Top tips - telling stories to 'sell' sailing

20 Jan 20

How can you better promote the impact of sailing and use this to grow your club? Real life stories and experiences can be very powerful in helping convince people who have never thought about sailing to see it could be something for them.

1. Why tell stories?

 People remember good stories, they don’t remember facts. Good stories are about people, not organisations or things. Bad storytelling is spewing jargon that describes what you do; good storytelling is about the amazing difference you make to different people’s lives. People can only remember so many facts, but stories allow us to combine lots of elements into one narrative that makes emotional connections on a human level.

2. Sailing is an enabler of change.

Every single person at your club will have a story to tell about how sailing has changed their life in some way. Some stories will be be powerful and lend themselves to PR better than other. But everybody has one. 

What about the family who came along to your Open Day because they were desperate to find something they could all do together? The shy youngster who came out of their shell in school after finding their 'thing' on the water? The retiree who wanted a new challenge after giving up work? The stay-at-home mum who needed something that was hers again? The person with anxiety who discovered mental wellbeing on the water?    

The Migliore family discovered sailing at Notts County SC's Open DayThe list is endless, but they are all real life experiences that will resonate with so many different types of people. Thinking about and promoting sailing as a vehicle for change rather than sailing as the activity itself will help you connect with new audiences in a different way.

Got an Open Day coming up? Promote it through the experience of that family. Starting a new Women on the Water (WOW) group? Share it through the eyes of that mum. Want to work with a new local school? Talk about that youngster that flourished in the classroom after getting afloat. Story first, activity second.

3. What makes a good story?

The CAT technique is a brilliant way to determine if what you think is a story is a good one. Every good story has these three parts...

  • What is the Challenge (C) - need to set magnitude of challenge (the ‘why’).
  • What positive Action (A) is required/been taken to overcome that challenge (the intervention).
  • What Transformation (T) has taken place – what is new that has come from action (the outcome)

Watch this short video with CAT in mind. Can you pick out the Challenge, the positive Action taken and the Transformation?


4. Getting the story out there

There are so many ways to tell a story - this is called 'content' and can be written text, video, audio, infographics, animations, etc - and so many offline and online channels you can use to get your story heard.

Which type of content and channel you use for a particular story will depend on who you are trying to reach and how the that group likes receiving information. This is a great webinar to help you get to grips with that - The future of dinghy sailing – understanding how different audiences/demographics communicate

Getting the word out there graphic5. Can you COPE?

One good story used well can have a greater impact than lots of stories used with little strategic thought. Make one story work for you by publishing it in different formats and through different channels. Remember COPE...

  • Create
  • Once
  • Publish
  • Everywhere

Get a good story right and it can take on a life of its own. You might start out just trying to promote one activity or event, but the wider public awareness you can gain from positive publicity is invaluable. But everything depends on the strength of the story. So what stories have you got to tell?