The Blog to Transform Advanced Care

Advancing Care through Innovation, Observation and Collaboration.

Bill Novelli: Advocacy Through Storytelling

Few advocates have a deeper understanding for the power of storytelling as a tool for social change than C-TAC Co-Founder and Co-Chair Bill Novelli, who has extensive experience in leading advocacy organizations and social movements.

In addition to founding international public relations firm Porter Novelli and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, he served as CEO of AARP from 2001 to 2009. It was this experience, with its focus on aging, that was instrumental in preparing him to take on advanced illness care.

Through each of these roles, Novelli has learned the importance of building relationships and developing coalitions.

“Building social movements is an untidy, non-scientific process,” Novelli said. “It’s an art to be learned.”

Novelli noted that advanced illness care presents a unique challenge because it can be a difficult topic to discuss, but he believes that the tide is turning.

“People are more and more willing to discuss serious illness and end-of-life care. Our job as leaders is to accelerate that,” Novelli said.

Approximately 90 million Americans are living with advanced illness, transcending political and socioeconomic divides and bonding those who might not otherwise cross paths. In A Roadmap For Success: Transforming Advanced Illness Care in America, Novelli and C-TAC Co-chair Tom Koutsoumpas wrote that “people of all walks of life…have a story, and this binds us together and will bring us together to say, ‘enough is enough.’”

Novelli described storytelling as a universal way to persuade and emphasized the importance of strategic communication. Stories like Driving Miss Norma and Shirley Roberson’s Blue Chair, Novelli said, illustrate the need for person- and family-centered care. If employed correctly, they can inspire action and spur positive change.

A personal connection to advanced illness care can provide an important perspective for leaders in the advanced care movement, said Novelli, but he also noted that leaders need to remember the big picture.

“If people get too deep into their own stories, it can make them too subjective. What we need to seek is balance,” Novelli said.

Looking to the future, Novelli explained that today’s advanced care leaders also have a role in fostering the next generation of standard bearers. “Leaders need to beget leaders,” Novelli said. “Our job is to support those below us and mentor them. That’s what good leaders do.”

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