Two Approaches for Climate Storytelling

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I recently wrote about storytelling, emphasizing the importance of amplifying stories without fabricating them. However, a reader called me out, suggesting it is better to “present, don’t exaggerate.” Their suggestion raises the question of what exaggeration looks like for nonprofit storytelling. If you frame your story in a way that doesn’t solely present the facts or stats, does that mean you’re exaggerating? This article will explain the difference between amplifying and presenting stories, which is extremely valuable for climate change storytelling.

Examples of Presenting Stories and Amplifying Stories: Below are examples of a story presented and amplified using the same project—the same story with two different approaches.

Tayler Ann Rivera and our company, BariStories, created these films to showcase a North Hennepin Community College course. English and Faculty Ana Munro created this course to provide students with outdoor learning and nature immersion opportunities.

Our team at BairStories created the amplified story, and Taylor Ann Rivera created the presented story.

Climate Storytelling Approach 01: Present Story

💡 Presenting A Story = bringing a story to the public as close as the actual story or event. An example of this is news reports.

“My approach to creating the film was about the inclusion and the educational factors. Since my main career is Journalism, my approach to this film was more analytical than creative.”

Taylor Ann Rivera

(Taylor’s quote edited for clarity)

”The presented story approach is typical for climate change communications. Taylor’s point about her analytical approach reminds me of what “Millie Kerr, a conservation journalist, notes about the reluctance of scientists to share personal stories. “The presented story approach is typical for climate change communications. Taylor’s point about her analytical approach reminds me of what “Millie Kerr, a conservation journalist, notes about the reluctance of scientists to share personal stories.

”She recalls interviewing an ornithologist who, off-camera, mentioned being bitten by venomous snakes during fieldwork - a detail he omitted during the formal interview. This situation exemplifies how personal experiences, often left out in climate change narratives, could add a vital human element to the story.”

It’s a bummer that a person’s journey or vulnerability is omitted in climate change storytelling because it aims to inform and inspire people to save our planet.

Yet, facts and stats alone do not move people to action. In some cases, sharing these actual stats can cause people hopelessness, the opposite of the goal.

Climate Storytelling Approach 02: Amplify Story

💡 Amplifying A Story = to expand or emphasize by framing the truth in a way that draws out the deeper meaning behind real moments. Some fiction and nonfiction films are examples of this type of storytelling.

”Our approach to “Belonging” was to weave raw, poetic visuals with profound reflections on identity and community. We wrapped these things in the personal experience of our main character, Dalorian.“Our approach to “Belonging” was to weave raw, poetic visuals with profound reflections on identity and community. We wrapped these things in the personal experience of our main character, Dalorian.

When we amplify stories, we focus on the significant emotional experience of a single character with a strong desire, motivation, and uniqueness for audience connection.

Emotional storytelling can bring many benefits to your nonprofits, including:

  1. Making emotional connections
  2. Encouraging action
  3. Humanizing big topics like climate change and environmental justice
  4. Humanizing organizations
  5. Creating a sense of community

Learn more about the benefits of emotive storytelling.

Comparing the Two Approaches

Climate Storytelling

Both films contain the same type of characters, locations, and experiences. So, what makes them different? Yes, the creation approach is different, but also the functions differ. Each film targets a different viewing goal while overlapping as complimentary stories.

  • Taylor’s film can help students know what from this course experience.
  • Our film can invoke conversations about nature inclusion and representation.

Both films can do the same things, but the different approaches determine the story’s outcome.

For example, while “Belonging” can convey to students what to expect, it doesn’t fully cover every aspect of the experience. In “Belonging,” we left out the Wolf Center scenes. Why? It didn’t serve the story we were telling.

Now, imagine the power of emotive visual storytelling in climate change communication. Studies have shown that sharing individual experiences can lessen the perception that climate change is an issue affecting only distant places or future generations, bringing it closer to personal realities.

Jane Goodall has also emphasized the effectiveness of storytelling in reaching people’s hearts and minds. This approach can be pivotal for nonprofits like yours aiming to raise awareness and motivate action on climate change.

Criteria for Choosing Between Presenting and Amplifying a Story for Climate Storytelling

How does this relate to your nonprofit and climate change storytelling?

Knowing the difference between the two-story approaches informs you on which tool to use for a specific goal. Whether presenting a story or amplifying it, each approach is a tool.

This distinction is significant in nonprofit communications, where the goal often extends beyond conveying information to forging emotional connections and driving action.

Here’s a simple guide to help you know when to present and when to amplify.

01 What’s Your Goal?

  • Presenting: Ideal for delivering factual information like a report. It's straightforward and educational.
  • Amplifying: Best for emotional engagement and impact. It focuses on evoking feelings while also conveying the facts.

02 What’s in Your Story?

  • Presenting: Offers the complete, "unfiltered" truth. It's about showing reality as it is.
  • Amplifying: Highlights specific emotional or thematic elements in your climate storytelling.

03 What’s Your Desired Impact on the Audience?

  • Presenting: Aims to inform. It's direct and to the point.
  • Amplifying: Seeks to create a lasting emotional connection or provoke thought.

04 What’s Your Style?

  • Presenting: Similar to journalism. It's factual and straightforward, without extra embellishments.
  • Amplifying: Offer additional creativity for an immersive experience.

Conclusion

Both approaches are not inherently good or bad. These approaches are tools. Applying one of the approaches concerning your goals makes choosing one of these approaches good or bad. The choice between presenting and amplifying a story hinges on the following:

  • The intended purpose.
  • The nature of the content.
  • The desired audience impact.
  • The desire for creative expression.

Another thing to consider is this fact: you will inherently influence the authenticity of your story by your presence. People can’t act normal when you point a camera in their face and follow them around.

Being present doesn’t mean your story is inauthentic because you’re there. Yet, it’s something you should be aware of. Whether you’re amplifying or presenting, the story gets filtered through your lens and life experiences. It is worth being honest about this truth.

Understanding the strengths and applications of each approach will make you a stronger Storyteller at your nonprofit. Embrace these tools to make your climate change storytelling heard and felt.

Download our storytelling guide to amplify your climate change storytelling.

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