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August 13, 2014 | Category: Blog, Story Guide | Author:

Storytelling strategies, and viral stories

WHAT MAKES STORIES GO VIRAL: An article in The New Yorker published earlier this year looks at what makes stories go viral. Citing the research of a pair of Penn scholars, the article says the top predictors are “how positive its message was and how much it excited its reader.” In this case, “excite” can simply mean to arouse the emotions, whether they be anger or sorrow or whatever else. Other factors included stories (or other web information, like lists or “memes”) that made the reader feel “in-the-know,” and triggers to help the reader remember the story — which may explain the popularity of list-type articles. But, it may be added, stories themselves are memorable, because they organize thought and emotion in a meaningful way. As the New Yorker story says, quality is another big predictor of whether a story goes viral — all the better if it’s part of a larger narrative that people can feel a part of.

EMOTION IS AT THE HEART OF ENGAGEMENT: A post on the Communications Network blog this week says that emotion is what “dictates how likely people are to … share a story” and engage with your organiation. The post’s author, Edward Baldwin, says that social-sector groups would do well to distinguish among different types of engagement: positive, negative and neutral. Most of your would-be constituents are in the last category. Read the post to learn more about how to move them into the first category.

“STORYTELLING SUMMER” SERIES: Please follow the “Storytelling Summer” series in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, in which Working Narratives’ managing director, Paul VanDeCarr, answers readers’ questions about how to use stories to raise funds, recruit volunteers and create social change. Last week’s post was on creating a story strategy, and this week’s post is on key elements of a good story. The series goes through Labor Day.