Sean Carter was a handsome, all American boy with a future until that fateful night in 2005 where he sat in a car driven by a friend (who had been drinking, just like him).
The car crashed.
Sean was hurt badly.
“Sean’s brain injury left him unharmed mentally but physically no longer able to talk or walk. He couldn’t swallow his own saliva, causing him to drool. He couldn’t dress or feed himself. Or go to the bathroom alone. At night he found himself trapped under the covers in his bed, unable to move when he was too hot or cold. Once fiercely independent, he was forced to rely on his mother for everything.”
This is a true story and one that is used by the Texas Department of Transportation in a anti-drunk driving campaign called Faces of Drunk Driving.
It’s also poignant.
Why Sean’s Story?
When I read about this campaign, I loved it.
Because this is what a real campaign should be.
It hits the right spot.
It tugs your heart.
It makes you want to know what really happened to Sean.
The campaign has a face (literally!) and more importantly, the campaign has a true story. (Admit it, don’t we all love true stories? If a movie was based on a true story, we’d be more interested, right?)
The format of the website reads like a book. You scroll to get the story.
And the website cleverly incorporates audio and video for major doses of realism.
And what makes this story powerful is that it puts a face to drunk driving.
It demonstrates and describes the effects and consequences of one night of drinking, two American boys and their lives after a horrifying crash.
This is a magnificent piece of storytelling.
Why Storytelling Is A Must In Today’s World
If you read Sean’s story from start to finish and were compelled to share his story, it means the campaign is a success. It meant you paid attention. It meant someone learnt about the horrifying consequences of drinking and driving.
Which is rather incredible given today’s attention-deficit world.
The truth is, powerful storytelling can capture and hold a person’s interest and more importantly, inspire and urge a person to take action. (The last part says, “Share this story. You could save a life.” If this isn’t powerful, I don’t know what is.)
Personal stories often trump stories that are general and frivolous. Personal stories are descriptive, laden with every day details. It captures tragedy, pain and failure. It also takes us along on a journey of hope, where we aim to find the rainbow with the pot of gold or a hero rescuing his lady love. Or that finally, the man rises from the ashes and becomes the proverbial phoenix. We cheer the hero on and we get weepy when tragic moments arrive.
Anything that serves to communicate should be about good storytelling and great stories.
That is why websites are the perfect platforms for stories.
Humanize Your Website
When I was giving advice to the team who worked on the Women’s Centre for Change for their Give, Build, Change website project, I emphasized this – humanize the website.
Give it as real a face as it can have.
Domestic violence is a strong subject but it is often not humanized.
While the rest of the team worked on the other sections of the website, I chose to re-work the stories of three domestic violence survivors.
My point was not to over-dramatize the stories but to use these stories to engage the reader with enough details so that the reader will extend some form of help (sponsor or donate). If we don’t tie in the “whys” neatly for readers, they will not open their wallets.
When you are emotionally engaged, you are more likely to help or spread the message.
So How Can You Use This For Your Website?
It seems that in business, people shy away from telling stories. It’s like something happens when you are “in business”.
Being professional is an euphemism for stuffiness and pretensions. We pretend to be immune to emotions as if we’re all robots the moment we step into the office.
Add some spice and life into your business. I think there’s too many people in business who are afraid of being themselves. It’s not a bad thing to be yourself, you know.
Describe your business in a way that make people want to know you and reach out to you. At least they know you’re not some 2D person, all flat and lifeless.
You’re a living, breathing thing. And that you celebrate Life.
Oh and never take yourself too seriously.
Have a laugh.
If you can do that, your website will never be compared to those of your peers in the industry. Now that’s called Standing Out.
What Happened Next?
Sean is a remarkable man.
Despite his injuries, he is now a role model. He travels to speak to Americans across the country on drunk driving. He also motivates his audience, urging them not to give up.
He started a non-profit, WhenSeanSpeaks, to raise money for traumatic brain injury and to educate on the dangers of drunk driving. His mother cares for him full time and she’s also his biggest fan.
Visit http://www.facesofdrunkdriving.com and while you are engrossed in Sean’s story, know too that this is what successful storytelling is about.
Don’t Forget Jacqui!
While you’re there, read too Jacqui’s story. Another survivor of a drunk driving accident, Jacqui suffered “severe burns to over 60% of her body that has left her with no nose, ears, eyelids, lips, hair or fingers after the car she was in caught on fire”.
Be warned. Jacqui’s face may be shocking to some of you.