My name is Ara Beal and I live in a small town in Ohio.
STORYBOOK FOUNDRY brings together my experience and expertise in theater and nonprofit management.
In theater, I work as a director or producer. And the question that always drives me is, what story are we going to tell? What meaning is the audience going to make? Is the story I'm telling the same story the audience hears? It's imperative to be clear and specific with others working on the production about what the story is and how we are telling it. My biggest complaint when I see theatre tends to be that this conversation was so obviously missing from rehearsals and production meetings.
In my non-profit work, I saw a parallel.
I've worked with lots of organizations that don’t always identified the target audience for events and publicity. I've worked with organizations that are sloppy with their language, where board members don't know the legal name of the organization; organizations that people can only describe as "I think they do something with housing?"
I've also worked with numerous grant writers, website developers, and marketing consultants who are unable to be effective because they can't get information from the organization. Sometimes these frustrations led to missed grant deadlines, mistakes on websites, or even abruptly terminated contracts.
So I created a solution to this problem. I created the Storybook.
What is a Storybook?
I started with the question: "Wouldn't it be great if organizations could spend a few hours putting together something that answers the question, 'How do we talk about ourselves?' to hand to new board members, volunteers and staff, as well as contract grant writers, development consultants and more?" Since the answer was a resounding yes! I began to put together what that would look like.
A Storybook includes 10 pieces, for a total of 10-20 pages, including words, phrases, paragraphs, pictures and numbers that form the basis of the language used by the organization.
A Storybook is NOT a press packet. Rather, it's an internal document that those who speak about your company can use as a cheat sheet, a refresher, and even as the beginning of pieces to be published.
A Storybook should be fairly easy for you to create. Most likely, this information is rolling around your brain, or the brains of others working with your organization. And our plug-n-play templates make it easy to sit down and do.
A Storybook is NOT a dead document. It's a living one. Every year you should update your Year in Numbers and Year in Pictures, and switch out a few of your testimonials. Refine and edit to keep it and your organization's self-images strong and clear.
A Storybook is a way for your new team members and contractors to quickly start communicating in a way that is consistent with the organization’s brand and message.
A Storybook should end up saving you money.
And help you raise more money.
I started my career as a theater director at the age of 16. I became a director because as an oldest sibling I liked telling others what to do. I, also, had a knack for thinking about the whole while others worried about their individual parts. I’ve spent recent years running a small arts non profit. I still work as a theater professional, hiring and supervising up to 50 staff that all have to work to tell the same story, even though they speak different languages.
Being able to talk between a light designer, a director, and a graphic designer, requires having a clear vision, being able to adjust language, and most importantly, being an excellent listener. Because this unified vision is so important to me as an artist, I find when it’s missing from a production I have a hard time enjoying it.
As I’ve been moving in nonprofit circles, I’ve noticed a similar need for a unified concept around language and messaging.
It’s more than style or brand guides, though that is part of it.
It’s about tone, focus, and even genre.