“Storytelling” has been a buzz word in healthcare PR for a number of years, with communicators realizing the value of using a compelling story to wrap around their brands and messages. As it turns out, storytelling actually generates a chemical response in our brains – releasing cortisol during tense moments in a story (heightening our focus) and oxytocin during the uplifting parts (making us feel good).
Recently there has been a notable shift in focus to a nuanced version of storytelling in PR – one that centers on empathy. Empathetic storytelling can transport audiences to make them feel with someone, to feel challenges and pain from their personal perspective. Since the dawn of time, great storytellers have used empathy as an essential element to their stories, but in today’s world of infinite information, the power of empathy is even more important to break through the clutter. It can bring audiences into someone else’s life, leaving them with a lingering feeling and memorable moment that stays with them long after the story ends.
For healthcare communicators and our clients, using empathy in storytelling can be an effective way to engage our audiences in a deep and meaningful way. To do it successfully, we need to:
- Make the story about the patient, not the brand; figure out how to integrate the brand in a way that is authentic to your story.
- Use an emotional narrative to fully transport audiences and engulf their full mental and emotional attention; tell a story that captures their attention instead of providing a list of facts and figures.
- Focus on aspects of a story that can trigger emotions in your audiences. For instance, rather than listing out symptoms, describe them from a personal perspective, describe how they feel and impact one’s life.
- Bring to life the story with details and imagery. Transport your audience by describing key details or situations using strong descriptions that allow the audience to feel as if they are on the same journey.
Empathy fuels connections – if we can tell our stories that evoke empathy, we can better connect audiences to our brands, causes and companies.