Don’t Start With Once Upon A Time And 5 Other Tips For Better Government Stories


You know what’s boring? Detailed descriptions of road networks, snow plow technologies, and the chemical compounds found in deicing materials.

You know what’s not? The story of the pregnant woman who went into labor during the last snowstorm, and thanks to clear roads, arrived safely at the hospital to deliver her first child.

The buzzword “storytelling” is getting a lot of attention these days. And like many marketing trends it can be hard to figure out how to integrate the concept into government.

After hearing a presentation 63% of attendees will remember stories, while only 5% remember statistics. Stories stick with us more than facts and figures. They create emotional connections.

As governments, using stories to talk about our services and operations helps break through today’s cluttered messaging. And, more importantly, it helps build relationships with our communities.

5 Ways to Craft Effective Government Stories

  1. Define the Takeaway
    Every story should have a point. Define what you want your audience to remember once the story is over, then craft your tale around that key message.
  2. Don’t Focus on the Service, Focus on the Impact of the Service
    Yes, as governments we provide important services, and many of us are passionate about how we go about doing so. However, the real story is about the impact those services have on the people you serve. It’s not about the new affordable housing project, it’s about the single mom of two kids who finally has a safe and stable place to live.
  3. Keep it Simple
    Much of what we do in government is complicated, but good stories are simple. They’re crisp and pointed. They’re told using clear language and compelling visuals. They do NOT include endless data tables or long-drawn out details that detract from the takeaway. Keeping it simple and concise isn’t always easy, so if you want to know how to do it, check out Bland Cookie Recommendations for Your Open House.
  1. Keep it Credible
    Add substance to your story by including data to help you underscore your big takeaway. Keep in mind, data should support your story, it shouldn’t be the focus of the story itself.
  2. Use Value-added Visuals
    Visuals are processed 60K times faster than text. Use photos, infographics and video to pull people into your narrative. The goal is to help your audience see themselves in the story, to authentically relate to narrative. 

Stories are About People
In the end, the most compelling stories are about people, told by people. Focus on personal experiences and human side of government and the stories will write themselves.

I’m a sucker for a good government story. Have one that you want to share? Comment below; I’d love to hear it…even it starts with Once Upon a Time.

Kim Newcomer

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Kim Newcomer

Thanks, Hannah! That’s a good point, too, that this information can expand beyond government. Share those stories!


From the Twogether in Texas Healthy Marriage Program: “I took this class 5 years ago. It kept me from making a bad decision. [Back then] I knew [that] if I was ever engaged again this class would be a must. So thankful that I went through it again, this time with the right person! I recommend this class to everyone I know who is considering marriage”

Kim Newcomer

Thanks, Ron! Video is such an effective tool in storytelling – and one that we don’t use enough in government. I enjoyed the piece on Manufacturing Day, thanks for sharing.