Post writer Anne Kornblut describes the story, which Senator Hillary Clinton told in a Cleveland campaign speech, about a young woman from a small Ohio town who worked in a pizza parlor. The young woman got pregnant, started having problems, went to the hospital but couldn't get treatment because she didn't have the $100 the hospital demanded before they would see her. Next time she went to the hospital she was in an ambulance. After losing the baby, the young woman was airlifted to a larger hospital where she died. As Clinton finished the story, according to Kornblut, "the audience, as always, gasped."
Clinton then segued into her proposal to fix the health care system, using this dramatic story to support her message that it's badly broken.
What a perfect example of using a story to illustrate a point more powerfully than hard facts and statistics could. Kornblut goes on to say that,
"Presidential candidates across the decades, from Ronald Regan to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, have honed the art of picking out stories to bolster a policy position in particularly human terms."
Why? Because it works.
This story accomplishes the following:
- it brings the message alive and puts a human face on a complicated issue (health care)
- it makes the point (that the health care system doesn't work as it should) much more memorable, personal and impactful
- it allows Clinton to show that she can relate to ordinary people's problems
- it may predispose the audience to listen to her solution to the problem
WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
The major take-away is that we should use stories frequently to engage our audiences. In doing this:
- look hard to find an appropriate, compelling story that will strengthen your message
- it's OK not to have a happy ending