The Reason Why: Facts Tell, Stories Sell

People love stories.  Stories are how we communicate.  Storytellers are revered in many cultures, and in the western world the writers and directors of films and TV are generally quite well paid both financially and status-wise.  Stories are our currency of communication, yet when it comes to marketing, most businesses forget about the story and focus on the facts.  By doing that they lose the impact that a compelling story brings.

PR and media relations is all about effective storytelling.  For example, when launching a public relations campaign for a physician, I realize that what’s going to benefit him or her the most is not to primarily focus on their credentials and medical savvy, but to emphasize impactful and compelling patient stories   A tale of how a patient went from pain and suffering to living a healthy fulfilling life is one that we can connect with.  It’s much more compelling to tell a vivid and compelling patient’s story, than to explain exactly how a particular procedure or medication technically worked.

People identify with the patient, not the physician; they commiserate and root for him or her.  They’re emotionally involved in the story from beginning to end, particularly if the story somehow personally affects them or someone they know.  If the time comes when they need to seek out the services of a physician who works in that field, guess who they’ll most likely turn to?  You got it; they’re going to want the doctor who helped turn that patient’s life around in the story they heard.

Facts and figures are great.  They give us information and they help give credibility.  But facts and figures alone will seldom result in a sale.  A laundry list of facts offers very little call to action.  And even if a fact list does inherently have a call to action, chances are there is no emotional resonance to it.  The information may be factual, but, unlike a story it is not always emotionally believable.   Stories are evocative; they bypass thought and go directly to feeling.  They shoot past the cynical adult and go right towards the child in each of us.

It’s the story that awakens interest.  For example, when we launch a PR campaign for beauty products spas or beauty salons, our focus is not on the ingredients that the products contain, or precisely how a procedure is performed, or the exact technique that a particular stylist uses; our emphasis is on how the client looks, feels and changes when using that product, going to that spa, or visiting that hairstylist.   Our focus is on how the client’s life is transformed.

The personal journey in the story told might be major or less dramatic, but it is the transformation that will affect the reader or viewer, or listener.  Just as in real estate the saying goes that it’s location, location, location, in promotion, marketing and PR, it’s the story, the story, the story.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Patient Stories and Medical Media Relations

When it comes to PR and medical-oriented media relations, remember, your best stories are patient success stories.  Yes, as the physician you’re the expert and the educator, but it’s your patient stories that in turn will tell your story.  The media is looking to interest their audience, whether that audience is readers, viewers or listeners and what’s going to grab their attention is going to be stories that affect them.  Although the audience is going to be interested in your expertise and information, what is going to impact them on a visceral, emotional level is going to be patient stories that they can identify with.

Make a list of patients who have interesting, impactful stories they can tell.  You want these stories to illustrate how lives were changed or transformed.  Contact the appropriate patients, explain how their stories can help educate and inform others who are dealing with similar problems or issues. Explain what would be involved and how this would be an important outreach to the media.  This is not just a way to sell a patient on appearing in the media.  Patient stories educate and inform the public.  That is generally how the public learns about new procedures, treatments, and options.  We’ve worked with physicians where the patients were more than willing to tell their stories because they wanted others in their situation to be able to benefit from their story.  There are patients who will have no interest in speaking to the media, preferring to keep their story private.  That is something to be respected.  But let patients know that you are collecting anecdotal stories and that you’ll be presenting some of these stories to the media to explain and educate the public on your work.  You may be surprised at how many will be willing and even eager to tell their story.

Once you have patients who are willing to tell their stories, match the various patient stories to the appropriate media outlets.  For example a story about the latest breakthroughs in back surgery, would be pitched differently than a story about hormone replacement therapy.  A story on a ten year old dealing with food allergies, would need a different approach altogether.  If your stories include before and after photos, make sure to get images that are as professional as possible.  Be sure to have your patients sign a release form.

Once you have patients who are willing to tell their story to the media, meet with them to review the questions that the media could ask them.  Make your patients as comfortable as possible with the process.  Remember, these patients are not only telling their stories, they’re representing you and your practice.  You want them to be articulate and the presentation to be accurate and appropriate. Utilizing medical-oriented public relations can serve several purposes, it can build your practice and educate and inform the public.   By getting this information to the public through the media you can improve and, in some cases, save lives.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011


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