Scene from ad - monsters enjoying the view

What Airbnb’s “Strangers” ad can teach nonprofits about storytelling

Have you seen the whimsical ad Airbnb has been running to encourage people to become hosts?

I can see why people might be hesitant to allow strangers into their space. We are conditioned to look at people who are not like us as either scary or exotic. From childhood, most of us have been warned of “stranger danger”.

The ad features a family of shaggy “monsters” enjoying their vacation. It starts where many of us are when it comes to inviting strangers to stay in our homes–it’s a little scary. But then we see a delightful series of scenes: enjoying beautiful views with a cuppa tea, a family hike, collecting shells, talking selfies, watching a movie, playing games…

These are simple things we enjoy with our own families.

The shaggy monsters clean up after themselves, straighten a picture on the wall, and leave a thank you note. As they close the door, we finally see them as they really are–a human family, just like us.

Kevin Morby’s song, Beautiful Strangers, provides a relaxed musical backdrop. Not a word is spoken. It’s a beautifully orchestrated story with an important message:

Strangers aren’t that strange. We have more in common than not.

The stories we tell carry this kind of power to connect, too.

Unfortunately, in our attempts to elicit emotion (or donations), we often emphasize our differences rather than our shared humanity. When we do this, we miss opportunities to present a realistic and nuanced view of the problems we solve. At worst, we reinforce stereotypes and even exploit the people we are called to serve.

Every story gives us a chance to choose. Do we set up a “them and us” narrative, or will we do the work to offer another perspective?

This is just one of the topics covered in the Mission Writers course.

Because stories shape our beliefs about ourselves and others, we have a responsibility to foster understanding and to portray the “strangers” in our stories (the people who benefit from our programs) with dignity and honor.

How can your next story bring us closer?

Mission Writers is a group coaching cohort where you’ll learn how to write clear, compelling stories for ministries, missionaries, and nonprofits.

Now offering two tracks:

  • for writers who want to serve missionaries and nonprofits with their storytelling & writing skills
  • for missionaries and nonprofits who want to improve their storytelling & writing skills

Join Mission Writers today.

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