Harnessing the power of storytelling, Part 2


July 28, 2022

I started my journey with the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge with limited design and storytelling experience. Despite being hired as a project communication support specialist, I was nothing short of a novice, having completed internships that allowed me to develop some basic communications skills. I spent the first few months of my time with the Challenge uncovering which communications materials were important to curate for our project teams. While that was a process in and of itself, it was deciding which platform I needed to use to effectively capture stories about the Challenge that required the most diligence. 

Fortunately, Canva and ArcGIS StoryMaps are two unique platforms that have equipped me with the right tools to develop communications products that effectively highlight the health equity work of our 20 Challenge communities. While each platform has a small learning curve, they are two free, user-friendly tools that have helped me to develop visually-appealing and engaging content without years of design experience. Let’s jump further into these tools:

Bringing your vision to life using Canva 

Canva is a free design tool application that can be used to create social media posts, presentations, posters, videos, and more. I was initially drawn to the platform because I needed a simple way to create graphics. What I soon came to realize was that Canva’s levels of customization and unique tools offered ample opportunity to share HCCC stories.

As a result, I was inspired to develop project snapshots of each of our 20 HCCC communities to highlight the impact of their work. Being able to incorporate the Challenge’s branding in my designs, use free stock images and icons relevant to our messaging and circulate the design through Canva’s collaborative tools for feedback elevated my communications products. 

Whether you want to develop a social media campaign to spotlight community members who have been key to your project’s work or develop a progress report to update partners, you can truly do it all on Canva either from scratch (like I did) or by using one of their thousands of premade templates. 

Give your story a stronger sense of place with ArcGIS StoryMaps 

While Canva was really helpful in creating our initial snapshots, I learned it wasn’t as useful in developing longer reports. I learned that it wasn't as useful for developing longer reports. As I thought more about our final communications products, I also wanted a way to leverage the different types of media available to us following the community interviews, like video and audio, in addition to text and images.

That is why I turned to using ArcGIS StoryMaps. Story mapping is a great way to tell your community’s story in greater detail. With an emphasis on geography, a story map is a web page that integrates maps, legends, text, photos, and video and provides functionality that helps explore a story. Need a visual? Check out the following examples: 

  1. District of Columbia Community Health Needs Assessment, 2019
  2. Feeding the City - DC Urban Farms
  3. Communities at the Heart of Climate Action

StoryMaps stood out as an important tool to me simply because of how engaging and interactive the platform is (and it came recommended by our former HCCC colleague, Pam!). You can incorporate videos from a community event, include an up-to-date map of your community’s food pantries, or even embed links from the social media campaign your organization coordinated. At the end of the day, the different types of media that can be used in a story map can  paint a much brighter picture of complex community initiatives. 

Whether you decide to use Canva or StoryMaps, telling your story is going to be an iterative process, and I’m here to help. Join our optional communications workshop on Aug. 3 from 2-3:15 p.m. ET to learn more about how to leverage Canva and StoryMaps to tell your HCCC story. If you would like to receive more direct support on how to use these platforms or develop content, email me at arianne.noorestani@apha.org.