Saturday, June 25, 2011

The art of public health storytelling

Rise and shine! How about some speed dating to start off our final day in Chicago? In one of this morning’s APHA Midyear Meeting breakouts, Engaging Policy-makers and Other Leaders: How Public Employees Can Advocate Effectively for Public Health and Prevention, we were asked to turn to our neighbors and share stories about the work we are involved with back home. We were instructed to use words such as “children,” “health” and “local” to better connect rather than use professional jargon. In other words, use ‘people-speak’ not ‘brand-speak.’

Guided by Senior Vice President for Public Health at Burness Communications Chuck Alexander, our little get-to-know-you exercise was really a lesson in the art of storytelling.

Elizabeth Wenk, also of Burness Communications, underscored the importance in storytelling particularly when backing up your message on Capitol Hill.

“Policy-makers really care about how an issue is impacting their constituents. The more we can push stories is how we’ll make improvements in prevention and public health,” said Wenk.

“Our parents didn’t put us to bed at night reading a Census book,” she said.

Wenk reasoned that a personal story is just a piece (albeit important) of the full pie. She says the way to really drive home a message is to weave a story through data.

“The more that we can be pushing stories into public health officials’ vernacular, that’s when we’re really going to make a difference,” said Wenk. “It’s knowing your audience. It’s figuring out what is really going to resonate with this audience.”

Hey, that reminds me of a great “storytelling” video that APHA put together. In case you need a little inspiration, give it a look.

1 comment:

Steveanna Roose, MSPH said...

Your you tube piece is factoids, not storytelling. Storytelling is the ancient art form of sharing a narrative to another person or group. There are national organizations such as the National Storytelling Network one can explore to learn more about the art of storytelling and its application in health and healthcare. Storytelling is an art form just like dance, music or visual art. It's easy to use the word storytelling. Consider encouraging health professionals to contact professional storytellers. We want to collaborate with you.

Steveanna Roose, MSPH
Storytelling Artist and Consultant