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How StoryCorps uses Zapier to enrich CRM data and improve internal workflows

Customer stories

4 min read

How StoryCorps uses Zapier to enrich CRM data and improve internal workflows

By Janine Anderson · February 11, 2021
An interview with a woman and a man sitting at a desk with microphones.

When your mission is preserving and sharing stories told by people around America, you end up with a lot of files to manage—and a lot of contacts to track.

For StoryCorps, Zapier helps them keep everything up to date.

StoryCorps builds custom software for some of its needs, but also uses off-the-shelf solutions, said Digital Product Manager Steven Heyen.

"Zapier is the glue that keeps our systems talking to each other," Steven said. "It allows our small but mighty digital team to accomplish much more through automation."

One of those software solutions is Salesforce, which has become the central repository for grant, donor, partnership, and end-user engagement information. The nonprofit organization uses Zapier to enrich contact information in Salesforce and support internal workflows.

For 17 years StoryCorps has listened to stories Americans have told about their lives, facilitating intimate conversations between family members, friends, and neighbors. More than 600,000 people have recorded their stories, many of which can be found in the StoryCorps online archive.

The organization works with thousands of people each year, and stories are heard by many thousands more. In order for them to centralize information about donors, contributors, and fans, they've turned to automation.

Using Zapier has saved him and others within the organization many hours, he said, but more than that, it's enabled StoryCorps to set up a level of automation that would have been impossible for them to develop on their own, given time constraints and broader priorities.

A wall in the StoryCorps office with about 50 photos of people.

Enriching contact information in their CRM

StoryCorps tracks all this information in Salesforce and uses Zapier to create and update records based on where people have engaged with the organization. This helps them understand which programs someone is interested in, how they've found stories, and how they'd like to contribute. For StoryCorps, engagement can mean many different things. Some people are interested in participating, recording their own stories or interviewing someone in their life. Others want to listen, or to support the work financially. 

Centralizing that information in one place makes it easier for everyone at StoryCorps who in turn communicates with those contacts. Producers have access to information about contributing storytellers, marketers can access audience information for targeted outreach, and the development team can contact people for support based on known interests.

"Zapier allows me to help internal users be more efficient and focus on their jobs rather than the technology," Steven said. 

Tracking touchpoints

StoryCorps uses Zapier to make sure a contact's Salesforce record lists all the different touchpoints a person has had with the organization.

Someone could have encountered StoryCorps on social media, through its website, its podcast, its NPR segment, or through a targeted program—like StoryCorps DIY, which helps people learn how to record in their own communities, or One Small Step, which focuses on connecting with someone with whom you disagree but respect. They may have engaged with an ad or filled out a form on the StoryCorps website.

Zapier sends that all of that information into Salesforce.

"All of these are different starting points where someone might find out about StoryCorps, and almost all of them touch Zapier in some way and say to our CRM 'this is what the person is interested in.' We use that Salesforce record as the record of truth, and that syncs with Mailchimp," Steven said. 

Here are a few simple examples of how to use Zapier to get information automatically into Salesforce:

StoryCorps' workflows are often powered by webhooks, a versatile way for apps to communicate with each other. Learn more about webhooks and how to use them with Zapier.

Growing subscriber lists

StoryCorps also uses Zapier to automatically grow its newsletter lists, sending information directly from Facebook Lead Ads into Mailchimp. Before adding automation to this system, Steven said, the marketing and communications team exported all the leads monthly and then imported them into Mailchimp.

"One of the problems that posed was if we did an export on the 31st, if I signed up on the 1st there would be a 30-day lag before I received my first welcome message," Steven said. "You might forget what StoryCorps is in that time, in addition to the manual effort of exporting and importing."

Now, this is done automatically, which means interested subscribers get a welcome message right away.

Internal workflows

Automation has also helped StoryCorps find new ways to work, saving time for employees, and making it easier for everyone to focus on the most important tasks, without getting bogged down in technological time-sucks.

An interview between a woman and a man, both sitting at a desk with microphones.

Working on the best stories

StoryCorps doesn't just store the stories people tell—they share them. Some are uploaded to the StoryCorps Online Archive, and the most compelling are sent out through other channels, including an NPR segment, the StoryCorps podcast, or social media. 

Stories that are distributed more widely get extra attention from a production team that edits the conversations and sends them out.

Zapier helps streamline this. Interview facilitators flag stellar stories, and a Zap watches for that tag. The Zap then creates a digest of the best pieces and sends it once a week to the production team, so they have an easy-to-use record of the interviews they should focus on.

Before putting that system in place, producers had to scan through all the new pieces to find those recommendations.

StoryCorps' Zap starts with a Webhooks by Zapier trigger, then uses Digest to collect all the recommendations, before sending the weekly email. 

Here are some Digest by Zapier workflows you could try:

Digital paperwork

Another way StoryCorps uses Zapier to save time came about as they adapted to working during the pandemic. In an average year, the organization does 3,000 interviews with between 5,000 and 6,000 participants. 

That means a lot of paperwork. 

Every participant needs to sign a release form and fill out a data sheet. In 2020, they had to shift away from their in-person process where they handed out paper forms that were then sent out, digitized, and returned. 

"The pandemic forced us to implement a digital paperwork process," Steven said. 

Now, they use an email parser and an internal form site to create a PDF attachment that names and stores the file based on a specific set of criteria, so everything is right where they need it.

For a walkthrough of how to use Email Parser by Zapier, take a look at our email parser guide.

Automation that helps them get to work

With automation running behind the scenes, the StoryCorps team gets to focus on the work that matters most, preserving the American experience through personal stories, and finding ways to connect communities and individuals by sharing those stories. 

What's your story? Tell us how you use Zapier to do more. You can also read even more customer stories and find new ways to improve your workflow and productivity.

All images in this piece are courtesy of StoryCorps.

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Janine Anderson picture

Janine Anderson

Janine Anderson is the managing editor of the app directory, and works from Racine, Wis. You can often find her reading, writing or knitting, and is happiest when she is at the Lake Michigan shoreline.

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