Finally! Huckabee Puts Compelling Storytelling to Work — First Convention Example is Big Time Success

Finally Huckabee Puts Compelling Storytelling to Work -- First Convention Example is Big Time SuccessI don’t know about you, but I’ve been glued to TV coverage of both conventions. Of course, I’m interested in learning more about the folks who may be leading our country come January. But these speeches are also stimulating examples of messaging strategies good and bad.

Last night, Mike Huckabee delivered a couple of powerful stories, which made me realize that no previous convention speaker date, Dem or GOP, had moved out of abstract rhetoric, putting stories to work to connect with their audiences. Huckabee did so, big time.

The imagery of his two centerpiece stories is still imprinted in my mind:

1) “My own father held down two jobs, barely affording the little rented house I grew up in. My Dad worked hard, lifted heavy things, and got his hands dirty. The only soap we had at my house was Lava. Heck, I was in college before I found out it wasn’t supposed to hurt to take a shower.”

==> My response: I can feel the grittiness of that lava soap even this morning.

2) Huckabee segued to John McCain at the end of his speech by telling the tale of  elementary school teacher Martha Cothren, a teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, who…

“Was determined that her students would not take their education or their privilege as Americans for granted. With the principal’s permission, she removed all the desks from her classroom, [telling the students they had to figure out what to do to earn their desks.]

[By the end of the day, when they had failed to guess correctly,] in walked 27 veterans, some wearing uniforms from years gone by, but each one carrying a school desk. As they carefully and quietly arranged the desks in neat rows, Martha said, “You don’t have to earn your desks…these guys already did. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have.No one charged you for your desk. But it wasn’t really free. These guys bought it for you. And I hope you never forget it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, John McCain is one of those people who helped buy the freedom that we enjoy and the school desks we had. It’s my honor to do what I can to help him have a desk that he has earned one in the Oval Office.”

==> There was barely a dry eye in the house at the end of this one.

Kudos to Mike Huckabee for knowing that personal stories connect in a way policies and abstractions don’t.

It’s much easier for me to tell you every detail about then, than it would be for me to recant facts and figures. You want your donors, volunteers and program participants to be able to do the same, spreading the word on your organization. Stories are authentic and show — which is far more effective than telling — a point in a way that’s emotionally resonant. How can you put stories to work to connect more effectively with your audiences?

Learn more about how your nonprofit can tell a good story here:
Put Persuasive Storytelling to Work for Your Nonprofit

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Nancy Schwartz on September 4, 2008 in Branding and Messages, Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Nonprofit Communications | 3 comments
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  • The desk story was totally bizarre. It just shows that throwing the words troops, America, fight, and a few others together in one sentence will automatically result in rapturous response from some people.
    The teacher’s question was posed in a way which made it totally unanswerable, and beyond that what do desks have to do with freedom anyway? Last I checked there were school desks in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union too.
    I wish we’d move on from meaningless empty sentiment skillfully utilized sweep up people’s emotions via the use of key words strewn together (despite actually making no sense) and actually say things of concrete meaning, and if we have to go to metaphorical stories ones which actually MAKE SENSE!

  • Maybe Huckabee should think of a story about how the west memphis three will earn their freedom in Arkansas.
    http://www.charitynetusa.com/blog

  • Gordon Mayer

    Hi, Nancy. I totally agree about watching the conventions to see how they deployed stories.
    What I do remember that suggests the power of storytelling was the evening when democrats had 4 or 5 “regular people” stand up to speak. You may recall the guy, Barney Smith, who talked about his life story, and the kicker of his short speech was, “I’m voting for the party that would rather listen to Barney Smith than Smith Barney!” Cheesy, but personally, I liked it.
    Anyway, right after the segment PBS cut back to the pundits and David Brooks and Shields et al were… speechless. Anything that renders a pundit silent for a moment… has to be powerful!

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