July 19, 2018

Suggested reading: Mastering the art of the narrative: using stories to shape public policy

Short blog entry summarizing an academic paper on the question. Mainly open doors, but might provide a good framework about waht we mean when we talk about "framing (the narrative)". Published on the LSE Impact of Social Science blog but unfortunately (for us) both of the authors are US academics.

Here we offer a few summative points based on our discussions of intervention points in our recent article.

  • Understand your goals: legislative staffers writing briefs for a representative, policy analysts writing a report for a city council, and citizens passionately trying to convince policymakers to change policy are all likely to have different motivations. Understanding why you’re telling a policy story will help you both form a compelling story and identify optimal intervention points.
  • Understand the rules and norms of your venue: since venues are not equal, (e.g. when writing a formal policy analysis you are far more constrained than when writing a blog entry), understand the rules and norms of your venue, and then conform your narrative to fit smoothly within.
  • Know your audience: knowing your audience’s perspective is critical. Their perspectives are shaped by many defining characteristics such as ideology, gender, profession, and race, to name just a few. Study your audience and structure your story by selecting props for the stage, identifying emotionally compelling characters, and establishing a plot that they are likely to be responsive to.

We end here with a moral of our story. Whether you are a scientist or an issue-advocate, you likely care about shaping public policies so they are more closely aligned to your values. Mastering the art of the narrative can help you achieve these goals. So go forth and tell good stories.