• You’re Not Telling a Story, You’re Sharing Your Chamber Culture

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    Creating a Great Chamber Story
    Stories are all around us. While there’s the larger chamber’s story, there are all different kinds of smaller stories that contribute to and reinforce the chamber story you’re telling. Think of these as chapters within the larger chamber’s story. For example, consider a work of great literature. There are the things that are happening within the novel—the plot. Then, if you’re analyzing it through the lens of a Lit teacher, you can enjoy the novel for its theme as well. The theme is the larger message. The plot conveys the theme. And each chapter contributes to the plot. At the end, you have a clear view of how the author feels about the theme or what the author is trying to tell us, outside of what happened. For instance, The Wizard of Oz is about a girl who’s transported to a magical land. She has many adventures. She ends up finding a way home. That’s the plot. Two possible themes include, the value of home and the power of perseverance.
    Let’s apply that to chamber storytelling. You have a story, things that have happened that say something about the chamber message. For instance, you may have a story about working together with a military base, but the story has a larger context—it’s really about workforce development in your area.
    Stories tell who/what your chamber is or wants to be. They illustrate your culture or goal in a more effective way than simply telling people who you are. While your tagline, mission, and vision statements can advance that message, stories are much more memorable and sharable. Here are a few ways you can build on your larger chamber theme through smaller storytelling (remember those chapters we covered earlier?):
    Member Stories
    While you certainly can tell member stories for many of your members, the ones that will be the most valuable from a marketing perspective are those that align with your story theme. Again, in the example of the workforce development theme, focus on telling the member stories that support your work in this area before you move on to others.

    Employee Stories
    Here you can highlight the work your staff is doing. Give some thought to what they specialize in, what business struggles they’ve overcome, and how it ties into the larger theme you’re trying to convey. This shouldn’t be a quick highlight of their hobbies and where they went to college. You can do that elsewhere. If you’re going to present their story as part of the chamber’s story, you want to focus on how it ties into your culture theme.
    Early Struggles
    Tell the stories of the early pioneers at your chamber. How did their work set the stage for the things you are doing today? Again, tie it into your theme to build the chamber culture you want.
    Focus on the successes that you’re driving. Go beyond the easy wins of a building opening or a groundbreaking project. Talk about the people behind it. To make a big impact, go small. Instead of telling the story of a multi-million dollar building you helped get grants for to build, go deeper on its impact. You could focus on the training programs at this new facility and the solutions they will bring. Go deeper still. Tell the story of the single mom you’re helping to get back to work with additional training or better yet, start there and then highlight what she’s able to do later on; not just the job she gets from the training you helped with but how she’s now opening her own business.
    Human interest stories are your “money” stories, but when using them for the chamber, you want to link them together in a cohesive, effective way. If you randomly select to tell stories from things happening across your community, you will miss out on the power of the story to highlight a larger theme. You’ll simply have some good news.
    Telling your chamber story is a powerful tool to help people remember you and what you’re doing in the community. When you tie it into your culture or a desired theme, your efforts can transform your area. But the power of story doesn’t just impact your members and your community. When your board buys into your chamber story and starts contributing to it, they’ll feel a part of something much larger than themselves. They’ll feel a sense of pride to admit they are a part of this. Stories inspire and empower people. It’s time to tie your chamber’s story into the overarching theme that you want to impact your chamber culture. 
    Christina Metcalf