Amanda Avutu (AA) is a brand storyteller with a thing for good eggs—not the kind you get scrambled, the kind who want to make a difference while making a buck. The founder of Good Egg Branding, Amanda works with social entrepreneurs to discover, articulate, and shout their brand stories from the urban-farmed rooftops. Her fiction appears online in Green Mountains Review, Story, and Fiction Fix. Additionally, her short story “Thieves” was selected as a top-25 finalist in Glimmer Train’s November 2012 Short Story Award for New Writers contest. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, where she is working on her first novel. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,
I was impressed with her thoughts and am glad that she agreed to be a part of my blog.
Q. Why do you think it’s especially important for social entrepreneurs to tell stories?
AA: The short answer? The issues social entrepreneurs address can be depressing. Stories are entertaining.
The long answer? People can identify with a story, get lost in it, walk away with awe-inspired chills. People don’t get chills from dry informational text, unless they’re reading it in an air-conditioned conference room. Stories give social entrepreneurs a way to get people engaged without becoming overwhelmed. A face. A story. A problem. A way toward a solution. That’s manageable.
Q. How do you approach brand storytelling?
AA: There are so many stories within a brand, but usually when I start working with a social entrepreneur, first we tackle the story of how they came to be who they are, where they are, doing exactly what they are doing.
Some people call this an origin story, but that sounds equal parts jargon and superhero to me. It’s really, simply, your story. And it’s important, because before you can expect your audience to care about what you’re doing, they need to understand why you care.
So we explore. Because sometimes people have been so passionate for so long, they don’t really have a clear sense of when things shifted and became personally urgent for them. I usually do this through a question and answer session either in person, over the phone, or via e-mail.
Q. What does this exploration entail?
AA: I ask them questions like:
“What did you want to be when you grew up?”
“What worried you as a child?”
“What did you end up doing?”
“In what ways did it make you happy? Not happy?”
“What worries you as an adult?”
“How did you first become aware of the problem you are addressing?”
“What made you decide that you needed to work on a solution?”
“How is the solution you are working toward different than what other people are doing?”
“What obstacles did you face in trying to address the conflict/problem?”
“How did you, are you, or do you plan to overcome those obstacles?”
“What will success look like for you?”
“How can your audience share in this?”
“Why should people care?”
I really try to get my clients to think about who they were and who they’ve come to be. Through this process, I get to truly understand my clients and their motivations, which I can then translate for their audience.
Q. Any advice for a social entrepreneur who is trying to write their brand story on their own?
AA: Every single writing instructor I’ve had, from Ms. Mariano in the 6th grade to my graduate instructors has said: “Show” don’t “Tell.” When it comes to storytelling as a social entrepreneur, I tell my clients, “Show” don’t “Preach.” Sure, you could preach to them about how bad things are, how you’ve got the thing that will make the big difference, if only they’d listen/buy/engage! But if you show them, they will really see it, really feel it, and really be moved to do something.
Q. Do you think Visuals play an effective role in storytelling?
AA: Absolutely! There are some people who will insist that content is superior or that images are more instantaneously persuasive. Personally, I think there is a wonderfully symbiotic relationship between words and images and I encourage my clients to choose both carefully.
Q. Anything else you’d like to share?
AA: Thanks so much for inviting me to share my insights. I’m so inspired that we live in a time where the conundrum of “either I make a buck or I make a difference” has been rendered mute. “Either/or” is so restrictive. I’m so grateful for people, like you, who are committed to “And.”