How to effectively tell government success stories
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How to effectively tell government success stories

November 14, 2022 | Updated on August 9, 2023
Rachel Lin

On Nov. 2, the Partnership for Public Service held a virtual workshop to help federal communications professionals learn how to strategically frame government success stories.

The event was led by Doug Hattaway, founder and CEO of Hattaway Communications, who shared insights from his three decade-long career working with various organizations and federal agencies to tell stories of the great work the government is doing.

Hattaway outlined four key principles for effective storytelling.

Set a clear objective.

Hattaway kicked off the workshop by talking about the importance of having a clear objective. He stressed the need to establish a specific goal of what you want your audience to do, and know and feel from the message you are communicating. “We need to speak to the heart and the head for maximum motivation. We need to connect with people at an intellectual level, . . . but they also need to care,” Hattaway said.

Use narrative framing.

A second fundamental of strategic storytelling is identifying the audience and its goals, and proposing a solution to the problems they are facing by using specific stories. By presenting the message as a solution to a problem, the storyteller can effectively captivate the audience and allow them to care about the message that is being communicated.

Keep it simple.

One of the biggest takeaways Hattaway emphasized throughout the workshop was to keep the message simple. For broad audiences, political jargon may cause confusion. Hattaway connected this idea to the fluency theory, which states that people are more likely to trust visual, verbal and conceptual information they easily understand. “You need to keep things simple for people to trust what you are saying about your program, policy [or] initiative,” Hattaway said.

Appeal to your audience.

People are motivated by several factors – and knowing how to reach the audience at multiple levels can help boost the effectiveness of a communications campaign. Hattaway suggested providing specific solutions that benefit both the individual and society to maximize motivation for the audience.

At the end of the workshop, Hattaway briefly discussed how to strategically use statistics in a meaningful way and wrapped up the presentation by sharing his podcast, blog and articles for more resources on how to be an effective communicator and tell government success stories.

Watch the full event on YouTube now:

For insight into telling success stories of Congress, check out our “Renewing Trust and Hope in Congress Toolkit.” We created this toolkit with Hattaway Communications to help the Partnership and our allies communicate a consistent set of messages and produce a steady stream of stories that help to rebuild public trust in Congress and reinvigorate people’s hope for the institution. 

Rachel Lin is an intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.

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