Eye-witness stories from the people on the ground are often the most impactful way to communicate about our work.
Technical reports are great for reaching quite specific audiences, but for most people, a personal, human account of someone’s experiences will be more engaging and memorable.
MSF often uses the stories in blog posts to help raise awareness of our work, as well as helping the next generation of MSF team members to know what to expect. Your words will be working hard to support our work.
So, here are some ways to write a brilliant blog post for MSF. You can choose to read all of these, or use the options below to jump to the section you want to focus on.
These are just a few ideas! There are so many aspects of life with MSF which could be a great blog post, so don't feel you have to stick to these suggestions. However it's worth noting that the best posts are often about one specific story rather than a general issue.
For example: a post which tells the story of one specific trip to a remote community as part of a vaccine campaign will be more impactful and memorable than a general discussion about access to vaccines.
If you want to discuss an idea, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Stories about a patient you have treated (always respecting their dignity, privacy and safety)
- Stories about a problem your team has faced and how you solved it
- Stories about going the extra mile to help our patients - this could be a long journey or a special effort
- Personal stories, e.g. how you came to work for MSF, why you decided to become a nurse
- Stories about a colleague who inspires you
- Anything that has made you feel a strong emotion at work, whether that's joy, laughter, pride or sadness
How you tell your story is up to you, but here are some ideas in case you want to try something different.
- Use the present tense to help the reader feel they are in the moment with you
- Keep a diary
- Write an open letter
- Try a list
- Create a "story sandwich"
If you have lots of factual information you want to include, try 'sandwiching' it between two halves of a human story that shows how the things you're describing impact people.
You want to hook the reader's attention right from the start, but figuring out how can be daunting. If you're feeling stuck, try one of these ideas...
- Start with some action
- Build anticipation
- Set the scene by saying what you can see/smell/hear
Once you've got the reader's attention, you need to keep it! You can use the BITER checklist to make sure you've got all the secret ingedients of great storytelling
- Contextual information to help the reader understand the story
- Sensory information (what can you see, hear, smell, feel etc) to help the reader imagine the story
- Explain why the events in your story are important. What's at stake, especially for people in the communities we serve?
Transitions, twists and turns
- How did the action of the story unfold? Include challenges, obstacles, and unexpected events
- Show the humanity of both yourself and others
- This can mean sharing your feelings or those of your team (tired, frustrated, proud)
- It could also mean telling stories about specific people rather than making generalisations
- After all the twists and turns, what happened? Tie up all the loose ends...
Example: Try reading this post from South Sudan - see if you can spot how the blogger incorporates all the points on the BITER checklist.
Writing a great ending is about more than just saying what happened.
- Say how you feel
- Go back to the start
- Find hope, celebrate life
- Decide what you want readers to take from your story - what's the point you're making?
- Avoid generalising
Generalisations are often inaccurate and patronising, so try to avoid them, especially if you’re writing about an area or community that you don't know well.
You might be tempted to write “everyone in this village lives in fear”. But is that true of everyone? What are you basing this on?
Instead show where your views have come from, and give concrete examples. E.g. “In the clinic, several patients tell us they are scared of another attack”.
- Remember your reader
Most people reading your blog post won't have worked for MSF. They might not have visited the country you are writing about. They probably haven't worked in a hospital. So don't forget them!
Using technical language and acronyms limits the audience and impact your blog post can have. Make sure you avoid jargon and explain the context of events.
- Remember your team
While we encourage you to write from a personal perspective, we know that nothing in MSF is achieved without teamwork.
Always acknowledge the hard work and contributions of your colleagues and reflect this in how you talk about about events. Use 'we' rather than 'I' whenever it is more accurate to do so - e.g. "we stabilised the patient", "we planned the new pharmacy building".
Don't forget: all blog posts about MSF's work must be checked before publication to ensure they pose no risk to the dignity, privacy or safety of our patients or colleagues. These risks can vary depending on your setting. Email email@example.com to find out more.