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“Telling Stories about Great Youth Work” to be Featured in Key Workshop at Upcoming Ready by 21 Annual Conference

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Who's doing what works | 0 comments

Patrick Boyle

Patrick Boyle

“So many organizations and people in the American youth field do great work – but many of them don’t know how to talk about it.”

That’s the observation of Patrick Boyle, a veteran journalist who spent many years covering the field of youth work, and who is now communications director for the nonprofit Forum for Youth Investment. The Forum is known for having created Ready by 21, a widely used set of strategies that helps communities get all young people “ready for college, work and life.”

The National Meeting brings together hundreds of leaders from all over the country who dedicate themselves to improving the odds for children and youth through collective impact initiatives, policy alignment and program quality. You can find out more here.

logo_0Boyle will lead a workshop at the Conference about communicating. He is a master of the art , having built a career writing about youth and family issues as a daily newspaper reporter, and as editor of Youth Today. At the Forum, he helps community coalitions get out the word about their work for young people.

We spoke to Boyle a few days ago, and we plan to follow up the conference next month with “Notes and Quotes”on smart storytelling from Conference attendees.

Meanwhile, a few Boyle observations:

  • Organizations in the youth field are so busy doing their jobs that they have no time ,effectively and consistently, to let others know about it. Although organization leaders and staff believe that it’s critical for them to tell their stories better, they devote few if any resources specifically to the task. Most youth-serving organizations and youth-focused collaborations don’t even have a communications strategy, much less a person assigned to carry it out.
  • “We are setting out to change that,” Boyle says. His goal is to help affiliates and community partners of Ready by 21 tell their success stories and get those stories out to key audiences.
  • Step one, according to Boyle, is to develop a communications plan. That plan has to cover how the organization collects the material for stories; the different formats for stories (from case studies and articles down to blurbs for newsletters); what audiences the organization wants to reach; and the many ways to reach those audiences, from printed materials and web site stories to emails and social media distribution. One key question: Who owns these tasks? Too often, Boyle says, the CEO serves as communications director. “That doesn’t work,” he adds.
  • One way that the Forum regularly tells stories is through its electronic newsletter, Ready News, which reaches 20,000 subscribers. You can see those here. (The top item each week is usually a short story; the other items are briefs that link to outside stories, reports and resources.)

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