Video Inviting People to Be Heard


Given trust and time, people will feel heard. And when people feel heard, they will share surprising and profound anecdotes.

It’s an honor to enable people to feel heard. And it’s both an honor and a responsibility to share people’s words and invite others to hear them, too.

Thaler Pekar & Partners recently produced a fundraising video for The MetroHealth Foundation. The video celebrates JoAnn and Bob Glick, who made a transformative gift of $42 million to The MetroHealth System, an extraordinary, essential hospital system in Cleveland, OH. Our client knew there was a special story to be told about why the Glicks chose MetroHealth for this gift. They asked us to uncover this story and use it to create a video that would inspire other like-minded donors.

We knew authenticity would be critical to connecting with the video’s audience, so our strategy was to develop trust and invite emergence — a technique that draws from our team’s extensive experience in oral history. Unlike traditional testimonials in which the content is predetermined, I invited the Glicks and other interview participants to reflect on their memories and observations. As they spoke, I listened for emotion, values, expressions of generosity, and stories. We distilled the video’s script from the beautiful conversations that took place. Our strategy of allowing for the unexpected informed the whole production process. In fact, in the final scene, you’ll see that we had a surprising and moving experience while filming in a place we hadn’t planned to visit.


This emergent approach yielded immeasurable rewards. Rita Andolsen, Executive Director Philanthropy Communications, The MetroHealth System, said that in addition to capturing surprising and moving stories, “What transpired during the making of the video was the building of a relationship and the development of trust that has transformed our relationship with the donor. We took time; we didn’t rush them. By sitting with JoAnn and Bob and getting to know them, they trusted you. Once the camera started rolling, they opened up.”

We shot our B-roll with an emphasis on capturing moments that conveyed innovation, connection, understanding, and empathy-informed professionalism — the qualities that Bob & JoAnn Glick shared that they found in everyone they met at MetroHealth. Our creative direction was inspired by something Bob Glick said in an initial meeting: “We’re seeking a fresh way to do things, and we want to support creativity and results.”

The story is told entirely in the voices of the Glicks and people representing The MetroHealth System, with no omniscient narrator — a polyvocal narrative, of, by, and for the people.

Our client’s investment in this video was rewarded with a joyful production experience: five days of shooting in Cleveland including drone aerial footage, a 3-camera shoot at the Glicks’ home; outfitting a vintage trolley with multiple cameras for a driving tour of Cleveland; and a guided visit to the state-of-the-art hospital. Our local production partner, North Water Productions, exceeded all our expectations.

The video debuted at MetroHealth’s Gifts of Hope event honoring the Glicks. It illuminated their shared values and celebrated the mission and vision of The MetroHealth System. I was delightfully surprised — and quite moved — when our client FaceTimed me from the event so that I could watch with the crowd and hear their applause!

Rita said, “What I heard from guests was, ‘The Glicks are so real. They’re making me think of things I hadn’t thought about before. Their story comes through because they are telling it.’”

I was smitten by JoAnn and Bob, the entire MetroHealth community, the North Water Productions crew, and the city of Cleveland. And it was especially fulfilling to return to an essential hospital system. For ten years, I served as public affairs director for a large Federally Qualified Health Center, providing health care to people regardless of their ability to pay. I also served as communications director for The Children’s Health Fund (CHF), which brought free and essential health care to women and children throughout the United States via mobile health units.

Too many people are unaware of the difficulties of accessing health care in America. Twenty-five years ago, upon hearing about my work with CHF, my husband’s cousin said, “I didn’t know there were children in the US who can’t get health care.” And just last week, at a conference for communicators in philanthropy, several attendees had no idea that one cannot simply walk into any emergency room and receive care at no cost!

Health costs are the main reason for bankruptcy in America. The system must be fixed. Until then, we must appreciate and honor the extraordinary services offered by essential hospitals like MetroHealth. Thaler Pekar & Partners is honored to share its story and the story of the people who support transformative, compassionate, high-quality health care for all.

Thaler Pekar & Partners is internationally-recognized for its deep expertise in narrative, story, and communication. Both the BBC and the Smithsonian Institution have hailed the founder, Thaler Pekar, as one of the world’s leading experts on institutional storytelling.

For 14 years, the team at Thaler Pekar & Partners has advised visionaries on being understood and influential. Our trademarked communication processes — Heart, Head, & Hand®, Engagement Equation® and Invitational Incline® — provide leaders with the confidence to speak, listen, and be heard, and sustain them in offering effective motivation. As a result, teams are more productive, audiences are more receptive, and visibility increases.

Our award-winning work ranges from gathering 178 oral histories across four continents and six countries for Chuck Feeney’s The Atlantic Philanthropies; to finding and refining stories about integrity for Novartis senior leadership; to coaching a mainstage TED Talker; and to developing a communication and story skills academy for L’Oreál International Educators and Customer Representatives.