The power of words.

Ever laugh so hard milk came out of your nose?  Chances are, someone told you a funny joke or a good story.  This funny story moved you to action – in this case snorting out milk.  While that is not the reaction we are looking for from our lawmakers, we want to apply this same principle.

ChatBubblesColorsIn a recent post, we talked about the power of numbers.  Meaningful statistics can have an impact.  But, nothing can move someone to action better than a great story.

We all have a story to tell.  Our story can and will make a difference.  Let’s work together to turn our story into a tool.

When my kiddo was born, it was 7 days of complete insanity.  When people asked to hear about what happened, it took me nearly 7 days days to explain it!  And to think, some of you have been in the midst of insanity for years!

Unfortunately, we don’t have days or years to tell our story to the decision makers.  Sometimes it’s just minutes.  So, just like a sword, it really is important that we sharpen up our story to be an effective tool.

Here are a few tips:

  • Keep it short – About 2 minutes. Time your story to make sure it is not too long.
  • Be clear – use plain words and avoid medical jargon.
  • Speak from the heart and talk about your experience.
  • Be accurate, honest and persuasive.
  • Avoid relying on statistics.
  • Be polite, respectful, patient and grateful.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Tell your story to others and notice their reactions. After each practice, edit what you liked, and what you didn’t like.

I now have many versions of my story.  One that is 2 minutes and one that is 5 minutes if people ask for more information.  I also have the 30 second version I can tell while running down the hall along side my legislator I just happened to catch getting off the elevator.

My story changes slightly based on the situation.  Whether writing an email, making a phone call, doing an interview or meeting my legislator face-to-face, my message should have 3 major components:

  1. Introduction: State your name, where you are from, your relationship to congenital heart disease, any relationship you may have with your member (if appropriate.)
  2. Key Message: Share the very brief version of your story.  Sometimes you will have a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes.  Describe the relevant issue and why it is important to you.
  3. Request or “Ask:” What you want them to do.  For example support NIH funding for CHD research or support CDC funding for CHD data collection.  True confession, I once did an interview, talked for 3 minutes and completely forgot to promote the advocacy event we were having.  Oops.

Go on, sharpen up your story.  It is the best tool you have.  Advocacy is about building relationships – no quicker way to make a lasting impression than with a meaningful story.

Your Turn – What is your story?  Feel free to post in the comments!

This post is part of an introduction to advocacy series.  Click here, to find the other posts in the series.

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