Your organisation’s impact and fundraising will be stronger if you can distill your research findings into a powerful story.

telling the story behind your researchAs a social change organisation, producing research is key in triggering the change you want to see.

Without appropriate research, we rely on assumed issues and inferred community needs, which are not strong enough to prompt genuine action. Community participation in change requires authenticity both in purpose and in practice from an organisation.

However, success doesn’t come from merely creating your own research. In order to have an impact, you need to tell the story of your findings and reel people in to show them what you’ve found.

Telling a story creates genuine human connection. It’s how we process the world around us, and how we trigger change.

Reporting the right way

Your research report is an opportunity to engage your audience in what you’ve learned. Ensure that it is not merely a list of facts and footnotes, but rather engages the reader, telling them why they should care and how they can be a part of the change.

The key here is to know your audience. Who are you trying to reach and how will they respond? Asking these questions is helpful in shaping your report and deciding what to include.

Spend some time on your Executive Summary, as this is how you draw readers in. Think of it as the only section that people have time to read, and hone in on the action you want them to take. Ensure that it is succinct, and entices them to read on.

From reporting to storytelling

To create a compelling story, list out your most impressive statistics and interesting perspectives. Include a range of quotes, anecdotes and images if you have any.

With your stand out material selected, identify your point of view. Are you speaking as an individual or an organisation? Are you collaborating with others? Or perhaps using someone else’s experience as an example?

Furthermore, are you demanding action on a crisis or does your research represent an opportunity? Is the tone relaxed, with you telling a tale, or more formal? The more targeted you are, the clearer your story, and the bigger impact you stand to make.

Finally, choose the structure of your story. Select a journey if you are following a character who undergoes changes throughout the narrative of the report. This form is ideal for solo researchers, as readers can follow them as they set off, make a discovery, and return with new knowledge. While this is powerful, it requires this specific set of touch points.

Alternatively, use the common article form, where you state your point of view and support it with facts and anecdotes as needed. This form is flexible, but be sure not to focus too heavily on the stats, as you will need to appeal to both people’s rational and emotional brains.

Putting the word out

Finally, decide who you want to share it with. When distributing it, include a short summary and encourage recipients to get in touch with any questions. You can use the opportunity to announce it as an official launch to create anticipation. Engage with potential stakeholders by meeting with them face to face and walking them through your findings.

Social media is also a great channel to publish your findings to a broader audience. If you have a high number of followers, you can share your research on your own account. If not, you can ask friends, institutions and supporters to share your report as well. Social media advertising is also an effective way to spread the word, if you have the budget and capacity to coordinate it.

ANROWS does it right

In November 2018, the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), was led and released by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS).

The research revealed a disturbing downward trend in the percentage of people who recognise that men are more likely than women to use violence in relationships, and that women are more likely to suffer greater physical harm from this violence.

ANROWS released a full copy along with summary of its research at an official launch event, held stakeholder meetings, conducted media outreach across Australia and executed a social media strategy. Spokespeople who had a lived experience of domestic violence brought a very sobering face to the research as well.

Through media coverage alone the research reached an audience of over 2.4 million people.

While you might not have tools and/or budget at your disposal to launch your research on such a broad scale, this is a great example of how effectively telling the story of your research pays off!

Finally – evaluate!

While it always feels good to receive praise for your success, you didn’t launch your research report just for attention – you also set out to achieve something more concrete!

You want to be sure that you can measure what you’ve achieved. This requires setting realistic goals which lead to measurable outcomes from the outset. In some instances, progress might not be concrete, or difficult to measure, and this is why we measure outputs instead. Your targets need to be baked in from the start in order for you to identify what you’re trying to achieve and the measures it will take to get there.

And now you have all the tools at your disposal to start telling the story of your research – take your time, be as targeted as possible and remember that to trigger change, you need genuine human connection.


Stefan Delatovic is the Account Director at communications agency Think HQ



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