Creating Content

STORYTELLING FAR BEYOND

STORYTELLING FAR BEYOND
Telling a great Stony Brook story not only furthers the mission of our University and spreads an engaging, powerful message about the incredible people, discoveries and opportunities — it also can create emotional connections, change perception and drive the audience to action.

In keeping with our brand, every story we tell — through the narrative, angle or desired outcome — should embody FAR BEYOND… FAR BEYOND what you’d expect, FAR BEYOND the classroom, FAR BEYOND the everyday, etc. You don’t have to call out the words “FAR BEYOND” in your stories, but the spirit and motivation should always be there.

Answer these simple brand personality questions to help ensure your story embodies the spirit of FAR BEYOND.

DRIVEN: Do passion, perseverance and determination play a role in the story?  Is our need to impact our world on display?
CURIOUS: Are you telling stories of innovative and resourceful people whose curiosity to discover and explore drive big ideas that would otherwise not happen?
WELCOMING: Will the reader get a sense of our open and inclusive environment, our eagerness to engage everyone?
PROUD: Do you build on our natural and unshakable sense of pride, showing how our purpose is driving achievement and making an impact?
HANDS-ON: Does the story convey the active participation and experiential opportunity that is afforded our students and faculty? Is our desire to engage as many students as possible in first hand learning on display?

EVERY COMMUNICATION IS A STORY
While calendar listings, event announcements and lists/tips are not typically wrapped in a narrative, the information around them should provide enough context and enthusiasm to draw attention and garner results. There is so much content noise to compete with, it’s important to think critically about what will inspire your audience: what will make them see FAR BEYOND a traditional notice.

EVERY STORY IS AN OPPORTUNITY
For longer stories — whether they are about students, alumni, faculty, staff, initiatives or research breakthroughs — remember the key ingredients of a compelling narrative:

One core idea
Before you start crafting your story, make sure you define the core idea you are communicating and how it relates to Stony Brook’s missions, values and brand. Imagine your audience: What will grab their attention at the start; what thread will keep them engaged?

Words and media that support the core idea
Consider strategically placed pull quotes, photographs and headlines that create a visual rhythm to your storytelling and make the story richer and more engaging.

Also consider the opportunity to draw in a broader audience via social media. Is there a particular subhead that could double as a Facebook or Twitter headline? A photo that could serve as a visual header on a website? Take the time to craft these elements specifically for the appropriate channels, and your story will travel beyond its original medium. That said, for social media, don’t force it. If there is not enough there there, don’t create a social media component just because you think you are supposed to. Always keep your core idea and goals in mind. Please review our Social Media Guidelines for any questions on this topic.

Clear call to action 
What would you like your readers to do or feel once they’ve finished the story? It could be an emotional response (pride in your alma mater, impressed by groundbreaking research that touches them personally or is transforming lives on the other side of the planet), or transactional (driving donations, an increase in applications, encouraging sign-ups) or both. Whatever the end goal, keep it firmly in mind as you develop the story, considering who or what will grab your readers and create the desired response.

Strong narrative arc
The “narrative arc” is a common device used in storytelling as it defines the story’s beginning, middle and end. Traditional, yes, but also very effective.

  • Exposition: The beginning establishes the topics and people central to your story, setting the stage for your audience.
  • Rising action: What events and details move the story forward?
  • Resolution: How has the tension/experience been resolved, the situation or person changed? What are the net result and the final sentiment you want to leave with your reader?

EVERY OPPORTUNITY CAN BENEFIT FROM GUIDANCE
If you have any questions about how best to craft your story for a specific audience or medium, please contact the Communications and Marketing team for guidance, [phone number to come].

 

EDITORIAL BEST PRACTICES

In everything you write for Stony Brook:

BE CLEAR
Use consistent naming conventions across websites, publications and social media.
Use active language and non-passive sentence structure.
Resist rhetorical questions.
Show; don’t tell. Use examples to illustrate points whenever possible.

RESPECT READERS
Be concise. Short sentences hold users’ interest and generally provide clearer information.
Avoid University-specific terminology when communicating with non-employees.
Write in second person. The audience is “you.” Stony Brook is “we.”
Good copy sounds more like how people speak than how they write.

WRITE FOR THE SPACE
People scan when they are reading a screen. They do not respond to heavy blocks of text.
People read 25 percent more slowly online. Write half as much.
Bullets and subheads make it easier for readers to scan content.

USE SIMPLE LANGUAGE
Don’t use formal or long words where shorter words will do:

Instead of Use
Cognizant of Knows
Empower Enable or  Allow
Impact As a verb, use “Affect”
Impact on Affect
Implement Begin OR Carry out
In order to Don’t use, always superfluous
Innovative Don’t use — instead, describe the outcome of the innovation
Is aware of Knows
Subsequent to After
Utilize Use

This is a sample selection of plain language; please use your best judgment, understand the overall tone and attitude of the Stony Brook brand language and always consult the Editorial Style Guide for specific questions.