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10 Qualities You Need To Become A Stellar Storyteller

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b75b9e8b438627f929c10647c9d474c2Storytelling is not only a fantastic way to relate to other humans on a personal level, it is also a fantastic marketing and fundraising tool for nonprofits and other companies

When done strategically and in harmony with online channels, storytelling can and will help you raise more money and strengthen relationships with your supporters.

Great nonprofit stories:

  • Convey impact and outcomes;
  • Elicit emotion and compassion;
  • Inspire further action and commitment.

Nonprofits of all sizes need to start thinking of themselves as storytellers and not “development professionals” or “communication coordinators”. A 10-page communications strategy is of no use without the gasoline of good stories to fuel it.

How can you go from Communications Coordinator or Development Director to Stellar Storyteller?

I came up with 10 characteristics of great nonprofit storytellers. Notes that there are few people who will embody every single characteristics – they are simply guidelines to inspire you on your journey to improve the way you craft and share stories.

To be a Stellar Storyteller, you must:

Be a true believer in the cause. They must be an outspoken and passionate advocate – the kind of person whose zeal is infectious.

Be authentic and truthful. We tend to want to listen to others with whom we can see parts of ourselves; people that come from similar backgrounds and have faced similar obstacles.

This is why major donors tend to listen to other major donors, and volunteers are able to recruit other volunteers. They speak each other’s language and understand where they are coming from.

Truly understand what it’s all about. It’s not all about your organization’s agenda and what you want to convey. It’s about your audience.

A great storyteller takes time to understand the audience – what they care about, what they want to hear. Stories should be crafted and delivered with these elements in mind.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Preparation is key when delivering a great story. However, Stellar Storytellers are able to improvise and are not rigid in their delivery.

Practice being open-minded, enthusiastic and motivated. You want others to feel what you are feeling, and you will always try new methods and new techniques to reach that end.

Remain skeptical. Always be asking yourself the questions that your audience will be asking: “How did that happen? Why did that happen? Why couldn’t something else have happened?”

By looking at your story with a critical eye, you will be able to anticipate the concerns and apprehension of your critics

Remain generous. Stellar Storytellers are generous with their emotions and their willingness to be vulnerable. They often share personal stories of their own struggles and obstacles.

To touch other people’s hearts, you must be willing to expose your own.

Understand the context. Are you telling the story in front of a group of 100 people, at an intimate dinner, or during a Twitter Q&A tweet chat?

Molding the story to fit the context is a huge part of being successful in storytelling.

Don’t think you have to be perfect to be a Stellar Storyteller. Who wants to hear a perfect story from a perfect person? (I know I don’t.)

As long as you are authentic, truthful and passionate about the story you are telling, people will connect with you and be inspired to take action.

Do you have any other storytelling qualities to add to this list?   

JuliaCampbell01web (1)

Guest post by Julia Campbell (originally appeared on the J Campbell Social Marketing blog). Julia Campbell is Principal of J Campbell Social Marketing. Her blog is at and she is active on Twitter at @JuliaCSocial

Meet #umbsocial Speaker – Mark Forrester

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Tell us a little about yourself and your background?Forrester

Left Comcast after 16 years in TV advertising to start my own ad agency

When did you start to work in social media

When my clients expressed frustration in not being able to “meet” website visitors!

How does a typical work day of you look like?

Sales calls, edits, meetings, edits, networking-repeat!

Do you have a role model in social media. Someone who inspires you?

Hmmm, Not really-not yet

What is the hardest thing about social media?

Time poverty Vs. multitude of choices

Forrester2-MCan you name us a brand or company that you admire for their great social media strategy/execution?


To be successful in social media, you need to ….?

Start with “why” you are doing what you are doing. People will make a deep emotional connection w/ you and/or your brand when they attach themselves to your “why” because it matches up with their “why”

What is your favorite book and why?

Bird By Bird” by Anne Lamont, because it inspires

What is your favorite quote  

“My religion is simple. My religion is kindness”   The Dali Lama

What is your favorite movie and why?

“Field of Dreams”

a) because it moves me emotionally every time I watch it.

b) because it is redemtive and allows us all to touch parts of our own story that we wish we could get a “do-over” on

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

“The greatest title will ever hold is Father” I think of this everyday….

Where can we find more about you and you work?

My website is

Marcus Myles Media

℅ Quincy Center for Innovation

180 Old Colony Ave.  Suite 300

Quincy,  MA  02170


Web Videos – the Story behind the Story

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screen-capture-8Guest post by Edward Peters

If you’re looking to make web videos, here’s something to keep in mind:

Each video tells two stories

There is, of course, the narrative, the basic story you want to tell. But there’s another story too – a bit less concrete perhaps, but just as revealing – the level of craft and professionalism you put into your product. Both stories can affect how viewers respond to your video.

A lot of us who began producing web videos in the mid-aughts had a short learning curve. The medium was still relatively new and some of us figured the talking head format was a quick and easy way to deliver information… and deliver… and deliver… and…

Yes, they could go on a bit too long – but we reckoned that viewers would be just as in love with our little Flash epics as we were – especially if, heaven forbid, we were “guest starring” in the video somewhere. In that case, we thought, Hollywood was right around the corner.

Then video metrics came along.

Uh-oh. It became apparent that our love was decidedly unrequited. After seeing a consistent trend of two-minute fall-offs – the equivalent of a lousy Variety review – we learned: package your message inside a short, compelling story and people will relate to it far better; oh, and better grab their attention in the first 15 seconds while you’re at it – or start packing.

Rightly or wrongly, people do not have the patience to sit around and watch you flounder around in search of a story. So, know your message upfront. Then, keep it short, keep it sweet – and get to the point! Give your viewers characters or circumstances they can relate to and your chances of connecting grow exponentially. Your metrics won’t lie.

And, let’s not forget that other story. If we don’t take care to make a well-crafted product, why should our audience care about watching it? Quality speaks volumes about the respect you have for your viewers.

G57A9722_1Edward Peters is Executive Director of Web and Media for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) and Owner/Producer of Shadowfisher


Meet #umbsocial Speaker – Julia Campbell

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1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

JuliaCampbell01I received my B.S. degree in Journalism & Communications from Boston University and earned a Master in Public Administration from Old Dominion University as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Tidewater Community College.

I’m from Beverly, MA; I’m a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Senegal 2000-2002), a mother and a social media marketing specialist. In my professional life, I help nonprofits connect with supporters by effectively harnessing the power and potential of online marketing and social media tools.

My clients include small community-based nonprofits and large universities. I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions, group seminars and college courses. I’m pleased to say that my blog was named one of the Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world and I am included in the Top 40 Digital Strategists in Marketing for 2014.

2. When did you start to work in social media?

I’ve been on each social media site since the year it was born – I’ve always loved connecting with people and sharing resources, information and photos, so channels like Facebook just came naturally to me. After 10 years in the nonprofit sector as a development director and marketing coordinator, I founded J Campbell Social Marketing, a boutique digital marketing agency based in Beverly, MA.

3. How does a typical work day of you look like?

There is really no typical day of work, which is a big reason I like being an entrepreneur! After dropping my daughter at school and my husband at the train, and getting my coffee, I usually sit down at my desk and write down my 3 big goals of the day. I block schedule my day to maximize my use of time. There are phone calls, coffee meetings. I try to block out at least 2 hours per day with no distractions to write blog posts or work on my upcoming book about social media, storytelling and nonprofits.

4. Do you have a role model in social media. Someone who inspires you?

John Haydon and Debra Askanase are my two role models. They have become personal friends and mentors, because they are so accessible, friendly and helpful. I devour their work and their writing and have learned so much from them! Beth Kanter is my nonprofit tech hero and definitely on my bucket list to meet.

5. What is the hardest thing about social media?

The hardest thing is to balance what is important for you and your community with what is popular and trendy. It is so hard not to compare yourself with others – for example, people with thousands of Twitter followers or blog readers. It’s a slow and steady uphill battle, but consistency and thoughtfulness win in the end!

6. What do you see as some up-and-coming trend in social media?

I see many more niche communities developing, and marketers creating content catering to those specific niches. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one.

7. Can you name us a brand or company that you admire for their great social media strategy/execution?

I absolutely love what Real Simple magazine and Sephora do on Pinterest! They have the advantage of having great visual products, but they also know their audience and really give them what they want, not necessarily what is on their brand agenda. For nonprofits, charity:water is the gold standard in social media and storytelling, but some small nonprofits also do a fantastic job, such as Black Cat Rescue in Boston and The Ellie Fund in Needham.

8. Did you make any social media mistakes in the past or is there anything you would avoid in future?

Social media involves a lot of trial and error. I haven’t committed any egregious mistakes, but I have gone two weeks in a row without posting on my blog!

9. To be successful in social media, you need to ….?

Be committed.

10. What is your favorite book and why?

My favorite novel is A Prayer for Owen Meany - I love how everything has meaning and comes together in the end. I have way too many favorite business books. One that I’m reading right now that I’m loving is Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. It’s absolutely a must-read for marketers, sales people, nonprofits professionals, pretty much anyone!

11. What is your favorite quote?

Anything by Seth Godin – I always reference him and quote him on my Facebook page!

12. What is your favorite movie and why?

The Nightmare Before Christmas – I love Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, it’s such a creative movie, dark without being too macabre, great for Halloween and Christmas. Perfection.

13. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

14. Where can we find more about you and you work?

My blog is at and I am very active on Twitter at @JuliaCSocial

Telling Stories with Twitter

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Guest post by Robert Bochnak

UntitledLast Saturday night—while the younger set was out clubbing and bar hopping—my wife and I put the kids to bed and then got a little crazy ourselves.

That’s right. We spent the evening organizing Legos.

Picking through mounds of tiles and throwing them (my idea) into the appropriate colored bin (my wife’s idea) got me thinking. I wondered why so many pieces were tiny (probably to piss off parents like me) and why so many of the figures were missing pieces—there’s something sad about seeing Lego Wolverine both declawed and decapitated.

These observations aside, I also thought about the organization process and its relationship to social media event coverage. In each case, the goal is to take a number of disparate pieces (e.g., Legos or Tweets) and organize them into a coherent whole, like my wife and I did (see above).

But the process of transforming social media activity into a coherent story isn’t child’s play (sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun) and in this post I’ll share the approach I’ve followed in my role as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office.

Get Storified

I’ve covered 8-10 events on behalf of HBS since I started working there in early 2013 and I’ve followed the same pre-event approach for each. A few months before an event, I research alumni who are both attending the event AND are active on Twitter (see “Social Media Event Coverage: An Integrated Approach: Part 1” for more on this research process). Once the event begins in earnest, things get very hectic, with tweets being sent and photos being posted on Facebook. My goals for each event are two-fold; I want to generate as much real-time engagement with attendees as possible AND I want create a narrative around the event. To achieve the latter, I use Storify. This is a great tool since, naturally, tweets and responses are posted at various times during an event, and Storify allows users to arrange content in chronological order; and by organizing tweets this way, I’m able to create a coherent, linear story.


Furthermore, I’m able to provide multiple perspectives on an event; it’s not just my tweets that fill the Storify. Alumni tweet their impressions of the event and share photos of how they are consuming the proceedings. I add these tweets to the Storify and also pose leading questions to propel the engagement forward. The challenge, of course, is to get alumni involved. This can be difficult since many attendees put away their smartphones so they can concentrate on the proceedings. To address this reality, I reach out to alumni who are not at the event but may be interested in a given topic being discussed.

A prime example of this approach in action is below. These alumni had just graduated from HBS, were active on Twitter, and had gone through the FIELD program. With this data in mind, I posed the following question to them.


I followed the same approach with these alumni.


By involving alumni in event coverage, it allows them to “write the event story,” and it also opens up a number of outreach avenues. Once the Storify is posted, I can tweet it to recent graduates who went through FIELD, alumni interested in venture capital, and classmates of the individual alumni included in the Storify. Also, since each alumnus/a quoted in the Storify receives an “automated” tweet (see below), it increases my chances that the content will be retweeted and shared with an even larger alumni audience.


This is just a glimpse of the way we tell stories on Twitter using Storify (for more examples go to and if I had one piece of advice it would be to get started on this content creation/organization as early as possible. When you have a free moment—during a break or lunch—you should sort and organize your tweets so you can publish your Storify coverage as soon as possible once an event is over.

034971e (1)Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at


Registration is open

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Dear Social Media Friends,

the registration for our first Social Media Night is finally open.

Please register for your ticket as long the supply last. The capacity of the new room is a little bit smaller than for the full day conference and all previous events were sold out pretty fast.

All the best


Save the date – 1st Social Media Night at UMass Boston

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After four successful Social Media Days, we are ready to start our first evening format dedicated to a special topic. Please save the date for the

1st Social Media Night
How to tell your story with digital media 

Thursday, September 25th, 2014
6pm – 8pm
McCormack Hall, 3rd Floor, Ryan Lounge
University of Massachusetts Boston

Registration starts soon at

Delivering your content in a creative way is key to your success in social media. Using video and storytelling are proven ways to get your customer’s attention. But,

  • How do you tell stories in a digital medium?
  • How can you use videos, photos and more tools to make your story more effective?

If you want to know more, do not miss the 1st Social Media Night
at UMass Boston. Join us for a panel discussion and an interactive storytelling session with

 DSC_3317rec2 Werner Kunz
Social Media Scientist and Professor of Marketing at UMass Boston

Edward F. Peters
Executive Director, Web and Media Services, MA Department of Revenue

 034971e (1) Robert Bochnak
Assist. Director, Alumni Marketing & Communications at Harvard Business School
 JuliaCampbell01web (1) Julia Campbell
Principal of J Campbell Social Marketing
 mark-forrester Markus Forrester
Founder of Yoularoid and Owner of Marcus Myles Media

Please invite your friends and colleagues, and promote the Social Media Night in your channels and circles! Please stay tuned and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and use our hashtag (#UMBSocial). Please help us get the word out.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. If you are interested in collaboration with the Social Media Nights, please contact me regarding sponsorship opportunities.

We hope to see you at the Social Media Night on September 25th.

Werner Kunz & The Social Media Days Team

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Disclaimer: This event is hosted by the Global Center for Digital Media & Innovative Services at UMass Boston and organized by the Digital Media Institute & Marketing Boston. To request disability-related accommodations, including dietary accommodations, visit

Please be advised that photographs will be taken at the event for use on the conference websites, online channels, in the press, marketing materials, and all other university publications. By entering this event, you consent to the event photographing and using your image and likeness.

By registering to the event you verify that you would like to be added to our email list and that you will now allow the event organizer and their partners to send periodic information pertaining to the event or related promotions. Please remember you can unsubscribe at any time by sending an e-mail to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line.