At its heart, an association is the people it serves. In the case of the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD), it is the practitioners who facilitate emergency response simulations to save lives in a crisis, who teach critical skills like how to read electrocardiograms (EKGs), who develop action plans to recruit staff to improve the quality of patient care.
It’s those types of stories that ANPD sought to uncover in a collection it published called Making a Difference: An Anthology of Nursing Professional Development Stories. The anthology features 39 members discussing their personal journey and how they have impacted their organizations, the profession, and those they serve, and it helps highlight the mission and value of the association. As Patricia S. Yoder-Wise, President, The Wise Group, and Editor-in-Chief of both The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing and Nursing Forum, wrote in the forward: “Connecting what we know and do to the real meaning of why we do it is the essence of this book.”
ANPD’s anthology is a great example of the power of storytelling and it’s been a galvanizing experience for the association and its members. Further, the anthology has resonated beyond the organization and the hope is that it will help raise the profile of the nursing specialty.
Powerful Stories that Resonate
The anthology, a hardcover book, was published in 2019 to mark ANPD’s 30th anniversary. The initiative was led by Board President Patsy Maloney and ANPD’s Director of Nursing Professional Development, Mary Harper, who served as editors. The idea came, indirectly, from the membership itself. “You’re at a conference or a meeting and you hear the stories about the impact that someone had, and it’s powerful,” says Maloney. “It made us think that we should really start collecting and sharing these stories that demonstrate how nursing professional development practitioners are making a difference in the lives they touch.”
From a strategic standpoint, explains Ande Leslie, Marketing Manager of ANPD, the association sought to increase the visibility of the specialty within nursing and the overall healthcare industry through the anthology. “That’s really the objective of this project,” Leslie says, “to grow the awareness of the association and nursing professional development practitioners through their stories.” That message is directly aligned with the association’s mission and strategic plan to advocate for the role of the nursing professional development practitioner.
That’s a powerful message and marketing tool. “We believe that members, and potential members, are much more likely to listen to your message when they hear it from a peer,” says Leslie. “When you have a member telling the story, it is going to resonate more than sending out an email or brochure that lists membership benefits and asks you to join or renew.”
Strategic Value of Storytelling
The book release was timed to align with Nursing Professional Development Week, which ANPD holds every September to recognize the work done by practitioners. The anthology was promoted throughout the week on social media, and is prominently featured on ANPD’s website, with an entire page dedicated to it. At ANPD’s next annual conference, the anthology will be promoted further with contributor book signings and other promotional events. Members can discuss it through their social networks and within their organizations. They can use this book to show their supervisors, CEOs, and co-workers the value and importance they have and their influence on healthcare in general.
The book has definitely created a buzz within the association, but more importantly, it’s already having an impact beyond the membership. ANPD has already had other nursing organizations ask to sell the book in their online stores, reflecting a broader interest in the specialty. “We’re realizing that we’re having a bigger ripple effect than we anticipated,” Leslie says. Over time, the goal is to attract more professionals to the association and create greater member loyalty and engagement. Ultimately, ANPD leadership expects the anthology to provide the association with long-term strategic value well beyond the initial investment. “That’s why we created this,” says Leslie, “to help elevate the specialty.”
Podcasts, Videos, and other Storytelling Ideas
A good story will entertain, inform, and transform. An anthology is just one way that associations can embrace the concept of storytelling to tell their story. ANPD picked this vehicle because it was in sync with their membership. These are a group of practice educators and trainers who develop nurses through words and stories. But there are other ways for associations to tell their story. Leslie offers some tips for boards on how to tell their stories effectively.
- Don’t invest in a storytelling initiative without an objective. What are you trying to achieve? Does it support your organization’s overall goals and strategic plan? When you have a goal, you can begin to craft the right type of storytelling strategy to achieve it.
- Determine the best way to tell your story. While the strategies and message will be developed by staff, the board should know that there are a variety of ways for associations to tell their story. The best option, or options, should reflect the preferences or profile of the industry. One emerging trend among associations is podcasts. It involves someone — a member or volunteer, perhaps — sitting down with an interviewer or moderators and telling their story. Videos are another effective tool. As part of Nursing Professional Development Week, ANPD also uses videos for storytelling, posting short videos recorded by members.
- Think about where you want your story to be seen. The anthology was meant to be sold and distributed through healthcare organizations, practitioner offices, and bookstores to reach a specific audience. A podcast might be listened to on-the-go and reach a different audience, while videos might be distributed and marketed best through social media. Then there are individual articles and blog posts, which could be featured on content hubs. What makes the most sense for your association? It’s important to have an integrated communications plan on how to use stories and where to put them.