Issue 26 - Mar/Apr 2013
|The Power of Storytelling: The Faces of Immigration Reform|
|The Bumpy Road Ahead for Health Care Advocates|
Stories are powerful. A well-told story lets the listener experience the world through someone else’s eyes and experience a life completely different from her own. That’s why storytelling is such an important part of what we do. Whether it’s fixing our schools, protecting threatened species or improving health care, stories can make complicated, wonky issues more relatable and personal. Really good stories can even inspire audiences to take action.
Stories are the driving force behind the Keeping Families Together campaign, a collaborative effort led by the Center for Community Change and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coalition of the country’s largest immigrant rights organizations that came together to demand comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform now. Keeping Families Together is collecting stories from across the country of real families torn apart by the country’s broken immigration system. The campaign shares these stories through its website, social media networks, speeches, videos and more. These stories put a human face on the 1,100 deportations that occur every day and fuel the movement for immigration reform.
Stories can bring your issue to life and move your audiences from knowledge to support, and from support to action. Storytelling guru Andy Goodman suggests the following tips to craft effective stories:
Here are a few other lessons we’ve taken from our work with Keeping Families Together.
Stories not only change hearts, they also change minds. Collect, integrate and share compelling stories that speak to the importance of your cause, and you can tap into the emotional values of your audience and move them to action.
The Bumpy Road Ahead for Health Care Advocates
In just a few short months, states will launch new health insurance marketplaces and expand public coverage programs, giving more Americans access to affordable health coverage than at any point in our history. Health care advocates need to be planning their smart communication strategies now, in anticipation of opposition ready to pounce at any indication that health reform isn’t working.
These are exciting times for health care advocates. October 2013 – when open enrollment season lets consumers start shopping for coverage in the state marketplaces – is the first major opportunity to focus on glitches in the system. The next milestone is January 2014, when most of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including Medicaid expansion for participating states, take effect.
However, health care in the wake of the Great Recession is a political lightening rod, and there are plenty of cynics waiting for it to go wrong. Here are some ways to prepare.
The Affordable Care Act has survived a major legal challenge and countless attempts to repeal the law. Advocates need to be prepared to declare health care reform a success when its major provisions take effect in October 2013 and January 2014. Smart communication strategies and advanced planning can help overcome the opposition and ensure victory.
How to Share Sweet Victory
By Molly Tsongas, Senior Account Manager
Often advocates are so caught up in the battle ahead they fail to take a moment to celebrate their wins. This is a big mistake. Rewarding audiences who have taken action – even a small one – builds momentum and makes it likely that supporters will act the next time you ask. This month, we’re giving a shout out to Greenpeace for reinforcing their supporters’ actions by sharing the glow of recent victories.
On April 4, Greenpeace shared the “finger lickin’ good news” that Yum! Brands, the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken, announced new policies to prevent its restaurants from using throw-away paper packaging made from rainforest wood. They expect this will affect nearly 40,000 restaurants and help protect endangered orangutans and Sumatran tigers that depend on the Indonesian rainforest for survival.
Only a week prior, they blasted out the news that Asia Pulp & Paper, a major rainforest wood purchaser, announced its commitment to end its deforestation. All their hard work was paying off, delivering major breakthroughs with some of the world’s biggest companies.
Greenpeace could have attributed this momentum to their direct actions, landmark reports, and viral videos to push this issue front and center. But instead, they gave credit to their thousands of supporters with a big thank-you note that said “your emails, tweets, Facebook posts and donations can help make even the biggest corporations change their tune.” They acknowledged that their victories were made possible by a culmination of every small and large action undertaken by their network of advocates and celebrated their supporters as heroes.
Seizing moments to share sweet victory and recognize everyone’s contributions is critical for building a community that is eager to battle with you every step of the way. Andy Revkin of The New York Times wrote that Greenpeace’s efforts on this issue, “deserves a round of applause.” We agree, especially the part where the group gave its members a standing ovation.
In addition to turning your audience into heroes, you can reinforce their actions by highlighting small wins along the way and portraying each outcome as consistent with their values. And remember that people want to help a cause and have a good time doing it – so have fun!
For the full guide to reinforcing your audience’s actions, download Spitfire’s free Activation Point.
The Day the Internet Turned Red
A long-time example of best practices in effective branding, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) now offers a great case study for successfully promoting a theory of change.
HRC’s “Equal Sign” logo is stamped across the backs of cars across the country. But the organization and its symbol recently made national headlines by calling on supporters to use a red version of its logo on Facebook and Twitter to show support for marriage equality as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on marriage.
While there’s obviously a “cool factor” about a call to action igniting millions to take action, the really smart thing about what HRC did is that the action supported their basic theory of change. In the campaign world, a theory of change is an organization’s strategy for how they’re going to create change.
Since its founding, a core part of HRC’s theory of change has been that the more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who come out to their friends and families – the more those people, and their friends – will support equality, and vote accordingly. Essentially, they’re creating a “new normal” in which LGBT people are just another part of the American fabric.
In asking members to use the red equal sign as their profile picture, HRC was giving a simple and specific “ask” that supported its theory of change. This time, the organization asked members and allies to come out in support of marriage equality. Once again, HRC is essentially creating another new normal, where the majority of Americans support the cause.
Of the many lessons that can be gleaned from that day, non-profits and foundations looking to follow HRC’s example should make sure that they have a working, clear theory of change, and make sure that their activities support it.
Beyond a Following – Expanding and Activating Your Audiences on Twitter
Social media is a powerful tool for reaching and engaging with new and influential audiences. A large majority of reporters, for example, prefer to be contacted solely on Twitter. An event with 50 people live-tweeting can add up to an online audience in the millions. Engaging and activating these audiences is a necessary digital skill for all organizations. Check out Beyond a Following, Spitfire’s new guide to helping organizations use Twitter to identify target audiences, find connections with key influencers and offers best practices to spread their message effectively.
Science of Communication Series
How do your target audiences decide to listen to you or not? How can understanding the decision making process make you smarter and more effective in your communications? Spitfire Strategies and the Communications Network are proud to present the next installment of our Science of Communications Series, with Shankar Vedantam, a science correspondent for NPR, and author of The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives. Vedantam will talk about how professionals can use the hidden brain to communicate more effectively, how culture influences decision making on key issues and more.
Join us on Thursday, May 30th at 9:00 am ET at the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Forum (1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036) – or stream the webcast of the event, available online at www.spitfirestrategies.com