Telling Your Story
Everyday, everywhere, amazing things happen at Playcentre. Online media - whether Twitter, Facebook, or WordPress - means that our stories can be shared easily, both within our own communities and beyond.
Some Playcentre parents have asked me how they can get their centre’s stories out there. Having told Playcentre Canterbury’s stories for almost a year now, and recently run a workshop on the topic, I thought I’d write about how I tell a Playcentre story. This might help you to tell your story too.
Keep it simple.
The best thing about Playcentre is the thing that happens on every session, play. Play is central to what makes Playcentre so enjoyable, beloved and unique. Our stories don’t all have to be about big events, special occasions, grand gestures, and triumphant outcomes. Of course those things have their place too, but it’s ok to simply focus on the daily awesomeness of what we do. Make everyday play your focus. You could consider publishing a learning story, writing about a play invitation or describing something that got wonderfully messy. These simple stories help people to understand what Playcentre is really all about.
Focus on the tamariki.
This should go without saying, but too often we forget to include the voices of our tamariki in our stories. How did they engage in the activity? What did they have to say? Celebrate and capture it. Our children will surprise you with their insights and they almost always have something humorous to add. Make them, and their words, central to your story.
Not everything is perfect and Pinterest worthy. Sometimes sessions are chaotic and nothing goes to plan, but these things can make good stories too. They help us to learn. How did your centre overcome a problem? Tell us about it. Perhaps it will help us to avoid making the same mistake, or encourage us to take a magnificent risk.
Experience it. Document it.
Playcentre stories are best told by the people that are there, knee deep in the sandpit, elbow deep in slime. Take photos, take notes, capture sound bites as they happen, or film what you’re doing. Perhaps you’re the best person to write the story? Perhaps not. If your centre is planning something potentially story worthy, document it yourself. While I love to be invited along, you might be the best person to capture the experience. That will also make it easier to collaborate with me on a story later if you choose to.
If you know something’s going to be worth writing about, then plan ahead. Invite myself, inform the local newspaper, consider writing a press release, nominate an ‘official’ photographer. With photos, get permission to publish them from the participants at the time they’re taken. This means that the story can be shared quickly, and that you have lots of fabulous evidence to work with. This also makes writing much easier later.
Collaborate. Skill share.
Not everybody can write confidently, but writing a story can be done collaboratively. Someone might be able to write down all the details, while someone else might be the best person to edit their ideas. I’ve always been a lousy proofreader, so I avoid doing my own proofreading. Perhaps you’re clueless about social media and how best to utilise it? That’s ok, someone else in your centre will. Know your strengths, ask for help. We’re a diverse and knowledgeable community, somebody will be able to support you.
Take more photos. Take better photos.
I’m sure it’s not just me, but I take lousy photos on session. Part of the problem is that I never take enough and I don’t give them enough thought. There are always plenty of demands on we parents.
On a handful of occasions I have really focused on taking photos however and, as a result, they have been treasures. Carefully taken photos capture the moment in a way that my slapdash snaps consistently fail to do. Again, consider nominating a photographer who can focus a bit more attention on this. Get close up, try different angles, capture expressions or action. Take a combination of landscape and portrait shots. Learn to edit photos; even simply cropping them can improve them. Photos will help you or somebody else to tell a good story. There are also a few ways to take great pictures of play that don’t compromise our tamariki by including their faces. Try just including hands, shoot over the shoulder shots where the play is seen from the child’s eyes, or practice making flat lays (google it).
Finally, where is the best place to publish your stories? Where you share your story depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. Trying to attract more members to your centre? Then do you have a public Facebook page? The social media options are limitless these days and it can be difficult to know which are the best for you. Blogs are great and free; they’re a good way to archive content and better suited to longer pieces of writing than, say, Facebook. Your centre can create a blog and then share blog posts to your Facebook page anyway. Local newsletters or newspapers are also great places to publish stories. Get to know the publications in your area. Connect with local Facebook groups so that your reach increases. Appropriate stories can also be published on the Canterbury Playcentre Association website or in the Playcentre Journal https://www.facebook.com/PlaycentreJournal/.
If you have any further questions, would like to collaborate on a story, or if you would like me to write a story for you, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Thursday 28 September 2017