Make it Personal: How Personal Stories Engage Advocates

People will talk about issues and policies important to them. But personal stories will drive them to take action.

The American Heart Association had spent fifteen years trying to pass legislation in New York mandating CPR training in schools. After traditional advocacy methods failed, they decided to try something new.

How the American Heart Association used personal stories in advocacy

AHA launched a campaign on social media called #CPRinSchools. This campaign was meant to elevate personal stories and raise awareness around this important issue. Here’s how one of those stories helped AHA accomplish their objectives.

Madison Lee’s Story

Suzy McCarthy dropped her daughter off at school one day in 2001. She didn’t think that day would be any different. It ended up being the worst day of her life.

While in class, her daughter, Madison Lee, went into cardiac arrest and no one was equipped to help her. When the paramedics arrived, it was too late. Madison was gone.

Suzy later realized that if someone at school had been trained in CPR, Madison’s death likely would have been prevented. She shared her story with the American Heart Association as a part of the #CPRinSchools storytelling campaign.

Working with Suzy, AHA launched a multi-channel advocacy campaign powered by Phone2Action. Their goal: urge New York elected officials to mandate CPR training in schools across the state. Motivated by Suzy’s story, AHA advocates contacted their elected officials on social media and over the phone.

They flooded Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office with phone calls, urging him to sign this bill into law. They told Suzy’s story—among others—to explain why this bill couldn’t wait another year. This urgency hadn’t been part of the narrative before.

Their persistence worked. In 2014, Governor Cuomo signed a school health education bill that required CPR training in schools across the state.

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What Personal Stories Mean for You

Advocates are busy. They’re working full-time jobs, raising children, or going to school. These are all things that require time and energy.

If you want to motivate people to engage in your cause, then you need to give them a good reason. Personal stories tell the who, the what, and the why behind a policy issue. They create a strong, intimate connection to the issue, letting advocates see how it will directly affect their lives.

Start by listening to your advocates’ own stories. Find out what they care about. Use those stories in your campaigns. Watch as the stories resonate with elected officials and help you achieve your policy goals.

Creating user-friendly and interactive campaigns is important. But telling powerful, personal stories will set your campaign apart.

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Learn more about how the right advocacy tools can help you tell your personal story. Click here for more info. 

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