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Using Anecdotes in Your Content: Get a Collection System in Place

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Using anecdotes breathes life into your content. Readers are energized when they hear how your organization makes a difference in the lives of people you serve.

An easy 3-step plan for collecting anecdotes to use in articles and content with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #ContentWriting #FreelanceWriting

But you know what happens when the deadline for your next article or newsletter looms ...

You have to trudge through all kinds of phone calls and dead ends to find an exciting anecdote to include as the centerpiece.

And since you’re doing all kinds of good things for people, there’s no question – stories are out there.

Why not use them?

Not so easy, you say.

The biggest stumbling block to using anecdotes to is not your willingness (of course you want to use stories) nor their existence (you hear about your ministry’s results all the time.)

The problem is collecting them.

When it comes to using anecdotes, what you need is a collection system.

A system – one that takes next to no time and is easily accessible – puts your stories at your fingertips. With a system, you’ll have basics your writer needs to flesh out stories for powerful appeals, newsletters, and online promotions.

Putting together an anecdote collection system is not hard.

And it takes barely any time. But it doesn’t happen on its own. Take advantage of the anecdotes that come your way today when you follow these intentional steps.

1. Keep your antennae up

Story-gathering is a priority. Keep your ears open about successes, both big and small. Make this a point of intentionality for your staff, too. You can even solicit stories from volunteers – “Tell me how things are going for you as you work with us. What situation sticks out in your mind over the last couple of months?”

Total time invested: 0 extra minutes

2. Take notes

When you hear an anecdote about the terrific work your organization is doing, open a file on your computer and type in a few brief phrases, like this:

  • Sue – unemployed for 5 months; after counseling with Alice she had 3 interviews in a week (just enough information to spark a feature story interview with Sue and/or Alice).
  • Joe – short-term missions worker to Chad; overwhelmed by the poverty he found there; on day 2, he saw the line wrapped all the way around the makeshift medical clinic and into the desert; cried; helped deliver 3 babies and vaccinated 30+ children that day (perfect core information to initiate an interview with Joe).

Total time invested: 2-3 minutes

3. Maintain good records

Nothing is more frustrating than recalling a story that’s perfect for the piece you’re working on and not being able to put your hands on the contact person’s email address or phone number. Record contact information in each story file. Note the date you hear the story, the source, and that person’s phone number and email address.

Total time invested: 30 seconds

Voila! With just a teensy bit of planning and even less time, you can have oodles of story leads to share in promotions. Use your notes as your write your next promotion or as you talk with your writer. (A copywriter, by the way, will do the heavy lifting – contacting the source, getting details, and weaving the stories into your pieces.)

Sounds too easy? It is. Why don’t people do it? I don’t know.

Make sure you do!

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7 Basic Story Plots for Powerful Content Writing ...

Using anecdotes: capture your readers with a slice of life ...

3 Story Writing Mistakes to Avoid (If You Want to Make a Point) ...

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