Tip: Tell Us Your Story
If I were to show you a petition that was just a line graph and a table full of statistics, would you sign it?
My guess is no. I know I wouldn’t. But if I showed you a petition I wrote about my personal struggle to access life-saving medicines, you would probably give it a second glance — and maybe even sign.
That’s because we process emotional information — like information that connects us to a cause or a campaign — better when it’s presented in more “human” terms, like a story. That’s not to say that research is bad, or evidence is boring. But if you want your petition to collect lots of signatures, you’ll want to share only the most important facts and figures, and do it while weaving a larger narrative.
When you read the news, you might notice that journalists use this tactic, too — they’ll focus on a person or an incident, and then paint a picture of what went down. Documentaries follow this formula, too, by pulling you into a conversation about a larger issue, starting with just one individual’s story. Writers sometimes call this the “show don’t tell” technique, and this means exactly what it says: Guide your reader through the issue you’re talking about, so they can experience it for themselves. This is a surefire way to build an emotional connection and make sure your cause touches their heart.
So, why not try this with your petition?
You probably have a story already, too, even if you’re not sharing it in your petition text yet. It could be personal details that show why you’re so concerned about or connected to your cause, or it could be the account of a person you know. If you want to write about a broader issue that covers many people or animals, you can still use this tactic. Starting with sharing one individual’s experiences for a paragraph, and then in the next paragraph, discuss how this problem affects a whole group.
If you want to learn how to weave your personal story into your larger petition description or body text, check out our post on how to write petitions that win!