THE DOS AND DON’T OF STORYTELLING IN HEALTHCARE

Storytelling helps messages hit home in a way that no other strategy really can. It’s one thing to give information and statistics about heart disease—it’s another thing to experience a heart attack through the eyes of a survivor and to feel their pain, fear and hope. Video is a great way of creating that personal connection. Here are four tips for making effective use of the medium.

Do decide who the hero of the story is going to be.

The temptation can be to make the healthcare organization or the doctor the heroic figure. And in some cases—fundraising for research, for instance—that’s a good choice. But if you’re telling patient stories, consider letting the patient be their own hero. That narrative, in which the patient is the star and the providers are figures of help and support, can be really effective with audiences who know what it’s like to feel powerless in the face of serious illness.

Don’t confuse informational videos with storytelling videos.

Both have their place, but they serve different purposes. Informational videos are good for conveying data in an engaging, eye-catching way. Storytelling videos go much deeper than that. They convey the emotions and experiences that can’t be effectively expressed in facts and figures, so it’s best to keep the numbers to a minimum and make it all about the people.

Do use the unique qualities of storytelling to approach more challenging topics.

Some healthcare messages are more difficult to share simply because of the body parts involved. It can be tough to get the word out about colorectal disorders, for instance, because people generally don’t like thinking about that part of their body. Testicular cancer can be an even harder discussion because for many men, it’s a part that’s closely tied to their identity. Use real people’s stories to get the message across. Put the focus on the patient, not the lower part of their digestive system, and show that a survivor of men’s cancer can still lead a full and fulfilling life.

Don’t rely on clichés.

Healthcare stories are effective because they center around people. Use unique, human details to make your stories more powerful for your audience. Instead of relying on the same camera angles, music, lighting and tone every time, use elements that convey the qualities that make your subject special. If your subject is an upbeat, goofy dad known for his lousy jokes, lighthearted music could emphasize his place in his children’s lives—and make his illness seem that much more dire—better than generic dramatic music might. Let the technical aspects of the video fade into the background while the stories, and the subjects, take center stage.

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