How to tell a strong story

Powerful stories are key to our work. Find out some of the steps you can follow to write an engaging story.
Type writer with 'What is your story' written on the page

People’s stories are at the heart of everything we do. We help make change happen by gathering people’s experiences and sharing them with those with the power to improve health and social care.

To engage people with our cause, we need to share compelling stories. Follow these steps to help you do that.

Gather the facts

Before you start writing, gather the facts. Thinks about your story in terms of:

  • Who? - Who is involved? Who is affected? Who will benefit?
  • What? - What is the issue? What change or effect might occur as a result?
  • When? – When will or did the story take place?
  • Where?  - Where did this take place? Where do people live who are affected?
  • Why?  - Why is the story important? Why does it matter?
  • How?  -  How did the issue come to be? How are those involved affected?

Identify your audience

Write with your target audience in mind. You might find it useful to develop personas for them, to imagine how they would respond to what you’re writing. Consider their age, where they live, what they care about, what frustrates them and how they find out information.

Develop your angle

Now you have your facts and your audience, you need to find the most compelling elements to focus on. What will your reader care about most? For example, will the story affect them, their friends or family? Are you sharing an emotional story they can relate to? Are you sharing exciting news about something they will want to get involved with?

Start with a strong introduction

Your introduction is the most important part of your story. Evidence suggests people spend less than 15 seconds deciding if the content they are viewing is relevant to them. You should:

  • Use an enticing headline that tells the reader what the story is about.
  • Open with a short sharp summary of the story, focusing on the most interesting elements. Imagine you’re sat in the pub with a friend discussing this story – spot the most interesting thing about it and open with that.
  • Use simple, everyday language people will understand immediately.

You want to avoid having somebody read the introduction and think ‘So what?’

Remember the art of persuasion

The Greek philosopher Aristotle recommended using three tools to help persuade an audience

Ethos or authority – add credibility to your story by including a robust source or the perspective of someone your audience trusts.

Pathos or emotions -  use strong quotes to let the stories of local people speak for themselves

Logos or logic – reinforce your message using facts, figures and a strong conclusion.

Edit, test and edit again

The best stories are simple and focussed. Write your story, walk away, and then edit it with your reader in mind. Test it with other people to make sure it’s interesting enough.

Top tips to keep your audience’s attention

  • Get to the point
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms
  • Keep it punchy - use short words, sentences and paragraphs
  • Break up text with sub headings and bullets
  • Use strong video, photos or graphics to break up the text
  • When talking about your work, focus on the impact of what you did, not the details
  • Focus on what your audience cares about
  • Include any action the reader can take

Need further help?

Use our tone of voice guide to help you write your story. The guide includes key principles to follow when writing for Healthwatch, standard descriptors about who we are, a style guide, and examples of how to put this into practice.

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