ACTE Techniques January 2012 : Page 12

CA p I t OL VIEW Selling the Story dealing with a Member of Congress or state legislator, it’s important to use a story from his or her congres-sional or legislative district. Elected officials care about votes (whether they admit it or not). 3. Just the facts, please: It is tempt-ing to exaggerate a story to make it more persuasive. Remember to tell the truth and relay that to anyone working with you. 4. Share the wealth: If you belong to a national organization, coalition or other group working on the same issue as you, share your story. 5. Alert the media: As Deamonte’s story demonstrates, a compelling story can have a tremendous effect. If you have a particularly good story, make sure your local, regional or state paper knows about it. Policy-makers and their staff often read media clippings on a weekly basis; if your story is printed, you can take it as a “leave behind” on your next visit. Keep an arsenal of up-to-date stories in mind as you advocate, and you are bound to get your message heard. It may take persistence, but CTE is full of power-ful, true stories that have the potential to impact policy decisions. Look to ACTE’s “Action Center” Web page on the ACTE Web site ( www.acteonline.org/action. aspx ) for additional advice on how to improve your advocacy. Stephen DeWitt is senior director of public policy at ACTE. He can be contacted at sdewitt@acteonline.org. You can read more about ACTE’s policy activities and the latest happenings in Washington, D.C., on ACTE’s CTE Policy Watch blog. Check it out today at www. acteonline.org/ctepolicywatchblog.aspx . PHOTO By ISTOCK.COM By Stephen Dewitt IF YOU HAVE EVER LIStENED tO AN ASSOCIAtION FOR CAREER AND tECHNICAL EDUCAtION (ACTE) presentation on advocacy, you have undoubtedly heard staff say that the use of research, facts and figures are critical to getting results for your issue in today’s data-driven public policy environ-ment. Members of Congress, legislators and their staff are very interested in en-suring that what they propose in bills and other policies is backed up by evidence-based research and practice. While all of this is true, it often takes a good story to communicate the human side of an issue and get the attention and action you need from policymakers. Many bills have been introduced and policies shaped by individual, compelling accounts. For instance, take the story of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver. Deamonte’s sad, true story begins with a toothache. As his mother searched for a dentist that took Medicaid for Deamonte and his brother, she and a team of social service work-ers and lawyers were unsuccessful. By the time Deamonte found a dentist, the bacteria from the decayed tooth had made its way to his brain and, despite two surgeries and six weeks in the hospital, Deamonte died. This story spawned national outcry after The Washington Post writer Mary Otto published a piece link-ing Deamonte’s fate to the lack of access to dental care for children with Medicaid coverage. As a result, the Maryland leg-islature and governor got involved, new coalitions were formed and, eventually, state and federal policies were changed to address the problem. Deamonte’s story is an emotional one. Not all stories will be as dramatic, but the key components will be the same. Below are a few general rules to follow: 1. Be specific: While data should provide the broad picture, stories should provide more detail about how an issue affects individuals. 2. Keep it close to home: If you’re 12 Techniques Januar y 2012 www.acteonline.org

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