A Powerful Formula For Crafting Stories That Inspire

The StartingGood 2017 virtual summit, hosted by the crowdfunding platform StartSomeGood, ran early April 2017 and featured sessions with top social innovators from around the world. This article summarises key learnings from the session on “How video can be used to create a better world, presenting on the “Story Canvas” featuring Natasha Akib from Digital Storytellers. Find out about how to gain access to all the #StartingGood recordings here.

Social entrepreneurs have some pretty amazing stories, featuring risk, passion, love, fear, and sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges. However, they often don’t know how to craft and tell these stories to their advantage, growing their business and their impact.

How many times have you wondered whether or not the stories you are telling about your social enterprise are producing the right messages, leaving people feeling inspired and engaged?

With the “Story Canvas”, you don’t have to wonder anymore.

This StartingGood 2017 session, featuring Natasha Akib, will help you figure out how to better tell the stories of your social enterprise and the work that you do, in a way where people will fall in love with your journey and become eager to get involved, by using the “Story Canvas”.

The “Story Canvas”, is a strategic tool based on the Business Model Canvas, that will help you outline the purpose of your story, the main characters involved, challenges, theme, and all of the other nitty-gritty components of a compelling story, that will leave people feeling both inspired and moved.

While the “Story Canvas” Natasha explains about below is tailored to created exceptional stories via video, it is still an incredibly helpful tool to make sure any story is powerful and on message.

To tackle the “Story Canvas”, Natasha recommends first starting with the section titled ‘Purpose’. Starting here will help you to narrow down what it is that your story needs to achieve, making sure that you are telling the story in the right way and are achieving your desired aim, whether it be funding or awareness raising etc.


The Purpose section of the canvas helps you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture or your story, or the ‘why’ of what you are doing. This section will help guide all of the other sections of the canvas, so take some time to dig deep.

To help figure this out, you can ask yourself:

  • What’s the problem we are trying to solve?
  • What is the big issue and why are we passionate about telling this story?
  • Why should the audience care? Why would they not care?
  • Why are they not already as engaged as we would like?
“The purpose holds the story together.” — Natasha

Impact (Outcomes and Indicators)

Next, determine the impact of your story. This can be broken down into two sections, Outcomes, and Indicators.

The Outcomes section will help you to list out what high-level changes you want to create with your story. This may include shifts in awareness, attitude, behaviours, motivation and taking action.

Then focus on your indicators of success. Determine how you intend to measure these outcomes, making sure that your objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely).


This section focuses on who you want to hear the story and take action.

Important things to consider when filling out this section include:

  • Who is your primary audience? Secondary? Tertiary?
  • Who do you really want to reach, specifically?
  • What response do you want them to have (mental, emotional, and/or behavioural)?
  • What action do you want them to take?
“When thinking about your audience break them down into audience personas. This helps to get the language, framing, etc. right.” — Natasha

People and Places

Determining who will tell your story, is important to helping you create the right tone and feel overall. While this might be a bit more crucial for video storytelling, it is still good to consider for written storytelling as well. Natasha recommends taking a look at the people connected to your project or organisation, and then determining who will speak to the heart.

Tips to choosing the right people:

  • People care more about things that are related to how they see themselves. Consider if your audience can relate and empathise with the people in your story.
  • Consider: uniqueness (Is there something unique about this person or story that is going to get the audience to pay attention?), complexity (Once you have the audience’s attention, the person needs to keep the audience’s attention. Can they do that?), desire (does that character have some strong desire that they are trying to achieve? This creates a question as to whether or not that desire is going to be achieved and keeps the audiences attention).
  • Go out and test your ideas with your audience.
“Think about who are the people you would call your mom to tell about.” — Natasha

Also look at what locations will feature in your story, keeping in mind:

  • The more unexpected the better
  • Environment, object, situation & time
  • To SHOW rather than tell.

Key Messages

As people, we can only remember so much information. Having key messages makes sure that you aren’t overwhelming your audience with too much information, and that they remember the most important things.

Key messages usually revolve around these three topics:

  • People/Problem: Introduce the problems and issues, and who is being effected
  • Goals/Solutions: The solutions to the problems
  • Urgency/Action: Why this is important now, and why must your audience act.

Call To Action

Now for one of the most important, but often overlooked bits, the Call To Action (CTA). A CTA is what step you want your audience to take to advance your cause once they have listened to your story.

Examples of common CTAs include:

  • Telling other people about the organisation
  • Sharing information with people in their networks
  • Raising awareness and creating behavioural/attitude change
  • Donating or helping to raise money
  • Encouraging other people to take an action
  • Influencing decision makers (e.g. politicians).
“Pick the one or two specific actions that you want your audience to do.” — Natasha

Style & Tone

This section helps you to determine the look and feel of your story. List key images and sounds, and if possible provide comparisons and examples to reference. Ask yourself, what are some of the key visual images or ideas to be shown and how do they feel?


Next, the Campaign section deals with what you will do once you have crafted your story. What action will you take to get your story out there? How will you reach and engage the audience?

Ask yourself:

  • What channels, does our audience use? What channels will facilitate action?
  • What are the touchpoints around the story and how will we facilitate audience interactions?
  • What publicity and promotional actions will be taken to support these?

The Story

Finally, there is the story section of the canvas, where you will work out how the story starts and ends, what the memorable challenges and moments are in the middle, and how the story will be told. Will it be an explainer? A personal story? An impact story?

With proper planning to ensure that your story achieves a purpose, is relevant to your audience, and includes a strong call to action, you can make the most of your stories, inspiring and empowering people to get involved in your mission and to support your cause.

While a good story can entertain, a great story can transform — turning new potential supporters into champions for your cause, who will wear their support and pride for your organisation like a badge of honour.

For more information on the “Story Canvas” and how to use it to tell stories that transform, head to www.digitalstorytellers.com.au/the-story-canvas.

To get access to all the recorded sessions from the #StartingGood Summit, and $1,000 worth of opportunities and support, check out the Next Steps Package.