Preview this course
Storytelling for Planners
Already a subscriber?
Storytelling for Planners

Storytelling for Planners

55 min
Credit: AICP CM

This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit.

Planners are expected to be public engagement experts, but few of us have been trained in the mechanics of storytelling. We’re told to make eye contact, connect with the public early in a project, maintain open communication, and be transparent about the process and deliverables. And yet we struggle to get high participation by people most impacted by our work.

This course will teach planners how to adapt proven storytelling methods employed by creative artists for centuries. We will cover the storytelling applications to analog and digital outreach methods.

Analog: Public speaking, meeting flow, gamification, feedback loops, special events.

Digital: Copywriting, video, podcasting, social media.

The course will describe real-world examples and a behind-the-scenes look at the development and execution of engagement strategies.  

In This Course

  1. The instructor introduces the course.
  2. Storytelling in Three Words
    Hero. Conflict. Resolution. We’ll cover the importance of a sympathetic focal point, why getting into trouble matters, and how things can be better in the end. Facts and statistics don’t move people to action. We’ll talk about what does motivate change.
  3. Subject: Defining the Essence
    The subject that interests the audience isn’t necessarily the same subject that interests professional planners. We’ll talk about how to get in the average citizen’s shoes. Wrestling with the question “What’s the point?” will help clarify the essence of the story.
  4. Subject: Keeping the Audience up at Night
    The most likely subjects for planners will be a person/place or issue/project. Each of these requires nuance. We’ll cover how to focus on the core story that keeps your audience up at night (or should keep them up).
  5. Audience: Identity
    It’s human nature to try to please everyone. In a professional setting, being a “Jack of all trades” is often praised. This chapter will cover why it’s important to identify a primary audience for each story. We’ll discuss how to keep a tight focus and simplify the message.
  6. Audience: Habits
    This chapter will help planners understand the habits of their primary audience. We’ll talk about common language, active and passive tones, and online platforms. Planners will be stronger advocates when they know what makes their audience tick.
  7. Goal: The Aha Moment
    Your goal is to persuade an audience. “Success” can be measured in a variety of ways. Audiences may be convinced to change their mind about an issue, motivated to support a new plan, or simply willing to try a new process. We’ll talk about “aha moments” that should be in a storyteller’s mind from the start.
  8. Goal: Call to Action
    Most stories told by planners need a call to action. This chapter will discuss the strong finish that motivates action. This applies to short stories via Twitter and long-form content told through a magazine article. We’ll cover how to communicate the need for action.
  9. Structure
    This chapter will teach planners how to apply the proven 3-act structure, now that they’re comfortable with their story subject, audience, and goal.
  10. Format Tips: Long Form
    This chapter will apply Chapters 2-9 to long form content, such as slide deck presentations and blogs.
  11. Format Tips: Short Form
    This chapter will apply Chapters 2-9 to short form content, such as social media posts and live video.
  12. Publish Now: It'll Never be Perfect
    The final chapter will recommend next steps for planners. We’ll talk about why it’s important to publish quickly.

Published 2017