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Deep Dive Breakout 2: Emotive Storytelling: From Mundane to Moving

July 21, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Oh no! It’s yet another boring message on a dry policy topic. But, does it have to be so dull? Learn the steps to emotive storytelling by reviewing before and after case studies that show how taking the time to build an emotional connection with your audience can dramatically improve the rate and quality of responses.

Charlotte Selton, American Physical Society
Tom Donnelly, American Farm Bureau Federation
Misty Allen, Comcast
Lauren Cantrell, Habitat for Humanity


Different Ways of Emotive Storytelling

  • Storytelling through members or stakeholders
    • Looking into more creative expression: poems, art, music, etc.
    • Testimonials 
    • Storytelling through data

Learning objective: before and after: how your messaging can change

  • APS collected stories from hundreds of scientists that were immigrants to the US, and about their journey to living in this country, then made it a research-focused report by pulling the key themes and trends in the information and other known data into a paper that can be shared with Congress
    • Recruiting storytellers: they reached out to members over email and got a great response, and then reviewed all of the stories that came in to edit for grammar and make sure the message was right
  • Comcast targets the digital divide through investing in communities, but the pandemic impacted that reception and made Comcast more of a target because of people’s lack of access to the internet in certain communities.
    • It was important to not come across as defensive, and they had to check themselves and pivot to instead find their advocates that could help lift up the good work that Comcast has done
  • The farm bureaus get trained for fly-ins etc
    • Usually, they’re trained on the messaging and policy and then sent to the hill. They decided to pivot and test training some with the PIXAR model and found that congressional staff thought the advocates that used the PIXAR model were more engaging and had better results

Learning Objective: why do we use stories?

  • Stories can be used to give a face to an issue, add a bit of humanity to the message and add to people’s perspective
    • And can make advocacy asks more compelling, and spice up drier subjects and statistics
    • Helping to frame the issue and really focus on what you’re asking
  • Stories are more absorbed by people and people are more receptive to them
  • Stories are memorable: when facts and information are framed by a compelling story, you’ll not only hold the attention of your audience, but you’ll also make the information more memorable
  • They travel further: because stories are so memorable, they’re easy for listeners to recount in the future. So if you arm your audience with a good story, they’ll be able to communicate the details of your issues more clearly
  • Inspire action: a compelling and inspiring story about what you do, why you do it, and how it will make something better will help attract and motivate people

Learning objective: how do you help advocates tell their stories

  • PIXAR model
    • Framing stories in a way that’s engaging and has a narrative
      • Once upon a time, there was…
      • Every day …
      • One day …
      • Because of that …
      • Because of that…
      • Until finally… (and include the advocacy ask)
    • This also helps give a parameter of how to outline the story and keep advocates within a concise timeframe
    • This method also helps give sufficient context for lawmakers and helps build understanding for the ask at the end
  • Impact without exploiting
    • Establish and maintain trust with ongoing support
      • Also, helps show advocates why they need to communicate a certain way with lawmakers
      • It’s important to understand how important language is and ensure that advocates are able to be authentic with you and lawmakers
    • Encourage advocates to tell their stories in their own words
      • And sharing in a way that’s natural to them, in their own unique voice
    • Be clear and upfront about how stories will be shared

Learning Objective: How do you respond when someone criticizes the storyteller or the story?

  • Preempting criticism
    • Avoid anonymous stories
    • Including full names (with permission) to increase the credibility
    • Meet new advocates before committing them as spokespersons
    • Prepare and share a conduct code for advocacy


  • How do you make sure that advocates don’t go off the rails?
    • Focus on the policy asks that are achievable right now – focus on the current policy landscape, because if advocates go beyond that it might make the org not seem credible as a policy team
    • If you have a group, make sure that you have a leader that is in charge of steering the conversation that you do trust
    • Train to the policy briefs, and develop your messaging based on that
  • What can you do when you’re up against a powerful story that counters your mission?
    • Reframe the issue: show more of the layers of the issue, involve other potential partners that can speak to another aspect of the issue, and help detract from their message by highlighting new perspectives
    • Don’t repeat the narratives that don’t help you. Lead with a story that immediately counters that narrative and helps build on your overarching argument
      • If the staffer then brings up the counterargument, then you can build on speaking directly against that
    • Leading with the advocates first, tell the story, then tie in your organization and the issue so that they don’t get distracted before they even hear what you have to say
  • Message testing during meetings: how do you keep advocates effective while coaching them on messaging?
    • The biggest factor here is training and making sure that they understand the goal and what the key points are to make 
  • Benefits of story banking?
    • The biggest part of that is having a good database of key advocates that you can tap based on the issue
    • Trying to segment when you can be based on identifiers, demographics, issue set, etc.


July 21, 2022
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category:
http://www.buzzadvocacy.org/Emotive Storytelling-From-Mundane-to-Moving
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