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Real storytelling

November 10, 2005

The Guardian newspaper in the UK recently published a very sad story of how a 68 year-old man manages to survive on less than $100/week. The story had an immediate impact, Guardian readers sent in offers of assistance and checks for the man. Charitable organizations had tried for years to tell the same story, but failed to breakthrough with the same level of impact. It shows it often takes a storyteller to get people to see the issue. Another example, it was the shocking news footage of the Ethiopian famine, not the music, that was the catalyst for the massive levels of giving at the original Live Aid event.

In the UK poverty case, the journalist converted the issue, from something that was previously tuned out to something that lots of people tuned into. His secret was to demonstrate care for the subject and tell the story in a way that everyone can relate to.

As advertisers and their agencies increasingly look to consumers to tell their stories, perhaps its important to consider the role these translators can make. This might not be about mythical creative exaggerations, but instead, finding people who are skilled at bringing the truth to life.

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