Public Narrative III: Bridging Belief to Action

Part I of this tutorial focused on developing motivating language. In Part II we learned how to use motivating language to invite our audience to join us on a narrative journey.

In Part III we will complete that journey by bridging belief to action.

Building the Bridge: How to focus on achieving firm commitments.


 “Challenge, Choice and Outcome” articulates your story and empowers to join you in taking action. Challenge sets the community values context for your work. Choice frames your personal story within the context of your work. Outcome grants permission for others to join you in your work. If we’re effective, outcome will direct people to a specific action—or, at the very least, a controlled suite of options. (Photo via Flickr)

In order to be effective in our work, we must build specific bridges between your community’s beliefs and priorities (as articulated in your public narrative) and the specific actions that they commit to taking.

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The blue circle represents your community’s beliefs and the red boxes the possible actions that are open to them. The grey arrows are the possible bridges connecting belief to action. Our narrative must minimize options and focus on achieving clear YES or NO commitments.

Every time we share our public narratives we need to be thoughtful about which bridges we want to build and which we want to close or avoid. The sooner our narrative begins to subtly shepherd our audience towards our preferred actions, the sooner our audience can follow through on committed actions.

  • Think about what your audience already believes and tailor your message to their biases and experiences.
  • Reinforce perceptions that work in your favour and redirect—rather than confront—perceptions that you disagree with. Be honest and be proactive.
  • Great redirects happen when we talk about choice. They’re made more powerful when you become specific and attach concrete examples of success or failure to that choice.
  • Remember that desire is a motivating emotion.
  • Finally connect a clear “if, then, because” statement to your call to action: if we do X, then Y will happen because

Once you have built a bridge between belief and action, ask for a firm YES or NO
commitment. And practice asking the following two questions:

  • Can I count on you to do X?
  • Will you do X?

Nothing eliminates options more effectively than reaching a decision.

In this tutorial’s final section, we will put in place practices that will help your team hone your public narrative and make it as malleable as possible.

  1. Learn about motivating language
  2. Learn how to structure a captivating public narrative
  3. Learn how to ask for commitments
  4. Learn how to turn our public narratives into a malleable suite of stories ideal for any situation