Storytelling: American Rights at Work “Gets It” in Employee Free Choice Act Campaign

March 31, 2009 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

The premise seems simple enough. A personal story, told from the heart, can speak volumes in a campaign. No matter how strong the policy argument may be, no matter how much data backs up an organization’s statements, a personal story is usually the strongest way to encourage people to donate or take action.

Seems pretty common-sense, doesn’t it?

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received emails from organizations (my organization included) that are bogged down in policy, wonk-ish language and abstract ideas. By the time I got to the email signature, I’d forgotten the point of the email (if there was one), or I was so bored from the text that I wasn’t inspired to do anything.

I know I’m not alone in this – many policy-driven organizations face the problem of “How do we communicate this complex policy idea to our base supporters?”

The difficulty of this problem lies in the fact that when working for an organization, you’re immersed in its policies and its work. The bills, the complex details, they’re all fascinating, and they all seem relevant and exciting. Yet, the outside world may not see the issues in the same way.

Take Planned Parenthood.  The snapshot below is an example of an email I received about family planning provisions getting stripped from the economic stimulus bill. The reason the message was so compelling is because the text expressed real emotion – “I’m stunned,” “I was frustrated,” “I was even more shocked.” The email also explained why anybody should care about these provisions, and how it would affect millions of women. ppemail2

But as effective as this email was, it still lacked a personal story. The email talks about how women will be affected – but there aren’t any examples or stories from actual women who need the funding in the stimulus.

Today, I came across an American Rights at Work campaign on the Employee Free Choice Act: “Faces of the Employee Free Choice Act.”

It features photos and quotes and full-length stories from people across the country who could be affected by the legislation.

The first word that came to mind when I saw this campaign was, “Finally!” Finally, an organization is getting it right and using that powerful tool, the personal story, as a foundation for grassroots organizing and online and offline activism.

If you have any more examples of great use of storytelling in online campaigns, share them here!

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Entry filed under: Advocacy. Tags: , , , , , .

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