Brand Storytelling Through Patient Experiences
As Brand Storytellers, it’s our job to help clients craft authentic stories that will resonate with audiences, including the media. Journalists particularly shy away from stories that read like a commercial for a brand. As a result, we often turn to clients’ customers and other outside partners to help paint a picture of how a product or service is making a positive impact on people’s lives.
Power of Patients
In healthcare this approach requires we tell stories through the perspective of the patient. While requesting a customer’s involvement brings some risk, there are far more sensitivities and privacy concerns to navigate when that customer is a patient. Moreover, if this patient has just experienced a traumatic accident or is suffering from an incurable illness, opening her life to the public at the most vulnerable time is stressful to say the least.
Despite these concerns, however, participation in storytelling is an impactful way for patients and their families to demonstrate their gratitude to caregivers. Even more powerfully, sharing is a way for them to help others facing similar health concerns. Our job isn’t to convince patients to be a part of your brand storytelling: rather it’s to help patients who want to participate feel completely comfortable with the process.
This stewardship starts with communicating with the patient – and care provider(s) – by setting clear expectations that eliminate any surprises and put them at ease. We expect questions and take it upon ourselves to get them answered. Take our recent experience working with a young woman named Annie, for example. We knew Annie’s story would catch the media’s interest and bring attention to the important work that our client is doing to help people like her lead fulfilling lives. But before we sent a single pitch, we needed to earn her family’s trust and ensure the opportunity would be a positive experience for everyone involved – most importantly, Annie.
Annie was removed from her biological mother’s care at just three-and-a-half years old due to neglect and later diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) at the age of five. Children diagnosed with RAD show an inability to establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. However, thanks to advances in treatment, it’s possible for them to regain trust in others and establish healthy relationships. Treatment varies; in Annie’s case, her counselor provided a secure space and consistent timeframe for one-on-one therapy. During these sessions, he performed exercises designed to establish a sense of trust and awareness of her environment.
Through targeted pitch efforts, we caught the attention of a reporter from CBS News who frequently covers stories related to health and medicine. Aware of the hope that her story could give to others, he wanted to interview Annie and her parents in their home to learn more about their journey and observe their typical weeknight routine. Annie’s parents, while dedicated to creating awareness for RAD and the treatment they felt gave her the opportunity to live a “normal” life, were understandably wary about inviting media into their home.
Her parents’ main concern was for their daughter Annie’s well-being: they weren’t willing to compromise her progress, and neither were we. Through several conference calls and dozens of detailed communications, we gained their trust and confidence. From the moment we first spoke with Annie up until the camera’s started to roll and throughout the shoot, Annie’s health was everyone’s priority. Annie and her family not only enjoyed the process, but also, they developed a lasting bond with the journalists assigned to share her story. This incredible outcome wouldn’t have been possible without continuous, transparent communication and visible respect for Annie’s health and safety.
In the coming weeks, CBS News will air a story about the rise of RAD due to the opioid epidemic. The segment will feature Annie, details on her successful treatment, and subsequent recovery. After such a positive experience telling their story, Annie’s family is looking forward to seeing it shared with others and hopes that it will inspire those affected by the disorder.
By Ryan Levasseur