Step 2: The Beginning is Important - Framing Your Story
A reader will put your story into a category after reading or hearing the first few sentences. Remember that, according to researchers who have assessed Americans’ thoughts and attitudes, middle-class Americans identify best with societal problems that affect us all. Therefore, you should begin a story by identifying the broad community or social problem that is behind the subject – for example, energy poverty and scarcity of jobs. When you frame your story by showing the reader that the problem you solved is a broad-based problem, you open the door to showing how the WAP benefits the reader and the entire community. Your intention is to demonstrate that you are solving a widespread problem.
Begin with a short description of energy prices or job loss, which affect all Americans and many in your area:
In a time when there is chronic unemployment throughout Arizona and the nation, many in the state are looking to weatherization and energy efficiency programs to create much needed jobs. Not only does the Weatherization Assistance Program help low-income families and individuals lower their home energy costs; increase their health, safety, and comfort; and improve the quality of housing stock in communities around the state – the Weatherization Assistance Program creates jobs.
Describe your project in the positive – while you are fighting a social issue, don’t just state the problem in the negative, e.g. “Job loss has devastated the region.” Instead, immediately draw the link between WAP and success, e.g. “While there has been much job loss throughout the region, Agency ABC has trained X new workers for the new, green economy.”
Below are examples of frames you can use to shape your story in the positive and connect with readers.
- A widely shared problem such as low-wage jobs, unhealthy living conditions, and high energy bills.
- Expanding community economic opportunities for all through sustainable development.
- Helping families in crisis by providing services that allow them to stay in their homes.
At community colleges across the state, students from all walks of life can now learn the latest in weatherization techniques in the most effective way possible: hands-on. And it is a stimulus award that made that possible.
How can it be re-framed?
- This is a story from a single state. The reader may wonder “So who cares what happened there?” and move on.
- The role that your organization played in this new initiative is not identified. Add information about the leaders who dreamed it, the movers and shakers who established it, and the skilled staff who made the project succeed.
Across the nation, the economic downturn has hurt prospects for recent graduates and led to job loss, particularly in the construction industry. To address this and provide highly trained workers for the new, emerging green retrofit industry, XYZ state has designed and implemented a cutting edge, hands-on training program based in community colleges.
This description sets a socially inclusive frame by evoking the broad-based issue behind the specific problem and gives credit where credit is due. It is important to establish these principles early in the story, as many people do not read past the first few paragraphs.