Storytelling, Advocacy, Zeroing In On The Individual, And Red Flags

This morning’s required reading for those of us continuing to learn lessons from the Kony video going viral to rebuttal to “multi-lesson social media Exhibit A” in the course of a few days: A sobering reality check from┬áNicholas Kristoff in an interview with Foreign Policy:

(Telling) individual stories are certainly part of that, as are stories that connect Americans to people abroad. Likewise, moving from the LRA as a whole to Kony as an individual, I think made it more specific and individual. There’s always a tension between getting people’s attention without over-simplifying, but I think that it made sense for them to focus on Kony as an individual.

The Pulitzer prize winning New York Times columnist knows a thing or twelve about trying to draw attention to the world’s hell holes – usually complex conflicts that are hard to get to, expensive to cover, do not lend themselves to simple soundbytes, and result in a stark drop in eyeballs.

If you’re an advocacy or communications professional in the humanitarian/non-profit sector, where do you draw the line? When do you know you’re doing a great job telling a compelling story about an individual? What are your red flags if you’re over-simplifying? And how do you correct course if you’ve done that?