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Why Story-Telling Works

John Dewey Educational Psychologist

Educating...I mean Engaging Your Community

We throw around this idea of using stories to engage your community, audience, and site users a lot. I would say, most people take for granted that this is true and that it works to keep people interested in what you are talking about, but do you know why?

Go back to grammar or high school for a minute and think about your favorite teacher...or even just a teacher that you remember. What do you remember about them? For me, one of my favorite history teachers was known for 2 things, his clothes (he looked like he had stepped out of Hemingway novel) and his stories. I am not sure his stories were actually about history, but I gander that he was teaching us more about life in that class anyways. And it worked, we felt safe in his classroom to talk about "real" issues and we could discuss history and current events more openly—reflecting, discussing and considering different viewpoints than what we found in our textbooks. He engaged us and therefore taught us...A LOT.

Ok, so why did his stories engage us, since that is really the point here. It is because we could relate to them. We could consider how his experiences compared to our own and that kept us interested. I can not help comparing a lot of communications best practices with what I learned in my grad. school educational psychology classes. 

John Dewey (one of my personal favorites) called for education to be grounded in real experience. He wrote, "If you have doubts about how learning happens, engage in sustained inquiry: study, ponder, consider alternative possibilities and arrive at your belief grounded in evidence."

Jean Piaget proposed that learning is a dynamic process comprising successive stages of adaption to reality during which learners actively construct knowledge by creating and testing their own theories of the world.

So think about it, all marketing & communications strategy is is educating your "people." They are your students, think about the stories you tell and what you are trying to teach them about your organization. Stories are very powerful tools, but you also need to give people something to reflect and ponder— something to take away—something that will bring them back for more.

Val Neumark Mickela - director of strategic initiatives & education, founder, headshot

Val Neumark

Val is a brand strategist, educator, facilitator and coach focused on co-designing more relational communications strategies to transform our systems. Through partnerships and collaborations, Val hopes these anti-racist, anti-oppressive spaces and tools will more effectively facilitate connection, strategic-thinking, community building and sustainable growth for non-profits and social impact organizations.

Val has a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts & Media from University of California, San Diego, a Master's Degree in Education from Pepperdine University, and was a 2016 recipient of Pepperdine University's inaugural 40 under 40 Award. In their free time Val plays soccer, loves to hike, and both read and practice karate with their kid.