Telling Your Story Like Steve Jobs

What Would Steve Jobs Do?

Steve Jobs was a classic storyteller. With every product launch, he took us on a journey into the world of possibility. He peeled single ideas with clever anticipation drawing in our curiosity with more intensity, “wowing” us with a product’s features, functionality, design and must-have aura. How? By turning a product launch into more than a product–into a presentation that delivered a story.

In your communications, are you trying to make sure and pack every “key message” into your delivery? Doing so can dilute your message and your mission. Let’s review four lessons we can learn from the presentation and storytelling style of the great Steve Jobs.

Lesson #1: Package your main point into a punchline.

When Steve Jobs launched a product, he introduced it with a punchline–one clear, descriptive message that read more like a headline. It was social media friendly (watch those character limits!) and evoked a sense of wonder.

For example, when Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, Apple’s ultra-thin computer, he simply said, “It’s the world’s thinnest notebook.” With the iPod, he said, “1,000 songs that fit in your pocket.” Get in the mindset of the volunteers, donors or stakeholders you’re talking with and think about what message resonates the most with them. Get rid of the bullets and package the value-add your offer into a tangible one-liner. Avoid the jargon–and get right to the punch.

Lesson #2: Use less text and more visuals.

Why do you think the use of infographics as a storytelling tool is increasing? People not only like visuals, but they remember them. When you say something orally, people remember 10% of what was said. Add a picture, and people recall 65%. You can say more with less.

Lesson #3: Go for the experience.

Are you pushing out communications and printing posters and pamphlets yet not seeing your desired ROI? Perhaps it’s time to consider the donor experience you’re offering. Jobs was about creating great products, but he was also about creating and designing unique experiences. How can you better integrate the concept of “experience” into your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts?

Maybe it’s by taking engaging area businesses and supporters in a cup night, inviting fundraisers to scale down a high rise, helping others honor their moms, or participating in a lip-synch contest. Get those creative juices flowing!

Lesson #4: Find an antagonist.

Every good story has a villain. Who or what can your supporters rally against? In the infamous 1984 Macintosh commercial, Jobs and Apple painted IBM to be the villain–and now sits as one of the best commercials ever-made. A more current example comes from with their, “F*CK: Famine is the real obscenity” video. It’s jarring, but it immediately turns your perspective upside down, gets your attention and draws you in. What’s working against you and how can you make it work for you?

What’s your story?

You can make the content and the technology work for you. But until you have your story fully developed and thought through, neither one is going to be too compelling in the long run when it comes to fundraising (online or off). At your next meeting, ask each team member to tell your organization’s story. You may be surprised, moved and inspired by what you hear.