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Geoffrey Melada standing in front of the room, pointing to a giant notepad

Geoffrey Melada: The power of storytelling to build your brand

Geoffrey Melada with RespectAbility Staff and Spring 2018 Fellows in front of the RespectAbility banner

Geoffrey Melada with RespectAbility staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, April 10 – In his third time speaking to RespectAbility’s National Leadership Fellows, Geoffrey Melada, Director of Communications for Hillel International and a former journalist and trial lawyer, said the key to building a successful brand is storytelling.

The same goes for companies as for individuals. Melada told the Fellows that everyone in the room had something in common: being brand ambassadors for RespectAbility and our interest in disability inclusion.

“What does it mean to be the custodians of a brand?” he asked. “Consistent storytelling,” he told the RespectAbility audience. The best companies advertise and brand themselves through storytelling. He likes to call himself Hillel’s in-house storyteller – storytelling is the foundation, he said, of the worldwide movement’s marketing, fundraising, public relations and media strategy. One of the takeaways from his talk was that “storytelling is the key to fundraising and friend-raising.”

Melada said that storytelling even applies when searching for a job. When applying or interviewing for a job, it is essential to spotlight what you can offer the employer regarding your strengths.

Storytelling is the key to success in many professions. Journalists and lawyers in a short amount of time can become “experts” on a topic and tell a captivating story. “If journalism is storytelling, trial law is competitive storytelling,” he said.

Geoffrey Melada and RespectAbility Fellow Sarah Bram in front of the RespectAbility banner

Geoffrey Melada and RespectAbility Fellow Sarah Bram

Melada asked the Fellows to name the components of a good story. To come up with the answers, the group watched the Oscar-winning short story “Piper.” That list included emotion (humor), entertainment, relatability, overcoming adversity and modeling/mentoring. The film had a simple linear chronology with a beginning, middle and end, which makes the story more accessible and easy for the audience to follow. Throughout the story, Piper does not stay the same; the bird gains wisdom, new skill sets, growth and novelty, and the audience is drawn in.

Melada ended his talk with some essential tips on how to engage an audience in any piece of persuasive writing, like an op/ed. He called it the head/heart/hand model, which he learned from Ari Geller, the former deputy press secretary for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Head– teach them; heart– move them; and hands– give them something to act on.

Asked to summarize storytelling on one foot, he offered one word: empathy.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. This spring, 14 Fellows had the opportunity to learn from a variety of guest speakers. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Sarah Bram

As a person with cerebral palsy, Sarah Bram has been a pathfinder her entire life, paving the road for those after her. She is passionate about working for nonprofit organizations, specifically in social media management.

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