Case studies. Experiences. Stories. Whatever you want to call them, they're essential to helping us understand and feel connected to an issue. Stories have had a massive impact on me so I feel honoured to be able to talk to people about their experiences at Age UK.
I want to establish principles to make sure our way of sourcing, gathering and sharing stories is supporting the storyteller, and putting them front and centre at all times.
At Age UK, we use stories in lots of different ways. From a film about TV licences to an article about experiences of volunteering, they are invaluable in not only showing the work that we do, but also painting an accurate picture of what life is like for older people, their families, friends and carers in the UK today.
A statistic or a fact may help us understand a topic, but it's only when you add a real-life story that you get that emotive urge to act and share.
Who could forget Terrence's story from last Christmas? He shared his thought-provoking experiences of loneliness, which struck a chord with the nation, encouraging them to volunteer with, donate to and find out more information about Age UK.
We also tell heartwarming stories to provide some feelgood news that will make your day. Check out the story of a cat café in Shropshire giving older people the chance to enjoy coffee and cake with some furry friends . Or, if you want to be inspired, take a look at this piece featuring seven incredible women for International Women's Day.
Want to become a storyteller yourself? We'd love for you to get involved! We’re really proud of the way we tell stories, but we know we can do it even better. Over the next few months, I’m going to be looking at the way we gather and share stories, and put in place new ways of working which put the storyteller at the heart of everything we do.
Want to share your story?
Maybe you've been supported by one of our services, or maybe you've done something inspirational in your community. We tell so many different stories, so get in touch today and let us know!
Putting you in control
We're going to put the storyteller in charge of their story, meaning our stories will always be authentic and totally approved by the storyteller. There shouldn't be any surprises, you will always know when, where and how your story is being used.
These stories don't belong to us, and it's only right that storytellers have the final say on how they are used. If a storyteller's photo is going to be appearing in a shop window, of course they should know about it first. The last thing we want to do is to give them a shock when they come across their face smiling down at them on the high street!
Keeping you updated
I've always believed that storytellers should be treated the same as, if not better than, major donors. We want to make sure they feel valued and are kept up to date with what impact them sharing their story has had.
A storyteller should feel part of our team. We celebrate successes of campaigns in the office – storytellers should be part of those celebrations. Their input is the most valuable and they should know just how much impact they have had.
Rewarding your time
Our storytellers give us their time for free, so we need to make sure we're rewarding them in other ways wherever we can. This could be invites to great events, being able to take part in media opportunities or meet a network of brilliant storytellers with similar experiences.
We nurture strong relationships with our storytellers, keeping them up to date with what we're working on. By keeping in touch with storytellers, we'll have a better idea of their interests, so we'll know to send the right opportunities their way when they come up.
Making it clear
Transparency is key in story gathering. Our storytellers are often sharing very personal and sensitive experiences, so it's really important that they are totally clear with why and how we’re gathering their story and where it might be shared. This is why I've put together a set of story principles, which sets out our promise to you as a storyteller.
- We'll make sure you understand and feel comfortable with how Age UK uses stories and the way we collect them.
- We will always quote directly from your transcript for accuracy and will never put words into your mouth. We'll also support you to tell your story to other people, whether that is at events or to the press.
- You will have a main point of contact at Age UK that you will always be able to get in touch with should you have any questions.
- We'll always check with you to make sure that you're happy and comfortable with the way you are being portrayed. We'll also let you know what impact your story is having.
- We'll get formal consent from you but will also ask you each time we'd like to use your story in a new way.
- We review and update our stories and storyteller data every two years. If you would ever like to withdraw your consent, we will take action to remove it within an agreed and reasonable timeline.
I feel really privileged to be able to collect stories at Age UK and I'm so excited about hearing from a diverse range of storytellers on a whole host of different topics. In the coming months, I'll be sharing ways you can get involved as a storyteller and, of course, will be sharing experiences from lots of storytellers on the subjects that matter most to them.