What’s your project’s story?
Why is this something that should be implemented by your organization?
And why should it be prioritized?
In the last blog, we talked about how to make the pitch for your going green project at work. Today we are delving a little deeper into how to craft a great story about your project, so that it’s something that is top of mind for your boss and colleagues. This is yet another strategy designed to help you successfully get your impact project implemented at work – when this isn’t part of your usual work responsibilities.
In past blogs, I’ve touched on other approaches to get your project idea heard– including making sure that you have a solid reputation, aligning with your boss’ and organization’s goals, and helping your boss address any problems she/he has.
So how do you craft a compelling story? The quickest way is to make it sticky!
How tall is Sasquatch?
What does he look like?
Where can he/it be found?
Just about anyone will tell you that he’s gigantic – definitely larger than a tall human, furry and ape-like and that he lives in cold weather territories. Obviously, there is little truth in that statement, just as is the case behind most urban legends. Then why do people continue to tell these tales for generations? What is it about these seemingly ‘tall’ tales that make them remembered by so many people? The truth is these stories are ‘sticky’.
What if you could apply the same ingredients that make these stories memorable to your sustainability projects?
According to the Made to Stick* SUCCESs Model, every “sticky idea” shares 6 traits in common:
Simple: It’s important to keep it simple. What is the core of your sustainability message? The most effective way to communicate your message, no matter how complex it may be, is to present it in a way that can be easily understood by anyone. For example: Zero waste by 2020.
Unexpected: You have to get your audience’s attention and keep them interested. Think about the types of conversations you’ve had that kept you on the edge of your seat. These are the interactions that have an element of surprise or even mystery. Keep your audience excited and asking questions. So, continuing with the above idea of zero waste, one ‘hook’ might be – “What if our organization didn’t throw ANYTHING out and instead reused, repurposed, composted, or recycled EVERYTHING?”
Concrete: Sometimes sustainability can seem abstract. “Will it really work? How do we know your project will be successful?” your colleagues may ask. It is essential to be concrete here: offer real-life examples that help your audience to understand how your idea fits into their lives. ‘We can start today by putting everything that is recyclable in the recycling bins and returning office supplies we don’t use to the office supply; we can even rename our office supply room, The Reuse Center.’
Credible: In order for an idea to stick, it needs to be credible. Use recognizable and sound sources such as legitimate organizations with expertise in the area of interest scientific articles or verified statistics. For example: The US Zero Waste Business Council provides a commonly accepted definition and details on how to achieve zero waste that we can use in our organization.
Emotional: People care about people and ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM). Translate your abstract ideas into something that inspires your audience to care: Zero waste isn’t just about our organization – it’s about reducing all the trash produced in the world. Imagine your children swimming in an ocean free of plastic bags and not having to worry about them picking up trash instead of seashells.
Stories: Stories inspire and/or incentivize action, and can make people relate to your goals. Example: When I was touring the Subaru zero-waste factory in Indiana, I met Jeff Garrity, a manager who figured out how to reuse thick black plastic used in manufacturing cars that was previously recycled. Even though they were recycling these parts, he figured out that they could sell them to a steel vendor for them to be reused. Jeff doesn’t get a bonus for doing this – it’s just something that is part of the Subaru corporate culture.’ (Full disclosure – this story was based on an article and is used solely as an example).
Although you do not necessarily need all 6 principles to have a sticky idea, the more principles you incorporate, the stickier your story. Whether you’re telling folktales around a campfire or presenting a going green idea to a conference room full of colleagues and upper management, keeping these principles in mind when telling your “stories” will make your message sticky and your audience want to stick around.
*For more on the Made to Stick book by Chip and Dan Heath, and their SUCCESs model. In the next blog, I’ll be sharing other ideas to help you position your desired project in order to get the best reaction and response.
Get more info with our FREE ’51 Ways To Make An Impact When Not In Charge’, which will help you position yourself to implement an impact project, and get started on some of these today!