In this episode, Barbara and Jeff discuss:
- How Storytelling Creates a Human Connection
- Why Should Doctors Start Storytelling
- How Can You Use Stories In Marketing
“We are living our lives in the process of a story. And because of that, every one of us has stories. All of us, if you have a pulse, you have stories to tell.” – Jeff Bartsch
“You can do this. Everyone can do this. And it is incredibly powerful for you and your business when you do.” – Jeff Bartsch
Connect with Jeff Bartsch:
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Power to the Patient: The Medical Strategist
Dr. Barbara Hales: Welcome to another episode of Marketing Tips for Doctors. I’m your host, Dr. Barbara Hales. Today we have with us, Jeff Bartsch. He’s a visionary, storyteller, marketing strategist, and founder of story Greenlight. With over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry and online business, Jeff has helped shape content for clients, including ABC, NBC, Universal, Disney, Apple, and many others. Quite impressive.
Jeff’s commentary has been featured in major publications, including Time Magazine, USA Today, and the Associated Press. At the Story Greenlight, Jeff and his team Empower experts and professional advisors to tell their stories, serve more clients and expand their impact in the world. He believes that the power of the story is within reach of everyone. And that human connection is everything. Welcome to the show, Jeff.
Jeff Bartsch: Thank you, Barbara. I am so looking forward to this. This is going to be good.
Learning To Play from the Soul
Dr. Barbara Hales: Jeff, tell us about your background. Your resume sounds pretty impressive.
Jeff Bartsch: I’ve spent my life doing a lot of different things that I thought were separate. But turns out they’re a lot more connected than I realized. And a lot of people who don’t realize this, might not know that I spent the first 20 years of my life being known as “Jeff the Piano Guy”. I started playing the piano when I was four years old. I started playing by ear. Shortly thereafter I started playing, I started taking classical lessons. As I was learning how to play the piano, I really liked Bach and Mozart. For people who are familiar with classical music, you’ll know that Bach and Mozart are very clean, and they’re very technical. I really liked Bach and Mozart because I could play what was on the page. I didn’t have to worry about any crazy, emotional, weird, fluffy stuff. I just wanted to do things by the book and play what was on the page.
I learned more about piano and I kept getting better and better. The more I learned about piano, the more frustrated I got with Sunday mornings, because I grew up going to church every Sunday morning, and every single song we would sing had five verses. We sang every single verse of every hymn. We sang it the same way every single time. And I’m sitting here, I was 10 years old. I just wanted to jump out a window, I was bored out of my mind, it drove me nuts. I remember that I was in fourth grade, I think I was 10 or 11 years old, I was at the church and was playing on the piano. This lady comes up to me and says, Jeff, it’s all good. It’s okay to play what’s on the page. But as you get older, you learn to play from your soul. When I heard that, I thought, this has got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I didn’t tell her that because I didn’t want to be disrespectful to her. But I thought she was completely full of it.
I wish I could tell you that there was one moment when I realized that she was right because she was. But what happened over the years, I started seeing how people responded to the way it was playing. So instead of just saying, oh, Jeff, you’re really good at playing the piano, you’re really good at that. They would say, Jeff, the way you play that piano today, really made the words of that song come to life for me. And they would say, you made the message of this come to life for me. And I’ve come closer to God because of it. Thank you so much. What I realized eventually, what I was doing, I was taking notes on the page, and I was telling a story that brought the message to life.
That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I mean, I learned about video production in high school and I take even the most cynical crowd of high school seniors and they would just watch absolutely enraptured at the story. I ended up out in Los Angeles and I ended up doing that same thing in LA for 20 years for all these different TV networks for ABC and NBC and apple and all these other folks. What I’ve come to learn is it’s not enough to play by the book. You can’t just play the notes on the page because when you tell the right story, you connect with people. When people connect with you, they trust you and they choose you over anyone else who’s doing what you’re doing. I think that’s incredibly important for people in your audience to realize.
Storytelling To Create Human Connection
Dr. Barbara Hales: I love that story. What that highlights more than anything else, though, is we just need to be human and show our human side. That’s really what people want to know who we are, as well as what we’re all about. What type of storytelling create human connection?
Jeff Bartsch: Well, here’s the thing. Storytelling seems to be this thing, it’s this thing that we all think we know about, because we all do it, whether we realize it or not, we can see that some people are really good at it. We say, Oh, they’re really good at that. They must have some super special skills. But we know that there’s power there. There’s something that we all always know, but we don’t always know the power of what of what’s behind it.
The reason that storytelling is so powerful is that it helps solve problems that we have, as human beings and certainly, as medical professionals, because when you have it used to be that medical providers have all the information, we have specific, highly specialized information. Now, everyone has it. It used to be that doctors, you could have the right letters after your name. You can put on a white lab coat and walk to the room and people would instantly trust you. Today, people are far less trusting than they used to be. So you say, Okay, if anyone can look up Google, look up Dr Google and say, Okay, well, everyone walks in thinking they know the answers already. Why should people trust us? And why should people choose us over everyone else that does what we do?
‘That’s why storytelling is so incredibly powerful. I’m actually kind of geeking out about this because normally, I have to go into this whole thing about storytelling. The current research on storytelling shows that the chemicals in your brain are altered when you experience hearing a story. It literally alters the chemicals; it alters the hormones in your bloodstream. You have to tell people that oh, well, when you have certain chemicals going in your blood, your body reacts in certain ways, and you feel things. Thankfully, I think, I think the doctors in the crowd here can get that. But here’s the thing, when you tell the right story, your brain changes the chemicals in your bloodstream. It releases oxytocin, which is the human bonding hormone. It’s the same chemical that goes through the mother’s body when she gives birth to a baby, and they start feeling things
This is why there is a direct neurological and physiological connection between hearing a story and the physical experiences that come into the audience as a result. Not a lot of people know that. But it’s an incredibly important thing. When you use this process correctly, you make people feel things and when people feel things, they trust you, they feel connected with you, and they are willing to listen to what you have to say. They are willing to pick the people who do what they are willing to pick you instead of everyone else who does what you do.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Let me ask you an interesting question. That is in terms of increased hormonal release and increase empathy, an increased feeling which is at a higher state causing the person listening to his story or the person relating the story.
Jeff Bartsch: Well, I will say, I am not a doctor. I’m not a medical researcher. I’m not a neuroscientist, I can say, am a professional, lifelong storyteller. There is an emotional activity that happens between the sender and the receiver. The more times you tell your story, as the sender, the more use you get to it. It becomes more familiar to you. A story that you tell when you were first putting it together when you first craft it, makes you feel all sorts of feelings and you got all kinds of emotions going.
That was the first time for you. Imagine that’s more likely to be what happens in your audience when you tell it the right way to the right people at the right time. To your question, the emotional effects will fade in the teller. But the first time that the audience hears it, that emotional impact happens every time. And then if they hear the story, again, it starts fading for them. But that’s why we get to tell our stories over and over.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Were you encouraged to tell stories when you were growing up at home?
Jeff Bartsch: It wasn’t really put in those terms. My parents always said, Hey, let’s find what you’re good at. And do that and be excellent. Whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory, do that. And, so the way that looked was, my family has always been very musical. It was an environment that encouraged music. And, and it turned out that I had, some sort of, I won’t get into the whole nature versus nurture in terms of genetics, and genetics versus environment thing, but I do believe that I had some sort of innate leaning towards music, and my environment, just ratcheted that up. I ended up doing that in a lot of different forms for the rest of my life.
Dr. Barbara Hales: With the demand on keeping the patient-doctor encounter to a minimum of time, how does one still manage to tell an effective story? And why should doctors care about storytelling?
Jeff Bartsch: That’s a really excellent question. I will say, from my own personal experience, I’ve, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be inside what feels like a doctor factory, the single most valuable time is of the doctor or the partner, or whoever is the core medical provider. That’s why the nurse does all the things. That’s why the people in the front office do all the things all the prep work. That instant, the doctor can walk in the door. You can do what you do, and you can move on and you can serve more, you can serve more patients. The question then becomes, how do you establish an emotional connection with your patients, as a doctor?
The question is how do you show up? This isn’t just about what you say to your patient when you walk in the door. It’s also how are you showing up in the world. Outside your practice, outside your office? Because when you have a website, you can have a practice that’s built on 100% referrals, and you may have zero marketing dollars because you’re amazing with your people. But even when your people say, Oh, you got to check out, you got to check out this doctor, you got to check out this practice. They are amazing. They’ve changed my life. What do you think the first thing, that person who is hearing this is going to do? They are going to go to the internet, and they’re going to see what they can find on you. They’re going to look you up. What are you seeing on your website? If you have a social media presence, which I’m not necessarily saying that all doctors or all medical practitioners should have social media, sometimes that is great. Sometimes it’s not the right fit. But when you do, what are you saying? How are you showing up? If I could have people remember one thing from our whole conversation here, so many people think that having great information and sharing information online is the solution.
That is no longer the way the world works. Everyone has information now. Unless you are on the bleeding edge of medical research, and you’re researching information that has never been attempted before in the history of mankind. Unless you’re right there. There is nothing that you can say to give people information that they cannot find online for themselves. What is left? How do we create that human connection?
That’s why storytelling is so important, especially for doctors who are known for being incredibly educated, and incredibly smart, working 25 hours out of every 24. This is why storytelling can be so powerful you can use it. Wherever you show up. Whenever you walk into an exam room, you can even say something as simple as what happened to my wife and me, we have journeyed through a long, long infertility process. The result that was our two children are domestically adopted. We adopted both of our kids, and you will not believe how happy we were to go to our pediatrician. And she starts asking questions about our little son at the time. And we mentioned that we had adopted him and she says, Oh, I’m adopted too. Instant connection. That opened up an entirely another level of connection. Now, did she tell us a story? Not in that very instant. But she did later on. The whole point of storytelling is not just to tell stories, the whole point of storytelling is human connection.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Absolutely. Just in saying that one sentence, you just envisioned the whole story?
Jeff Bartsch: Yeah. Information is not enough. We have to connect as human beings. And what can be more human than a medical provider helping heal each other, helping bring healing and restoration into the world. There here is no medical practitioner who doesn’t have incredibly powerful material to work with. It’s so cool. I get so geeked out about this.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Yes. And after all, that’s what the health professional is all about.
Jeff Bartsch: 100%
Using Story in Marketing
Dr. Barbara Hales: What might it look like for doctors to use a story in their marketing?
Jeff Bartsch: That is an excellent question as well. Here’s the thing. Number one, you need to figure out who you are, what your goal is, and how you show up in the world. That’s an entirely separate conversation. That’s part of the process that I take my clients through, we talk about something called story alignment, and we talk about who is involved in, what they want. Is everyone getting what they want? And do the stories line up? Once that’s in place, you start saying what is the message that you want to take to the world. How do you say that? Once you figure out that messaging, you say, Okay, what’s the strategy for what you put out into the world? And only then do you start saying, Okay, I’m going to put one paragraph on my website, based in light of all these other things that we’ve already put into place, and say, this is why I help people heal. This is why I do this. This is a moment that I remember, knowing that this was my life’s calling, something like that. It can be something as simple as one paragraph, telling your story on your website, or it can be something as complex as having an entire portfolio of stories and interesting pieces of information woven together, that you then put out over all the channels that you have, you know, whether you’re showing up in a community meeting, whether you’re showing up on a podcast, or if you’re showing up as a wellness practitioner on TikTok, that can actually be really good. You don’t have to dance around like a crazy person to do it. All those questions have to be answered before you start saying, Okay, what is worth my precious time? What will give me the biggest impact on the effort that I put into it?
I can give you a tool right now. We got some minutes to dig into this really quickly. One of the things that people think is that storytelling has to be really complicated, and the fact of the matter is, the longer your story is the more moving parts it has, and the more chances it has to fall apart and not work. This is why so many people complain about Hollywood having so many terrible TVs and movies because they’re trying to hold people’s attention for a long time. The good news for us is that the shorter the piece that we’re doing, the fewer moving pieces we need. There is one framework, and frameworks can get super complex, it can have 30 million moving parts, I’m going to give you one framework to think of when you’re telling a story before twist after framework. In order to tell any emotional story that sticks in people’s minds and has the best chance of actually altering the chemicals and style inside in their bloodstream.
The best stories need to have three specific ingredients. You need to have a specific character; you need to have a specific moment. You need to have genuine emotion. Now, don’t just talk about your patient in terms of this general person. Talk about one specific patient, obviously keeping HIPAA in mind. Let’s not make the HIPAA people mad. Think of one specific character. Think of one specific moment. I started this conversation here with a moment with one character, me at age 10, talking with this lady who was saying something that I thought was really stupid, this was one specific moment. And there was genuine emotion attached to it. And at that moment, it doesn’t have to necessarily be anything crazy, or emotionally overwrought. You don’t have to ugly cry every time you tell a story in order for it to work. At that moment, I was a little worried about this lady really knowing what she was talking about. But then as I went on in the story, I talked about the emotion that I was experiencing from other people, and how that changed me.
So that’s just basically, barely scratching the surface of how this all works. Because one of the things I like to talk about stories, I like to say about stories is like you can go out to if you’d like to say that you go out surfing and you go to the beach, and you surf in the ocean and catch some waves and you come back and you say I know the ocean now?
Well, yes, you just surf down the ocean a little bit. But man, there’s a lot more to know about the ocean. And there is a lot more to know about storytelling and how it interacts with the hearts and minds of people and how it can be used to create those connections for the very best reasons that bring people towards you. And they say, yes, I want what you’re offering. I choose you. I believe that you’re the person to help me. And here’s my money. And seriously, that’s not just getting people to give you their money. That’s not just that, that is not the ultimate end. It’s trust, it’s having a better life. But man, if you can get the people to the place where they’re willing to say yes, give you the money, and choose you over everyone else, that’s when their life changes.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Absolutely. And I’m glad that you brought up TikTok because a lot of professionals might think that it’s silly.
Jeff Bartsch: Well, it can be. It can be silly.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Like it can be but it’s an opportunity to tell an entire story in only two and a half minutes. If you are shy about being behind the camera, you don’t have to be. You could show a medical machine and then say what the procedure is and then tell what the success of using that machine was or who the candidates are for using that machine with like words. You don’t actually have to appear on video if you know if you’re shy behind the camera, and I have a little confession.
Jeff Bartsch: Oh, oh, we hear it first.
Dr. Barbara Hales: I actually found a chiropractor from seeing his video on Tiktok.
Jeff Bartsch: Nice.
Dr. Barbara Hales: You know of course I then went to see more about him. You know, it’s not like I just saw a TikTok video and said, Oh, yeah is the guy for me. But the initial introduction between the two of us was actually me seeing his bone-cracking technique on a video.
Jeff Bartsch: Yeah. Well, and here’s and so, first of all, I love that. And here’s how that chiropractor can take what he’s doing, and make even more of an impact with it. Because obviously, when people are looking you up, they want to know, does this person know what they’re talking about? That’s always something that any prospective client or patient or prospect that you know, anyone who is considering working with you, needs to know. Do you know what you’re talking about? Then the second thing is, do I believe that this is the right person for me? Do I trust them?
When you show up, make sure that it’s not just about telling personal stories. You also have to prove that you know what you’re talking about. This chiropractor clearly showed that this technique worked, and it got your interest. What he can also do is say, there was a time when I experienced this myself or one of my patients who has allowed me to talk about this story, was feeling this. And he or she was feeling this way. And when they engaged and nothing was working. And they were incredibly frustrated. But when they engage with this machine or with this process, the change was incredible. After they did it, this is what happened. This is how they felt about it. This is how they’re doing now. And it’s an incredibly powerful thing. I’d love to invite you to come to see it for yourself. So, it’s not just about the machine. It’s about the people and how they felt before they use the machine and how they feel afterward.
Before, Twist, After Framework
Dr. Barbara Hales: Absolutely. And I think that’s a great way to present it both before and after. Yeah. Does storytelling have to be complicated? What is the simplest way that you could put the story to use?
Jeff Bartsch: Number one, no, storytelling does not need to be complicated. Some of the best stories are the simplest. And I think we’ve already kind of touched on that little framework a little bit. Because a lot of people hear about storytelling, and they think oh yeah, I have to go into a whole hero’s journey, I have to go into a three-act structure, oh, I need to tell a seven-step story brand, which, by the way, if you’re familiar with Donald Miller and story brand, he is fantastic. He’s influenced a lot of my work. If you really want if you want to create a genuine emotion, connection with emotional connection with people, I would offer that the easiest way that anyone can do that is to use the before, twist, after framework, use that and make sure you include those three ingredients, we talked about the specific character, the specific moment, and genuine emotion. And the reason that I would, I would offer those for your consideration is because the specificity is where the magic and the emotion happen. Because if we try to tell this great big broad thing, that’s where you know, we’ve helped lots of people overall, with lots of different kinds of conditions. And it’s been really good. Well,
Dr. Barbara Hales: Not emotional.
Jeff Bartsch: Yeah, not emotional. It’s like when you’ve been in these moments in your life when you think about when time stood still, you were completely present. And you were just fully aware of everything that was happening. that’s like the moment on my wedding day when I turned around in this mansion, and I turned around at the bottom of the staircase, and I saw my wife, my soon-to-be wife walking down the staircase, and I saw her in her wedding dress for the first time. I remember saying to myself, mental moment. No shutter in my mind. I will never forget that moment. And that is why it’s so powerful to tell stories before twisting afterthoughts. focusing on that specific moment.
Medically, and psychologically, when you do that there is something called the co-creative process that engages brain activity in the audience. And there are some studies that show that the co-creative process engages brain activity in such a way that people cannot. The fMRI readouts actually show that the brains think that they are experiencing that thing themselves, just by hearing the story from someone else. So that is where the magic comes from, is when you can suck in your audience to one moment, one character, genuinely motion, and that causes their brains to say, Oh, that reminds me of this time when I felt like this, or I had a moment like this, or I knew a person like this, or I felt like this. That’s when that all starts gelling together. And that’s why it’s so powerful. being specific.
Dr. Barbara Hales: At this stage of the interview, I usually ask the person that I’m interviewing for one or two tips from my listeners, but I feel that you’ve given us so many helpful tips. I would like to have answered that a lot of people may be thinking if this is something new to them, or how they could capitalize on this. And a doctor may be saying, I have a lot of stories, but how do I choose the one that will be in best alignment with the people that I am associating with as patients?
Choosing The Best Story to Tell
Jeff Bartsch: Oh, I love that. That is so important because there are so many ways that a story cannot work. If you’re open to this, I’m going to go pull back the curtain a little bit and go a little inside baseball on this. Okay, I love that. The reason I picked the story that I opened with, in our conversation here, I was thinking about my audience, which is your audience, I was thinking about you as the primary audience, and the people listening to your podcast. I’m thinking, what are their problems? They are busy. They are experts in their field. They don’t know what they don’t know, they are not experts in marketing. That’s not why they went to medical school. Marketing is a world unto itself. How do you offer something to these incredibly busy, smart, intelligent, educated, and often frustrated and tired people that will actually help them in their life?
And so that’s what was going through my brain when I was picking this story. One that I opened up the story with, and I used it, I talked about a moment when I was a kid, which is instantly relatable because we’ve all been kids. I was talking about why I played the piano. And I specifically talked about how I loved Bach and Mozart because I liked to be able to play things by the book I use, I loved to play put the notes on the page, I didn’t have to worry about this fluffy stuff, none of this emotion. It’s just I just want to play by the book. And I picked that because I predicted in my mind that that’s something that might be happening in the hearts and minds of your audience. So, when it comes to your listeners saying how do I pick what stories resonate? You need to know number one, you need to know who your audience is. You need to know what their problems are. You need to know what they want. You also need to know what’s the goal. What do you want them to know or do or feel after they hear the story? My goal for telling that story at the beginning of our conversation here, my goal was to get to the end. And for the audience to feel like they know a little bit more about me. That was my number one goal.
I also wanted them to know that I want that message of playing by the book, playing by the rules sticking to no frills, no fluff, sticking to the science stick to the data. I want them to be able to feel some sort of connection to that. And then I also want it to put the conversation into place to move things forward. When your audience is choosing what story to tell, they need to know their audience what and what does situation is and what their audience needs, what they want to have to happen. If your goal is to say, what do I put on my website? That’s going to be a completely different thing, then what do I say? What do I say to a mother, when I’m about to tell her that she can’t have children? Because I’ve been there. And I was not expecting that to happen. But you know, that’s what happens. You have to know what story will speak the right message to the people given what you’re talking about. Well, that took a turn.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, that is something that will only make you more respected, and make you also a storyteller extraordinaire. Because you can not only bring your own emotion to the story, but you can elicit emotion from the people listening.
Jeff Bartsch: Well, and what I want everyone to know, this is not just a trick, this is not a fad. This is not a random social platform, that will that has sprung up and will be gone in 10 years, or even three years, or whatever. This is a way of creating human connection. It’s how human beings connect with each other. And the reason it’s so universal, it’s because this is how we are all living our lives. We are living our lives in the process of a story. And because of that, every one of us has stories. All of us if you have a pulse, you have stories to tell. And the thing that so many people think is that well, I don’t have I don’t my stories aren’t any good. My life is boring. I will give you a newsflash, everyone thinks that everyone, everyone is most familiar with their own life. And they think my life is normal. My life is boring. What is ordinary to you is amazing to others. And so that’s you know, so I want to encourage anyone who’s thinking, do I have stories to tell? Yes, you do. Is it possible for me to tell them without being a TED talker? Yes. Do you have to be an expert? No, you do not. You can do this. Everyone can do this. And it is incredibly powerful for you and your business when you do.
Dr. Barbara Hales: I think that is wonderful advice for people to remember that nobody really has a very boring life. You know, there’s something special about everyone. I mean even someone that would have been locked in a room and never seen the world their entire life. That in itself is an interesting story. We all have stories. And that’s something to keep in mind.
Jeff Bartsch: 100%
Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, I loved this episode. Thank you so much for being with us today. You all have been listening to Jeff Bartsch, a storyteller extraordinaire. And please check out the websites that he would like you to know about, which is story greenlight.com/MTD
Jeff Bartsch: That’s Marketing Tips for Doctors story greenlight.com/MTD, have some extra resources, especially for your listeners would love to help you help give you some tools to help you tell stories to help you create those human connections and to keep the conversation going.
Dr. Barbara Hales: This has been another episode of marketing tips for doctors. Thanks for being here with us today. Till next time