What's the Story, Morning Glory?

Today, I worked with a faculty member who directs one of the graduate programs at Azusa Pacific University. We are working on a research paper she is submitting for publication later this summer.

At that level of writing (well, really with all levels of writing, ideally), focus should be placed on both the subtext and actual text. (Phrasings that come up - “I hear your paragraph suggesting ‘choice’. Do you want to write that explicitly?”)

What we want to be doing is asking - what’s the real story here?

In a cognitive sense, that’s all that readers (or listeners) really care about. Dr. Marcia Berry shared that an an APU training I’ll never forget. She asked those seated who remembered what was said during last Sunday’s sermon at their church. (We’re a faith based university, thus the question.) A few folks raised their hands, here and there. She then asked which remembered a story that was told during last Sunday’s sermon at their church.

Almost everyone in the room raised their hand.

Perhaps it’s my journalism training, or perhaps it’s just what I’ve seen over the almost fourteen years I’ve spent crafting written materials that influence people (grant proposals, annual reports, radio ads, scripts) - people want to know the headline.

They want to know what something is about.

The style is second, the documentation, even less of a priority.

Folks are listening from the story.

Earlier this week, I worked on a corporate grant proposal this week weaving a specific story about Latinos, the environment, film, and the auto industry. What was my linchpin? One part of one element of a corporate tagline became the through line - the story line - of how our nonprofit work advanced one of their core priorities.

Did the story work? Let’s see.

All I know is - corporations are very clear on how stories help them sell everything from soap to cars to new pharmaceutical products. Nonprofit and academic administrators should embrace that with the same tenacity, and before hitting their keyboards, think, “What’s the story, morning glory?”

story morning glory.jpg