We all know that storytelling is key to effective communication. Stories reach people emotionally, and affect audiences in ways numbers and graphs can’t.

But how do you talk about things like carbon emissions or employee engagement using storytelling devices? When I’m making videos, I find it helpful to look at the information I’m trying to communicate through three key lenses – character, challenge and change.

Think about any story that you love. It can probably be framed in terms of characters facing challenges and experiencing or creating changes. And any sustainable product or program can be described with a similar storyline.

Changes

It’s difficult to talk about big changes like reduced emissions or increased giving without resorting to numbers and jargon. So instead, look at the smaller changes that are occurring. Whether it’s about a redesigned product or a new green team, it’s easier to tell a story about a more specific change, and use that to illustrate the larger point.

Keep your audience in mind as you decide which change should be central to your story. If you’re targeting consumers, you may want to focus on the change in the product. If the video is for internal use or recruiting, show how employee efforts have made a difference.

Challenges

Stories about easy things are boring, so you need to be ready to address the challenges that make change difficult. Look for challenges that are suspenseful, inspiring or require creative solutions.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to sugarcoat your sustainability challenges. Audiences appreciate an honest approach, and they engage with a story whose outcome is uncertain.

Characters

A good story needs strong characters with whom the audience can relate. Employees, customers, suppliers and community members can go a long way toward showing the human benefits of your company’s initiatives.

If you can make these real people the heart of your video – instead of using spokesmodels, actors or even executives – you’ll have characters with whom viewers can connect. You can further that connection by using interviews instead of scripted remarks, and filming people in settings where they normally spend time.

Of course, you shouldn’t limit yourself to people when thinking about your characters. A product, a building, a piece of machinery – these could all be central characters in a CSR story.

Conclusion

What I’ve outlined above is the process that I use for creating many of my video projects, but it works for any kind of storytelling. Once you begin to think about your CSR initiatives in terms of the characters involved, the challenges faced and the changes created, you’ll discover that it’s much easier to craft a compelling story that engages your audience.