This chalkboard is standing on the counter in my local Starbucks, quietly storytelling an amazing tale…
The staff in the branch are often doing amazing things for charity.
One woman abseiled down the side of the Baltic Mill, another did something terrifying involving a zip wire and the Tyne River but this board really held my attention – and it got me to do more than just open my wallet at the counter.
Enchanting, engaging writing
As I stood and waited to see what variation of my name would be inscribed on the side of my cappuccino, I read the board again.
It’s all in the details.
Consider this. The board could have said,
‘Starbucks is raising money for The Great North Air Ambulance. Please donate.’
And, yes, a fair few people would have thrown their spare change into the pot.
But what the author of this board does is so much more powerful than that. He (Frank) tells us a story. A story with a narrator and a story that has the gripping subject of a young life held in the balance. There’s a hero in here. And we all love a hero.
Storytelling engages audiences
Because we know Frank’s name – and his relationship to the young life that is at risk – we start to identify and empathise with him. What if the story was about a member of our own family? How would we feel then? All of a sudden we’re engaged and we’re invested.
As I stood there listening to shouts of, ‘grande latte for Bill’ and ‘toasted tea cake for Margaret,’ I saw that air ambulance in my mind’s eye. I imagined it picking up Frank’s young niece and then flying hell-for-leather through the air over the valleys of Cumbria and Northumberland. I pictured her parents, one of whom will be Frank’s brother or sister, and imagined their anguish.
Penrith is a long way from Newcastle.
Google maps tells me it’s “1 h 34 min (75.6 mi) via the A69.”
The devil is in the details
Then comes Frank’s killer detail. The absolute punch-you-in-the-guts wake up call.
The air ambulance delivered Frank’s niece to the hospital in just 14 minutes.
The same journey that takes over an hour and a half by car.
14 minutes is the same time that it takes to watch the first bit of the X-Factor, before the adverts come on and you realise you’ve been sucked into a peculiar Simon Cowell-shaped hell (again).
14 minutes. That’s one hell of a good reason to support the Great North Air Ambulance Service.
The cliffhanger keeps us hooked
So we’ve had the details and we’ve had the drama. We’ve had the ER moment of the blades whirring in the sky, the helicopter swaying as it takes off and then the mad dash.
But then what happened?
Frank is kind to us (and would make a bloody good copywriter!).
Then what happened?
In just 8 words he tells us how it is:
‘making all the difference, and a happy ending’
Without the air ambulance… our minds imagine the outcome.
We’ve found our heroes.
Because you never know when you might need 14 minutes instead of 2 hours.