Tell a Personal Story When...
Use personal stories only when a personal story helps bring to life your action narrative about the work that you do and about all the hard-working, respectable people for whom your organization provides new opportunities.
A good story can involve coordinating community-wide resources and partnerships with others to provide program participants with quality services, especially targeting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, families with young children, and the disabled. Tell a story when:
- You have helped readers categorize the story accurately by introducing it strategically and highlighting the community-wide issued addressed by the WAP. Once you have framed the story with one or more society- or community-level concepts, you can turn the personal story into an example of the impact of the WAP in improving lives.
- You have selected a person (or family) who is a good representative for the majority of the participants and can be easily identified as a member of your community
Jane Doe recently moved to Cedar Lake with her five children and had a hard time finding work. After a few months, she started working as a hotel maid, but found she could just barely pay the bills – especially the heating bills. She contacted her local community action agency and received weatherization services, lowering her energy bills and also identifying a dangerous carbon monoxide leak in her home.
How can it be re-framed?
- Be careful that you are encouraging a reader to categorize the story accurately. As it currently reads, a reader could think that Jane was just accepting handouts – there is not much opportunity reflected in the story.
- The health and safety angle is the hook here. Don’t bury these compelling and important details later in the story.
Jane Doe and her family had been feeling tired and out of sorts this winter, which Jane attributed to the low temperature at which she kept her home to keep heating costs down. ABC Agency stepped in, providing a comprehensive energy audit and energy efficiency improvements. In the course of routine health and safety testing, Auditor Joe Smith found dangerous carbon monoxide levels, which may have been making the Doe family sick.
Cedar Lake’s booming hotel industry drew Jane Doe and her family to the community last year. She quickly established roots and began working, but found paying her heating bills in this cold climate difficult. Jane says, “I am so grateful to ABC Agency for helping us and keeping me and my children healthy.”
Jane’s story, as told in this way, is now an illustration of the good work weatherization does as well as the important health and safety issues that can be identified.
Jim L., an out of work construction worker with five children, was struggling to make ends meet before he enrolled in a Weatherization Assistance Program training program offered by XYZ, Inc. Subsequently, he was able to learn a new, marketable skill and gain employment at XYZ, Inc. as a weatherization installer.
How can it be re-framed?
- Make sure to draw connections between the personal story and the larger community story so that readers can identify with the problem.
- Choose the details about your highlighted individual carefully and make sure that the story is one with which the audience will sympathize.
The effects of the recession linger in Lake County and many construction workers remain out of work. One of those workers, single father Jim L., was able to get green jobs training and become a full-time worker in the weatherization industry due to training provided by XYZ, Inc.