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Mar 27, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Inspiring Change - Seven Tips for Storytelling

CEO of PCI Media Impact outlines how to inspire positive change through storytelling Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

A decade ago, Sean Southey realized if he wanted to change the world, he’d have to give everyday people the belief to take care of their own lives and the knowledge to do it well.

As chief executive officer of PCI Media Impact, Southey sets out to empower communities worldwide to inspire positive social, health and environmental change through storytelling and communications.

The most important aspect when producing stories is knowing your audience, according to Southey. Without knowing who they are, or what they care about, you can’t reach them effectively.

Southey is also a “huge believer” in the power of positive messaging – love, not loss. When telling a story, he advocates communicating what can work and what already works and to resist solely focusing on the challenges.

Content, however, is only powerful if people truly engage with it. It is important for organizations to have effective distribution strategies and to know where their audience resides.

The messages which stem from the content should be given a “surround sound” experience. Southey believes people need to hear things from different sources before they are prepared to trust what they are hearing and become further engaged.

This links to another piece of advice: work with trusted voices. The spokesperson behind the message has to believe in what they are saying.

If successful, media content will help drive discussion, and it is these conversations which will drive behavior change.

Southey highlights the power of radio call-ins and TV talk shows which enable audience members to feel they are part of the conversation, even if they are not in the room. It’s one example of where old technology can still carry influence.

In a nutshell, stories work. Southey believes stories can drive more people than facts and data. It is easier for someone to relate to a story than a set of statistics.

As author Janet Litherland said, “Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us to understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story.”

Download Issue 3 of Nature and Childhood: From Research and Activism to Policies for Global Change


Sean Southey took part in the Salzburg Global session Nature and Childhood: From Research and Activism to Policies for Global Change, the fourth seminar of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum. The Forum is hosted with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in partnership with the Children and Nature Network, the National League of Cities (NLC) and Outdoor Classroom Day. More information on the session can be found here. You can follow all of the discussions on Twitter using #SGSparks.