Within creative industries, storytelling becomes an integral part of what we do on a daily basis. It forms the basis of our proposals; the hook for our presentations; even the cliffhanger for our marketing campaigns.
We here at All Good Tales are particularly keen about using storytelling as a weapon for business. But behind each good story is an even better storyteller.
So in this bi-weekly series, we chat with a different storyteller about their work and how telling stories helps them. Next up is Fiona Saluk, Business and Project Coordinator with Fairtrade Ireland.
Q.1: How did you get into your current role with Fairtrade Ireland?
My career with Fairtrade began in 2013 when I learned about the movement and wanted to find a way to get involved. It was my final year of college and I was eager to get work experience in all areas and hadn’t worked in the non-profit space before. I sent an email inquiring about work opportunities and they brought me on board as an intern to assist with the Fairtrade Fortnight campaign. The internship was a great experience and great use of my time in between classes. Shortly afterwards, I finished my degree and moved to New York to work that post college corporate lifestyle, but occasionally kept in touch with the Fairtrade crew. Just over a year ago they had an opening and got in touch with me. I quit my job immediately. I was delighted to abandon Trump-land and work for an organisation with a meaningful mission! My internship role had an emphasis on marketing but my current role is a combination of marketing and sales.
Q.2: What do you enjoy most about your role in the company?
One of the great things about Fairtrade Ireland is because there are only four of us in the office. It’s a very collaborative team. I get to work on most projects and campaigns as well as be involved in sales development and long term business plans. There’s no sense of ‘that’s not my department’ or ‘ask marketing about that’ because we all support each others work with our unique perspectives and varying skill sets. There’s a steep learning curve when you join Fairtrade, trying to understand how the system works between the Standards, the Premium (which is different for each commodity), supply chains, smallholder farms vs co-ops vs plantations, etc etc. But by getting my hands in a little bit of everything it was easy to catch up.
Q.3: How does storytelling fit into your daily life? Whats aspects of storytelling would you say you employ in your work?
Personally I’m a big reader as I love diving into imaginary worlds and I have a deep appreciation for beautiful prose and good diction. I’m a big proponent of reading fiction as I think it’s an easier way to digest serious issues and ideas without our social conditioning getting in the way. Tell me you want me to read a book about the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Stalinist era and my eyes kind of glaze over, but tell me you have a great novel by George Orwell and I’ll start reading Animal Farm in bed that evening.
I think in general people tend to use storytelling in daily life to help understand difficult concepts or to turn ideas into something more tangible. I always find it easier to learn through examples so I can immerse myself in a story. You’ll often hear me explaining the Fairtrade system to someone with something like ‘okay so you’re a hip coffee shop owner in Dublin, and you want to buy coffee from Honduras.’ I’m actually quite useless at understanding/explaining things without immersive storytelling. At Fairtrade, we tell the story of the producers in the global south through various forms of storytelling. Whether it’s through a striking image and a caption on social media, a targeted campaign, or verbally when networking with Irish businesspeople and consumers.
Q.4: Fairtrade Ireland works with farmers, growers and producers all over the world, helping them to get a fair deal for the produce they sell. How do you capture their stories and in turn, convey those to the public? What are the steps? And what do you think works well when telling these stories?
Q.5 How does working in an NGO differ from working as part of a PR agency or government communications office do you think?
I can’t speak for the government communications office (though tbh they must have some fun with their job – shout out to whoever came up with the ‘Don’t be Dick’ campaign re the disposable coffee cups) but I had dabbled in work for a PR agency and it’s very different to NGO world. As a non-profit the biggest influence on our work would be resource availability and that we operate from a very humble standpoint. We are a tiny organization and creatively manage a limited budget – it would look pretty bad if we spent loads of cash on flashy campaigns since at the crux of it we are a charity and want as much money as possible to go to the farmers whose story we’re trying to tell.