Summer, S’mores and Storytelling

Co-Author: Elizabeth Diaz-Escobar

In March, Vanguard proudly launched Comunicadores for the Future, a partnership with George Washington University’s Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute. Among other things, the program includes workshops that build skills in PR and communications. We are excited to be building the capacity for diverse voices to drive change and advance policies that benefit everyone. This is the first blog in our Comunicadores series. 

For many people, summer is a time for relaxing on the stoop, gathering around the campfire and telling stories. In addition to entertaining, storytelling also can educate. It can put a human face on statistics, change attitudes and behaviors or even help us market ourselves.

This summer, Vanguard conducted a persuasive storytelling workshop, the first in a series of professional development trainings for the 2017 Comunicadores for the Future interns.

The Comunicadores share a commitment to serving the Latino community and have a passion for persuasive storytelling on a variety of issues, including the environment, mental health and immigration, all told through a multicultural lens.

During the training, Vanguard staff and the Comunicadores explored how combining data with a story helps an audience feel emotionally connected to an issue. Research on the brain’s neurological response to stories supports this — Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has found that stories can evoke:

  • The stress hormone cortisol to help us focus;
  • Oxytocin to help us feel a connection and empathy; or
  • Dopamine to make us more hopeful and optimistic.

To exercise the students’ storytelling muscles and show that inspiration for stories can be found just about anywhere, the trainers filled a box with objects — an apple, a football and a sponge, among others. The participants were asked to pick an object at random and tell a personal persuasive story using the object as inspiration, keeping in mind an overarching communications goal and audience.

The trainers were inspired by the creative and profound stories the participants shared, including those addressing mental health challenges to persuade audiences about the importance of seeking help and overcoming the challenges of being a first-generation Latino college student. The Comunicadores offered each other feedback, keeping in mind that a strong persuasive story:

  • Focuses on one overarching communications objective;
  • Is audience-specific;
  • Is clear and concise;
  • Includes dialogue, images, sights or sounds to bring the story to life; and
  • Is positive and empowering.

Opportunities to tell stories — whether or not you work in PR — are everywhere. We are excited to see how the Comunicadores use their storytelling skills to highlight diverse voices and experiences as they work to advance issues they care about.