Connecting for a Cause: Storytelling, Crisis Communications and Diversity for Nonprofits

By Suna Gurol

Editor’s note: Suna Gurol is an alumna of the University of Washington Communication Leadership (Comm Lead) graduate program and co-organizer of “Connecting for a Cause.” She will moderate a panel at this event on diversity and community.

So what exactly is a “storyteller,” really? And what are best practices for crisis communications in the nonprofit world? How can nonprofit organizations best cultivate diversity and a sense of community?  These are among the key topics that communications professionals will explore on Wednesday, September 24, at Connecting for a Cause, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Puget Sound’s annual nonprofit seminar.

The UW Comm Lead Program: A Supporter of and Leader in Nonprofit Communications

The Comm Lead program has a long history of supporting and being on the forefront of nonprofit communications. This year, three individuals associated with the program will play a leading role in the PRSA Puget Sound seminar. Comm Lead director Hanson Hosein will be a morning keynote speaker on storytelling and alumna Shelby Barnes will participate in the crisis communications panel.

“We’ve been exploring storytelling and social technologies in our graduate program’s classes long before they became part of mainstream communication practices,“ says Hosein. “From the start, I suggested that these approaches were especially well suited to nonprofit organizations.”

Hanson Hosein, Comm Lead Director

Hanson Hosein, U.W. Communication Leadership Program Director

Why is that? Hosein explains: “First, nonprofit organizations are by their very nature, resource-constrained. They don’t usually have access to huge outreach budgets. So they have to consider these publicly available tools with experimentation and efficiency in mind. Secondly, nonprofit organizations usually pursue objectives that are inspirational to their constituents and donors. So they can harness that goodwill and passion very effectively with emotional content and smart networking strategies. Look no further than the ALS #icebucket challenge this summer for proof of that.”

Hanson Hosein and Steve Mallory: Setting the Story Straight on Storytelling

Hosein, a master interviewer, will kick off the event by leading a dialogue on storytelling with Steve Mallory, a screenwriter/actor and Director of Ideation at Edelman. Their dialogue, “Setting the story straight: rescuing storytelling from the salesmen,” will explore the potential dilution and misappropriation of the term “storytelling.” At a time when the term “storytelling” has entered the buzz-word lexicon and marketers can now change their title to “Chief Storyteller” on their LinkedIn profiles, it is a particularly topical conversation for communications professionals.

After the kickoff dialogue, the seminar will feature three hour-long panels on crisis communications, media relations and diversity and community.

Front-Line Lessons from Shelby Barnes on Crisis Communications

Shelby Barnes, a former senior vice president and the first employee of Intellectual Ventures, and personal publicist for technology visionary Nathan Myhrvold, is well versed in the topic covered in her panel, “Crisis communications – Tips from those who have been in the trenches.” Before she joined Intellectual Ventures, Barnes was on a team that managed communications for Microsoft during the Department of Justice investigation.

“When an organization is in crisis, the communicators on the front lines are among the most tested people in an organization,” says Barnes. “Even though it can often feel lonely on the front lines, it’s also a great test of our critical thinking and reaction skills. Learning from others’ successes and mistakes and applying those lessons to our own scenarios helps us shape our own responses. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my front-line lessons with my peers.”  Other panelists include Clay Holtzman, media relations manager for Swedish Medical Center and Katherine Boury, communications manager for Seattle Goodwill Industries.

Digital Communications, Diversity and Community

The panel on diversity and community that I’m moderating will explore how digital communications have become another channel for reaching more audiences. Panel participants include local pundit Cathy Allen; publisher of The Seattle Medium, Chris B. Bennett; and tri-lingual multicultural strategist Ha Na Park. Park’s background of being ethnically Korean while growing up in Honduras gives her a unique global perspective.

There will also be a media relations lunchtime discussion with Tonya Mosely, local correspondent and writer, and representatives from Al Jazeera, The Seattle Times and the Rainier Valley Post.

Connecting for a Cause will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 24, at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library. There is still space available to attend this event. To register, call (206) 623-8632. Registration is $85 for PRSA members and $95 for PRSA nonmembers.  

adminConnecting for a Cause: Storytelling, Crisis Communications and Diversity for Nonprofits
Share this post