The power of human stories: how to be an authentic storyteller

28 February 2019
09.30 - 17.15
CharityComms organisational and individual members: £180+vat
Corporate Partners: £225+vat
Small charity (income up to £1m) and freelancers: £200+vat
Medium charity (income £1-5m): £250+vat
Large charity (income £5m - 10m): £285+vat
Super large charity (income £10m+): £315+vat
Corporate/Public sector: £400+vat

This venue is wheelchair accessible.

etc. venues Prospero House
241 Borough High Street

This conference is now fully booked. To be added to the waiting list, please email Sarah Cutress.

From the beginnings of language, stories have helped us understand ourselves and the world around us. They have a place in every culture and create a sense of community among listeners and tellers.

Charities have an abundance of incredible stories, that if told well, can spark imagination, passion and the most loyal support. They can also help charities to bring people together and solidify abstract concepts and complex messages.

However, behind every story is a person with real fears, hopes, vulnerabilities and futures. As charity comms professionals we must tell stories honestly, openly and authentically, all the while protecting the people who lend us their stories.

With a range of talks, workshops and peer discussions this conference will explore the ethical considerations and practical techniques for finding, crafting and telling your stories. See below for the full agenda.

Refreshments and snacks will be provided during the breaks and there’ll be a two-course networking lunch.

Who is this for?

This conference will suit most comms professionals looking to develop their storytelling skills. Especially useful for anyone newish to finding and representing human stories in their communications. Also relevant to anyone wishing to evaluate their charity’s overall approach to finding and protecting their case studies. Relevant job titles include press managers, copywriters, case study writers or content and comms officers and managers.  

Have a question about the content? Please get in touch with Emma. Have a question about the event in general? Please get in touch with Harri.

On the agenda


  • The psychology of storytelling: the principles and techniques that help us connect
  • The people behind your stories: how to discover, protect and develop relationships
  • Content and channels: choosing and using different mediums for storytelling
  • Brand: developing the story of your organisation
09.30 - 10.00
Registration, refreshments and advice surgeries
10.00 - 10.10
Welcome and introduction

Location: Illuminate Suite

Adeela Warley
CEO, CharityComms

10.10 - 11.15
Insights from the people whose stories we borrow

Location: Illuminate Suite

Real human stories are what bring our content to life and allow audiences to understand and connect with the causes we care about. In this session, we’ll hear directly from the people whose stories we borrow. We’ll hear about their experiences, challenges and perceptions and learn how we can better support them. Telling their stories:

  • Emma Campbell, author and media volunteer for Cancer Research UK
  • Jon Arnold, CEO of Tiny Tickers and former national media executive with the Press Association 
  • Onjali Rauf, author and CEO of Making Herstory


11.15 - 11.20
Peer discussions

Location: Illuminate Suite

11.20 - 11.45
Refreshments and advice surgeries
  • 11.25 – 11.45: Book reading – The Boy at The Back of the Class
    A book reading followed by book signing with Onjali Rauf, CEO of Making Herstory and author of The Boy at The Back of the Class – Location: book reading in Smile 3, book signing at CharityComms reception
  • 11.20 – 11.45: Sector networking – Location: next to the CharityComms reception desk
    • Health
    • Mental health
    • Disability
11.45 - 12.25
Breakout session one
The people behind your stories
1a. The people behind your pictures- telling complete stories

Location: Illuminate Suite

Every photograph or piece of film is a snapshot of someone’s life – it captures a unique part of the person, forever held at a moment in time. These images can cut through the noise and tell a complete story, humanising a whole issue. But when charities get imagery wrong, it can have a deep and lasting impact on public perception, cause and the people behind the images. Join this session for some fascinating insights and practical advice for creating impactful and ethical imagery.

Tamsin Maunder
head of brand and creative, WaterAid

Jess Crombie
humanitarian communications consultant

The psychology of storytelling
1b. The psychology of storytelling

Location: Smile 1

Stories aren’t just fun – they’re essential to what makes us human. The right story can shift attitudes, sell products and swing elections. By understanding the role storytelling has played in human evolution, we can learn how to identify and craft highly effective messages. This session will show you how, give you practical tips and include four, maybe five, good jokes.

Stephen Follows
creative director, Catsnake

1c. Creating and activating Scope’s brand story

Location: Smile 2

Scope became Disability Gamechangers in the summer of 2018, with a new brand to achieve equality for all disabled people. This included giving the charity a new brand story and personality, inspired by brand archetypes and challenger brand narratives. Then bringing the story to life with individual human stories of inequality and empowerment. Danielle will share the tale of how they created and brought Scope’s new brand story to life.

Danielle Wootton
head of marketing, Scope

Content and channels
1d. Reaching new audiences with storytelling on Instagram and IGTV

Location: Smile 3

Not only is Instagram a complete powerhouse in the social world, it is the perfect medium for charities to tell their stories and engage new audiences. In this session, Oscar will share insights about the great storytelling work WaterAid is doing on Instagram Stories and IGTV. From the technical aspects of using this platform to how they opened it up to their field officers from around the world to tell the real stories of the communities they work with. There will also be an opportunity to discuss Instagram with your peers.

Oscar Mackenzie
social media manager, WaterAid

12.35 - 13.15
Breakout session two
The psychology of storytelling
2a. Who cares anyway? Developing shareable content

Location: Illuminate Suite

Your story is worth telling, so why does no one care? Connecting with audiences has never been so tough with complete fragmentation of media and a world in flux. It’s not enough just to have a good story – you have to tell it in a way that will grab attention and encourage action. This talk looks to explore best practice for engaging storytelling; outlining top tips and inclusions to hook new audiences, reconnect with old ones and ultimately cut through the noise. There will also be an opportunity to work in groups on your own ideas. 

Ellie Moore
head of engagement, Don't Panic London

Joe Wade
filmmaker, TV writer, producer and CEO, Don't Panic London

The people behind your stories
2b. Co-creating content with the real people in your stories

Location: Smile 1

Amputation. Blindness. Both potential complications of Diabetes that are hard to engage with. Diabetes UK needed to develop sensitive and hard-hitting content without turning people off. From user testing to handing over video cameras to people with Diabetes, in this session, we’ll learn how they develop their content with real people at every stage. There will be an opportunity for you to discuss the challenges of co-creation with your peers.

Jemma Sullivan, senior brand manager, Diabetes UK

Emma Hetherington
head of content and news, Diabetes UK

Content and channels
2c. Finding new ways to tell vulnerable young people’s stories

Location: Smile 2

The Children’s Society helps some of the most vulnerable people in our communities – young people in crisis. In this session, we’ll learn how the team find and fiercely protect the young people that feature in their campaigns. From finding the right stories and developing a robust consent process to ensuring anonymity while preserving authenticity– we will hear the inside story. David and Rachel will offer their advice for other organisations walking the fine balance between developing hard-hitting content and protecting the people who lend us their stories.

David Pettet,head of creative, The Children's Society

Rachel Reay,content editor, The Children's Society

2d. Bringing your brand to life: helping people to tell their stories honestly

Location: Smile 3

In 2017, Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care joined forces to become Versus Arthritis. One of the charity’s priorities is to change the public perception and dialogue about arthritis, so that people living with daily pain, fatigue and isolation get the support they need. As they built the new brand and first campaign, the comms team realised that people with arthritis found it difficult to tell their stories honestly, because they were so used to their condition being dismissed. In this session, Shree will share their challenges and successes as they co-created powerful and authentic content with the people whose stories they borrowed to bring their new brand to life.

Shree Rajani
head of communications, Versus Arthritis

13.15 - 14.15
Lunch and advice surgeries
  • 13.40 – 14.05: Book reading – All That Followed: A story of cancer, kids and the fear of leaving too soon 
    A book reading session followed by book signing with Emma Campbell, author of All That Followed: A story of cancer, kids and the fear of leaving too soon – Location: book reading Smile 3, book signing at CharityComms reception
  • 13.45 – 14.10: Sector networking – Location: next to the CharityComms reception desk
    • Children / Younger people
    • Older people
    • Hospices
14.15 - 15.15
Breakout three
The psychology of storytelling
3a. From raw content to stand out stories

Location: Illuminate Suite

Storytelling is one of the most important skills for charities there is. But where do you begin? How do you take your raw content and turn it into a simple story that resonates with your audience? This practical workshop provides some tried and tested techniques to get you started with storytelling. And to help you create stories that are persuasive, easily understood, and remembered.

Chris Flood
content and search lead, Cancer Research UK

Content and channels
3b. How to tell stories on social media

Location: Smile 1

There are plenty of social tools that can help you convey emotion, authenticity and immediacy in a short period of time. From Snapchat to Facebook, most social channels now offer a stories format. In this session, we’ll hear how the RNLI is creating effective storytelling campaigns on social media using a combination of both shorter and longer formats, plus Rich will offer his top tips for how your charity can do the same. There will also be an opportunity for group discussions with your peers.

Rich Ward
social media manager, RNLI

3c. Brand personality: a chance to develop your own brand story

Location: Smile 2

Strong brands should have a clear point of difference to stand out from the crowd. One way to differentiate your brand is via your personality. In this workshop, we’ll be building on the earlier session (breakout one with Scope) giving you the opportunity to learn about the theory of brand archetypes and challenger brand narratives. You’ll also have the chance to apply the theory with some practical exercises which will see you developing your own brand personality and story to compete with the market leaders. Watch out Goliath!

Dan Dufour
creative brand strategist, Brand Dufour

The people behind your stories
3d. Supporting people with lived experience to tell their own stories

Location: Smile 3

As charity comms and marketing people we often tell our beneficiaries’ stories on their behalf. But in the right situation, it can be so much more powerful for people with lived experience to tell their story themselves. In this session, we’ll learn how as comms professionals we can help increase the confidence and skills of often vulnerable people to share their stories in a way that is going to be empowering and beneficial to them as well as impactful for your charity.

Jude Habib
founder, sounddelivery

Darren Murinas
chief executive , Expert Citizens CIC

15.25 - 16.10
Breakout four
The psychology of storytelling
4a. How to unleash your inner storyteller – tips from the arts

Location: Illuminate Suite

Join this interactive workshop run by narrative coach and playwright – Robert Holtom. From plot to character to world-building, you’ll learn the fundamentals of storytelling, and be shown how to apply these skills to your work in communications. Robert will also show you some simple techniques for unleashing your creative side.    

Robert Holtom
narrative coach and writer

The people behind your stories
4b. Channelling stories up from the frontline – establishing lines of communication

Location: Smile 1

In this session, we’ll hear from the amazing storytellers at Anthony Nolan. Beth and Hayley will showcase some extraordinary films and give us the lowdown on the work behind the scenes – how they found their stories from the frontline and developed relationships with the people they belong to. We’ll also hear how they’re getting staff at Anthony Nolan to buy into storytelling to ensure the communications and fundraising teams have incredible stories to inspire and move people to action.

Beth Gardner
assistant director of engagement (awareness and influencing), Anthony Nolan

Hayley Tomkinson
stories manager, Anthony Nolan

The people behind your stories
4c. Photography: staying on the right side of the law and protecting your subjects

Location: Smile 2

With little information about the impact of GDPR on photography, it can be tricky to know whether we’re taking unnecessary steps, missing steps completely or have all bases covered. Girlguiding has done extensive work around this topic. In this session, we’ll hear about how GDPR has changed the way their organisation approaches photoshoots, how they interpreted GDPR and some different approaches that can be taken to be GDPR compliant. We’ll also hear about their logistical considerations on the day and how they store images and consent forms post-shoot. You’ll come away armed with an action sheet to fill in for your own charity.

Mark Gorman
commissioning manager, Girlguiding

Jennifer Illinesi
multimedia projects officer, Girlguiding

Content and channels
4d. How can we bring authentic stories to life on-screen?

Location: Smile 3

Charities have access to a goldmine of authentic stories. Morever will share their experience of working with contributors to find those stories. We will explore the different techniques we can employ to tell those authentic stories… taking in film, mixed media approaches and stop frame animation. Join us for a fun and thoughtful session.

Abi Mellor
client services director, Morever

16.10 - 16.35
Refreshments and advice surgeries
  • 16.10 – 16.35: Sector networking – Location: next to the CharityComms reception desk
    • International development
    • Environment
    • Animals
16.35 - 17.15
Panel session: Creating a culture of storytelling within your organisation

Location: Illuminate Suite

Telling powerful stories about its work is essential for any charity.  Whether it’s to drive donation, communicate impact or highlight help and support available, storytelling should be a focus for the whole organisation.  Too often, it’s a real struggle and becomes the remit of a department or person.  In this interactive panel discussion, we’ll hear from charities who’ve made storytelling a part of their culture and gain practical tips on how to embed storytelling as a skillset and priority within your organisation.

Ruwani Purcell
head of campaigns, media and PR, Parkinson's UK

Christine Phillips
director of marketing and communications, The Children's Society

Collette Philip
founder, Brand by Me

Fran Borg-Wheeler
CEO, Youth Concern

Frances Umeh
head of internal comms and engagement, World Animal Protection