and replicate his results. Here’s an excerpt from Give and Take that Adam and I hand-picked for Dragonfly readers. It covers actions for impact: practical steps for increasing your contributions to others.

1. Test Your Giver Quotient

We often live in a feedback vacuum, deprived of knowledge about how our actions affect others. To track your impact and assess your self-awareness, visit giveandtake.com. Along with filling out your own survey, you can invite people in your network to rate your style, and you’ll receive data on how often you’re seen as a giver, taker, and matcher.

2. Run a Reciprocity Ring.

The Humax Reciprocity RingWhat could be achieved in your organization—and what giving norms would develop—if groups of people got together weekly for twenty minutes to make requests and help one another fulfill them? For more information on how to start a Reciprocity Ring in your organization, visit Cheryl and Wayne Baker’s company, Humax, which offers a suite of social networking tools for individuals and organizations. They’ve created materials to run a Reciprocity Ring in person and a Ripple Effect tool for running it online. People typically come together in groups of fifteen to thirty. Each person presents a request to the group members, who make contributions: they use their knowledge, resources, and connections to help fulfill the request.

3. Help Other People Craft Their Jobs—or Craft Yours to Incorporate More Giving.

People often end up working on tasks that aren’t perfectly aligned with their interests and skills. A powerful way to give is to help others craft their jobs to work on tasks that are more interesting, meaningful, or developmental. Job crafting, a concept introduced by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton, involves innovating around a job description, creatively adding and customizing tasks and responsibilities to match personal interests and values. A natural concern is that people might craft their jobs in ways that fail to contribute to their organizations. To address this question, Amy, Justin Berg, and I partnered with Jennifer Kurkoski and Brian Welle, who run a people and innovation lab at Google. In a study across the United States and Europe, we randomly assigned Google employees working in sales, finance, operations, accounting, marketing, and human resources to a job crafting workshop. The employees created a map of how they’d like to modify their tasks, crafting a more ideal but still realistic vision of their jobs that aligned with their interests and values.

Six weeks later, their managers and coworkers rated them as significantly happier and more effective. Many Google employees found ways to spend more time on tasks that they found interesting or meaningful; some delegated unpleasant tasks; and others were able to customize their jobs to incorporate new knowledge and skills that they wanted to develop. All told, Google employees found their work more enjoyable and were motivated to perform better, and in some cases, these gains lasted for six months.

To help people craft their jobs, Justin, Amy, and Jane have developed a tool called the Job Crafting Exercise. It’s what we used to conduct the Google workshops, and it involves creating a “before sketch” of how you currently allocate your time and energy, and then developing a visual “after diagram” of how you’d like to modify your job. The booklets can be ordered online (jobcrafting.org) and completed in teams or individually to help friends and colleagues make meaningful modifications to their jobs.

4. Start a Love Machine.

SendLove LogoIn many organizations, givers go unrecognized. To combat this problem, organizations are introducing peer recognition programs to reward people for giving in ways that leaders and managers rarely see. A Mercer study found that in 2001, about 25 percent of large companies had peer recognition programs, and by 2006, this number had grown to 35 percent—including celebrated companies like Google, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos. A fascinating approach called the Love Machine was developed at Linden Lab, the company behind the virtual world Second Life. In a high-technology company, many employees aim to protect their time for themselves and guard information closely, instead of sharing their time and knowledge with colleagues. The Love Machine was designed to overcome this tendency by enabling employees to send a Love message when they appreciated help from a colleague. The Love messages were visible to others, rewarding and recognizing giving by linking it to status and reputations. One insider viewed it as a way to get “tech geeks to compete to see who could be the most helpful.” Love helped to “boost awareness of people who did tasks that were sometimes overlooked. Our support staff, for instance, often received the most Love,” says Chris Colosi, a former Linden manager. “Once you introduce a certain percentage of takers into your system, you need to think about what effect an incentive will have, but I enjoyed the idea of Love for tasks that were outside of someone’s job description or requirements.”

July 31, 2012 Wharton School of Business, U. Penn Philadelphia, Pa Adam M. Grant, PhD, an associate professor of management, seen at Wharton this morning. Michael Kamber/Bloomberg

Adam Grant

To try out the Love Machine in your organization, look up a new electronic tool called SendLove. It’s available from LoveMachine, a new start-up that asks you to start by choosing a recognition period. Team members can send each other short messages recognizing giving, and the messages are all publicly visible.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Give and Take by Adam Grant. Copyright © 2013 by Adam Grant

The Power of Happiness – Fast Company Innovation Uncensored

 

Jennifer is among today’s participants at Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored.

She’s talking about something we all want to achieve: happiness. First of all she shows that happiness matters, particularly in the workplace. Happy environments are associated with reduced job turnover and absenteeism, greater customer service and better individual job performance.

But more than a how-to session, Jennifer dives into the meaning of happiness, and how it changes over the course of our lives and the lives of those around us. And how while a straight-line pursuit of happiness itself may be futile, a focus on the cultivation of meaning, allowing people to feel part of something worthwhile that is bigger than themselves leads to sustained long-term human, social and financial benefits.

If you missed seeing her speak, I hope you said hello. If you missed seeing her, please accept this slideshare in consolation.

The Power of Happiness – Fast Company Innovation Uncensored

[slideshare id=15089102&doc=thepowerofhappinessaakerforslideshare-1-121108141807-phpapp01]

 

Jennifer is among today’s participants at Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored.

She’s talking about something we all want to achieve: happiness. First of all she shows that happiness matters, particularly in the workplace. Happy environments are associated with reduced job turnover and absenteeism, greater customer service and better individual job performance.

But more than a how-to session, Jennifer dives into the meaning of happiness, and how it changes over the course of our lives and the lives of those around us. And how while a straight-line pursuit of happiness itself may be futile, a focus on the cultivation of meaning, allowing people to feel part of something worthwhile that is bigger than themselves leads to sustained long-term human, social and financial benefits.

If you missed seeing her speak, I hope you said hello. If you missed seeing her, please accept this slideshare in consolation.

Craft Compelling Stories with the Haiku Deck App

The following guest post is by Adam Tratt of Haiku Deck, the new iPad app that makes it easy to create great-looking presentations. You can reach him at founders@haikudeck.com or on Twitter at @adamtr.

When we first connected with the Dragonfly Effect team, we found that we have a number of shared passions, from design thinking to powerful storytelling.

We were also inspired by their crisp, memorable model–so much so that we created this Haiku Deck to illustrate the key Dragonfly Effect principles.

How Ideas Take Flight

As we kicked ideas back and forth, it occurred to us that like The Dragonfly Effect itself, in the hands of a determined person, our app will help anyone who wants to get a compelling story airborne. Here’s our take on how Haiku Deck supports Dragonfly’s four wings.

FOCUS 
Most presentation experts recommend focusing on one idea per slide, and Haiku Deck helps you do just that. Each slide you create has a maximum of two lines of text, forcing you to distill your message down to a handful of high-impact words. Focusing attention on a single concept instead of cramming slides full of bullets helps each idea stand out. Because when everything’s important, nothing’s important.

GRAB ATTENTION
Brain research and real human experience show that images grab our attention, speak to our emotions, and make meaning real more than plain text or data. Happily, there’s a treasure trove of over 35 million beautiful, Creative Commons licensed images out there, which we’ve made easily searchable right from the app. Our intent is to help you find the perfect backdrop for your words to really bring your stories to life.

ENGAGE
We believe that visual presentations (like the ones Jennifer and Andy do) allow you to be less scripted and more authentic, freeing up the underlying story in your deck for a more meaningful connection with your audience. We also love how the iPad with its portability and beautiful screen allows you to create and share stories in a less formal, more spontaneous way.

TAKE ACTION
Like the Dragonfly Effect team, we want to help your great ideas and stories fly into action! And when you tell your story well, the people who see it will want to not just sign up, but sign on and help drive your effort forward. Fast, easy sharing via email, social networks, and blog embedding helps stories spread, and we believe Haiku Deck can complement these channels to make your calls to action more memorable and thus more powerful. Here’s ours:

Four Ways to Help

After all, we do need your help–we’re really trying to change the way people feel about creating, giving, and listening to presentations. We’d love for you to give Haiku Deck a try, use it to tell your story, and above all, let us know what you think and how we can make it better. Just drop us a line any time at founders@haikudeck.com. If we can help your ideas take flight, we’re doing what we set out to do.

For more inspiration and updates, you can visit our website, join our Facebook community, and find us on Twitter (@HaikuDeck). And big thanks to Andy and Jennifer for inviting us to guest post!

Craft Compelling Stories with the Haiku Deck App

The following guest post is by Adam Tratt of Haiku Deck, the new iPad app that makes it easy to create great-looking presentations. You can reach him at founders@haikudeck.com or on Twitter at @adamtr.

When we first connected with the Dragonfly Effect team, we found that we have a number of shared passions, from design thinking to powerful storytelling.

We were also inspired by their crisp, memorable model–so much so that we created this Haiku Deck to illustrate the key Dragonfly Effect principles.

How Ideas Take Flight

Click to view this Haiku Deck

As we kicked ideas back and forth, it occurred to us that like The Dragonfly Effect itself, in the hands of a determined person, our app will help anyone who wants to get a compelling story airborne. Here’s our take on how Haiku Deck supports Dragonfly’s four wings.

FOCUS 
Most presentation experts recommend focusing on one idea per slide, and Haiku Deck helps you do just that. Each slide you create has a maximum of two lines of text, forcing you to distill your message down to a handful of high-impact words. Focusing attention on a single concept instead of cramming slides full of bullets helps each idea stand out. Because when everything’s important, nothing’s important.

GRAB ATTENTION
Brain research and real human experience show that images grab our attention, speak to our emotions, and make meaning real more than plain text or data. Happily, there’s a treasure trove of over 35 million beautiful, Creative Commons licensed images out there, which we’ve made easily searchable right from the app. Our intent is to help you find the perfect backdrop for your words to really bring your stories to life.

ENGAGE
We believe that visual presentations (like the ones Jennifer and Andy do) allow you to be less scripted and more authentic, freeing up the underlying story in your deck for a more meaningful connection with your audience. We also love how the iPad with its portability and beautiful screen allows you to create and share stories in a less formal, more spontaneous way.

TAKE ACTION
Like the Dragonfly Effect team, we want to help your great ideas and stories fly into action! And when you tell your story well, the people who see it will want to not just sign up, but sign on and help drive your effort forward. Fast, easy sharing via email, social networks, and blog embedding helps stories spread, and we believe Haiku Deck can complement these channels to make your calls to action more memorable and thus more powerful. Here’s ours:

Four Ways to Help

Click to view this Haiku Deck

After all, we do need your help–we’re really trying to change the way people feel about creating, giving, and listening to presentations. We’d love for you to give Haiku Deck a try, use it to tell your story, and above all, let us know what you think and how we can make it better. Just drop us a line any time at founders@haikudeck.com. If we can help your ideas take flight, we’re doing what we set out to do.

For more inspiration and updates, you can visit our website, join our Facebook community, and find us on Twitter (@HaikuDeck). And big thanks to Andy and Jennifer for inviting us to guest post!

Kiva – A Microfinance Revolutionary

The Kiva WebsiteHow does Kiva, a revolutionary marketplace for microfinance lending to entrepreneurs, successfully empower so many to give back? Kiva is one of the quintessential examples of an organization that has mastered the power of The Dragonfly, focusing their goal to provide loans to entrepreneurs in the third world, grabbing the attention of others through powerful storytelling, engaging others to get involved, and empowering them to take action.

In 2005, its first year, Kiva, one of the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending enterprises, distributed more than $500,000 to entrepreneurs. Since Kiva’s inception, more than 631,345 people have loaned over $111 million.  And though the numbers are impressive, Kiva is about much more than that. It’s about replacing daunting statistics on global poverty with compelling individual stories, and enabling personal connections; it’s about establishing a bond between lenders and entrepeneurs that feels meaningful; it’s about making a difference in the world, one small and easy donation at a time. And in four years, Kiva is well on their way to achieving these goals, enhancing the lives of 217,000 entrepreneurs in 49 countries through small loans online.

In The Dragonfly Effect, we explore the many aspects of Kiva that have made it such a huge success.

They know the power of a story. Kiva’s founders and staff are committed to sharing stories that earn respect instead of evoking pity. “When I see a picture of a woman on our site and it shows all the information about her, I begin to call her an entrepreneur,” says founder Jessica Jackley. “She’s not just a nameless face. She lives in a particular place. She has a business name. She has a nickname, Lizzie, and she needs $900. She has plans and a story.”

From the founding of Kiva, Jackley’s goal was to engage people by making them feel a positive emotional connection. She wanted to offer an alternative to what her generation had seen growing up—ads to alleviate poverty where “the message was to feel bad for these people and then to act.”  Kiva’s engagement strategy has never been to make you feel bad about the money you just spent on a double latte, which if you were a good person, you would instead have used to feed a starving child in the developing world. Instead, Kiva strikes a fine balance between sharing compelling information and overwhelming potential lenders with too much information.

They are authentic. Being authentic is as simple as being genuine. Much of Kiva’s success is due to its authenticity. Kiva’s philosophy and culture was built upon trust and what its founders call “radical transparency.” The model is based on disseminating real information about the entrepreneurs—not marketing them. “The entrepreneurs on Kiva are not promotional material,” says Jackley. “They are real people who have real challenges and dreams.” This authenticity engages users and keeps them coming back – knowing they are part of an organization that is genuine in their goal to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

HopeMob’s Generous Strangers Support Stories of Need through Social Media

Shaun King - HopeMob Founder

As he created HopeMob.org, the Internet-based non-profit “where generous strangers unite,” techno-humanitarian, Shaun King asked himself: “If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today, how would he do things differently — for the same effect?” A 32-year-old graduate of Atlanta’s Morehouse College, Shaun King is a former pastor himself. He had America’s most revered reverend at the center of his thinking as he considered both the stands HopeMob should take and the tools to use to align with Dr. King’s teachings and actions.

“Dr. King helped the oppressed, focusing on people nobody else was helping at the time. He gave his last speech to sanitation workers. A lot has changed since the 1960s. And if he were alive today, he wouldn’t approach things today exactly the same way as he did then — so neither do we. We internalized his principles and imagined what he would do with them in our own millennial context,” says Shaun. “Forty years of technological advancement has made the world a much smaller place. That’s why HopeMob is about 50 percent domestic and 50 percent international in scope. It’s a natural evolution of the work that great 20th century humanitarians like Dr. King, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi began.”  Through their @HOPE account on Twitter with over 350,000 followers (and counting), HopeMob.org tells one story at a time and rallies generous strangers to help people that can’t find help anywhere else.

From funding handicap-accessible facilities for terminally ill, 6-year-old Haley’s home to helping a mother who was a victim of human trafficking in Thailand become an entrepreneur, HopeMob is dedicated to making sure that the stories of the voiceless get heard, and get help from HopeMob donors.

How to lead on the Internet: Lessons from the first ‘Facebook Pastor’

One of the first clergy to use Facebook to reach people, Shaun became known as the “Facebook Pastor” after helping coach a suicidal young man who contacted him via the social network back in 2008. A few weeks later, Facebook asked him to become the first pastor to write an official blog for Facebook on how churches could effectively utilize social media.

“By 2008, I was already using social media extensively to communicate the work I was doing. There were only a few hundred thousand people on Twitter at the time,” Shaun explains. His reputation as an online humanitarian began to grow that same year, when he needed to raise $35,000 for the holidays to benefit Frank L. Stanton Elementary School in Atlanta.

“We built a simple microsite to raise the money. Though it sounds natural today, five years ago no one was doing that.  It got picked up by the Today Show, and hundreds of publications around the country. We were able to replicate that formula in 2009 to raise a million dollars to aid victims of the 2009 floods in Greater Atlanta. Then in 2010, we launched A Home in Haiti,” an organization Shaun founded with support from actress Eva Longoria to provide shelter for earthquake survivors.  That next year Shaun won the Mashable Award for the Most Creative Social Good Campaign with his celebrity charity Twitter auction called TwitChange.

By this time, people knew Shaun for building lean, efficient charities that spent every penny they could to directly impact those in need. He began to hear regularly from two types of people: People of means who had grown to trust him to point their available time and resources in the right direction, and people with desperate stories who were falling through the cracks.

Thus in April of 2012, Shaun launched HopeMob with a Google-hosted party at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Chartered with the purpose of  sharing the stories of the voiceless with people they would otherwise never encounter: “generous strangers” who genuinely wanted to help the less fortunate.

Who does Shaun King look to lead social media by example?

“I’ve taken huge inspiration from Scott Harrison of Charity: Water, and  Paull Young, the organization’s Director of Digital Engagement,” says Shaun. “They think like the best brands, and their social media is world-class. HopeMob has adopted that same posture. We operate much more like a tech startup than a typical charity and try to appeal to people in ways that make sense in 2012.”

Since launching just a few months ago, HopeMob has already successfully told and supported nearly 25 stories from all over the world.  If you would like to submit a story of a person or cause in need or would like to JOIN THE MOB and help bring people hope, do so today @ HopeMob.org!