What’s a Storybook and how was it developed?
Storybook Foundry brings together my experience and expertise in theater and nonprofit management.
In theater, I primarily work as a director or producer. Several questions always drive this work for me. What story are we going to tell? What meaning is the audience going to make? Is the story I'm trying to tell the same story the audience hears? After decades in this work, I've learned 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 nonprofit work, I saw a parallel. I've worked with lots of organizations that have not clearly identified which audience an event or piece of publicity is for. 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
1. Branding Style Guide
2. Writing Style Guide
3. Work Samples
4. Words to Avoid and Words to Use Instead
5. Mission, Vision and Elevator Statements
6. Year in Numbers
7. Year in Pictures
8. Go-to Paragraphs
9. In Their Own Words
10. Online Presence
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 you. But, as busy executive directors, program managers, board presidents, or whatever your title might be, we don't take the time to sit down and compile this information.
A Storybook is NOT a static 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 should end up saving you money, and help you raise more money. By providing new staff and consultants with a concise introduction to your organization, they can be productive sooner. Current staff won't have to spend time curating and compiling this information when someone new comes on board. And contract grant writers, website designers, and consultants will be able to work their magic more easily when they are provided with information. Your published pieces will be more uniform. And when your community's understanding of what you do comes into clearer focus, their support will increase.
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