Your personal story is your most powerful advocacy tool. Policymakers need to know how the decisions they make effect the lives of their voters and are often moved by these personal accounts.
LaCAN Leaders are always looking for compelling stories to be shared during Public Testimony Days at the legislature and at advocacy events throughout the year. Leaders are available to help you write and practice sharing your story. Click here for LaCAN Leader contact info.
Etiquette & Other Tips
Keep in mind that a good story:
- Is the one you love to tell. Think about the stories you’ve told your family and friends when describing the situation you’re trying to change. What examples do you use? What facts or incidents draw the most emotional response from them?
- Captures a central idea. Don’t try to cover too many incidents in one story. Focus on one issue and use real-life details to make it come alive.
- Has a main character that people want (or should want) to help. The more your audience knows about you or your child as individuals, the stronger the emotional connection and the more likely you’ll be able to affect real change.
- Presents a struggle, conflict or challenge. Conflict is a struggle between two incompatible needs, wants or situations. Your story might illustrate a conflict between your child’s need for services and the legislature’s prior unwillingness to appropriate funds to pay for those services.
- Has a “climax” or high point. Your story should build up to an example that makes your listener say, “that’s unfair” or “that’s too ridiculous to be true.” For example, if you chose to put your child in a community home or large private ICF/DD, you could do that today and the state would pay for that 24 hour/day care, however you can’t get the 6 hours/day of supports you need. Ridiculous? Yes. True? Unfortunately, also yes.
- Contains vivid images. Use words to draw mental pictures that help listeners connect to your story at an emotional level. Don’t be afraid of strong words. Words like “cold,” “dark,” “hates,” “terrified,” “cringed” and “panics” create a negative emotional response. Positive words can cause emotional reactions just as easily. Think about how you feel when you hear the words “giggle,” “sunny,” “beautiful,” “artistic,” and “loving.”
- Is detailed. The more details you can provide, the better the policymaker will understand – and sympathize with – your position. A note of caution: Make sure the details and images you include are relevant to the story you’re telling and are brief.
- Addresses the big questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Policymakers need the basic facts. Your LaCAN Leaders have a list of questions you can use as a guide in writing your story.
- Has a beginning, middle and an end. Think about an ongoing television series. You might not be a regular viewer but within a few minutes of watching, you know the characters and the situation they’re confronting. By the end of the show, you’ll see the story unfold and the conflict resolved.
- Is short and to the point. Policymakers are very busy. You need to be able to tell your story in three minutes or less so stay focused!
- Tells the policymaker how to help. Be clear on what the policymaker can do to improve your situation. Start and end your story with this specific request.