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Storytelling from BECC

Posted by Macie Melendez on November 14, 2012
Storytelling from BECC
Attendees sharing stories at a coffee break on Tuesday at BECC 2012.

When I attend a conference I can always tell which sessions I find most inspirational by the amount of notes I take. While attending the annual Behavior Energy and Climate Change (BECC) conference on Monday of this past week in Sacramento, the note test proved itself once again. Hands down, I found the most inspiration from the afternoon Spotlight Panel titled “Hollywood, Media and Messaging.”

To be fair, I was excited about seeing these panelists while I was browsing through the program, but they definitely met my expectations. On the panel was Erica Piggen, executive producer for Free Range Studios; Sandra de Casto Buffington, director for Hollywood, Health and Society, USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center; and Allison Cook, the director of special projects for The Story of Stuff.

First up was Erica who shared with us the elements of great storytelling. She also shared a video with us about the “Story Wars,” which is an idea from Jonah Sachs, the co-founder and CEO of Free Range Studios. In this video, he explains how every brand needs to figure out their story and learn how to tell it. There’s no doubt that our industry has a great story to tell, but are we telling it in the most effective way possible? Erica posed the questions: If you have a great story, what’s next? How do you turn that story into a movement? She also said that, “every time you share information, you have a chance to tell a story.”

Next we heard from Sandra who works for an organization that shares information about important issues (drug abuse, addiction, organ donation, and global warming to name a few) to Hollywood writers. Basically, her job is to give the important (and real) storylines to the right storytellers. With her company’s actions come plot lines in major network TV shows, which in turn creates action and change on the part of the person watching the show. “Popular shows reach 20 million people per one episode. The network shows it four times and then it goes into syndication in 100 countries,” she said. Needless to say, television has the ability to get messages out to the masses. To get a minor storyline on a major TV show could have a huge impact on the way people look at energy efficiency or climate change, for example.   

Lastly we heard from Allison who proved that environmentalists can also wear heels. Not only did she seemingly break the mold of the stereotypes of all of those who are out to save the world one plastic bottle at a time, but she also challenged our industry to step up our game, so to speak. “How many of you have sat through presentations that went like this: Fact, statistic, graph. Fact, statistic, graph. Fact, statistic, graph,” she asked. We all had. But then she said, “We can do better!” She urged us all to make our language more accessible and appealing. This, she advised, will get more people on our team rather than drive people away. As an editor, I often read wonderful stories from our authors about real-life experiences that share bigger messages about best practices and lessons learned. There’s no doubt that stories are important both internally in the home performance industry as well as in the external message we send out to the rest of the world.

A quote Allison shared from Brené Brown seems to sum up our work here at Home Energy quite perfectly: “Maybe stories are just data with a soul.” While we strive to share pertinent information to our readership, we also strive to make sure the language we use is accessible and entertaining. Of course, we’re not perfect and our industry has a long way to go to get into the mainstream, but we are always sharing stories and we’ll continue to do so.

At the end of all of this, I was still left wondering if the home performance industry’s stories are in the necessary hands? Are they in the hands of powerful, good-willed people that can communicate our message to the masses cleanly and with poignancy? If not, how can we get them there? Our industry fights hard for what we believe in—comfort and safety among them—but the public often seems unaware that we’re in a battle. While we’re taking the time to publish facts, data, and best practices to home performance professionals, we’re still seen by some as hippies that don’t shave and spend their weekends running down the streets shouting “Save the planet!”

We have real stories of real people doing real things to help other real people. Now how can we effectively convey those stories to the rest of the world?  

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