A little more than two years ago, I co-founded a software company called Phone2Action with some amazing cofounders, Patrick and Ximena. We make digital advocacy tools that connect people with elected officials.
We are politically agnostic - nonpartisan - as a company. Our clients are a very diverse set of leading nonprofits and companies across the political spectrum. What they have in common is their belief in people, and how people can engage in the political process to shape their world.
It’s always gratifying to us when a client successfully mobilizes thousands or tens of thousands of advocates to stand up for something, and they win their issue. It shows the power that people have in our (American) democracy.
One of my favorite stories comes from a campaign led by one of our clients, the American Heart Association (AHA). The New York branch, and advocate across the state, had struggled for the past 15 years to get lawmakers in New York State to pass legislation that would provide CPR training for high school students.
Last year, they decided to change their strategy. Instead of focusing the New York campaign’s messaging on the large numbers of people affected by cardiac issues — like the hundreds of thousands of people that die each year to sudden cardiac arrest — they focused on the stories of a handful of courageous parents who had experienced painful personal losses of love ones to sudden cardiac arrest. They channeled these parents’ losses into strength by featuring their stories front and center on the campaign. The parents lent their stories, the photos of their children, and their voices to a campaign that instantly resonated with people.
AHA deployed several tools through our software platform and made it very easy for their advocates statewide to connect with lawmakers, and with the Governor, to voice support for policy change. Finally, after 15 years, the New York legislature passed the bill in last year’s session. Governor Cuomo later signed the bill.
Stories have a compelling effect on the brain; they draw people in, and they let them connect. According to Neuroscientist Uri Hasson, stories actually make two people’s brains synchronize.
I had a professor in business school, Craig Wortmann, who was an entrepreneur before he started teaching (would be) entrepreneurs. He wrote a book called “What’s Your Story” and encouraged everyone in the class to sit down and assemble their own stories in a story matrix. The idea is that you can draw on stories in different life situations and use them to connect with people, in both personal and professional situations. Having stories at the ready makes you a more effective communicator. He demonstrated this every class, by drawing on stories to address different parts of his curriculum.
If you want to connect with me and share stories, you can email me back or Text LISTSERVE to 52886.
All the best,
PS: A dear family friend in the Washington, DC area with Type O blood needs a new kidney (from a Type O donor). If you can, keep her in your thoughts and prayers, and if you want to potentially save a life, email me and let me know, and I can connect you with her.