Humans have been telling stories since the dawn of time. But storytelling as an internal communications tool is still a relatively new theme…
Stories are a brilliant way to bundle facts and emotions into a narrative that’s authentic, arresting and on-brand. So no wonder storytelling is one of the most popular marketing tools around.
But surprisingly, storytelling in employee communications is still relatively new. Planning an employee communications campaign is, in a lot of ways, similar to planning a marketing one. Whether you’re trying to persuade your people to join a share plan, or your customers to buy your latest product or service, you’re still getting a message across and nudging people to do things or take information on board.
At Eximia we love to #ChallengeTheProcess, so we’re recommending our clients get on board with storytelling. Because with stories, the sky is the limit! When done well, a story can help you get buy-in with your leaders, inspire colleagues at your next team meeting or turn your town hall into something moving and memorable.
Stories can also cut through the incredible amount of digital noise we’re all faced with these days. Emails, social media, Zoom calls, Teams notifications… switching them all off for five minutes and taking the time to actually listen to another person can feel like an event in itself these days.
So how can you make storytelling the star of your next employee communications push? Here are our top three tips:
1. Humanise your leaders
We’re not suggesting your leaders aren’t already considered living and breathing human beings. But it can be hard for employees to connect with them – especially if your workforce is spread out across different locations, and even more so if there are language barriers.
Getting across what makes your leaders tick, their vision for the future of the organisation (and therefore of its people) helps create that connection with your people. Forbes produced an article, way back in 2009, to explain the link between successful companies and the great storytellers at their helm:
“They entice us with their stories all the time, telling us how they started their businesses, what they stand for and where they are going. From [those kinds of] simple story we – employees, customers, shareholders – derive meanings for everything a company does.”
Think of this, for example. You need to communicate you organisation’s mission, vision and values. Which do you think your people are more likely to engage with? An inspiring, one minute story from your CEO, or a few bullet points on a presentation slide? No contest!
2. Involve your employees
Employee stories can add a whole new layer to your internal comms mix. Think of all the different backgrounds and life experiences your employees have, and how powerful these can be.
Say, for example, you’re refreshing a share plan, and you’re wondering how to inspire and encourage colleagues to want to find out more. Why not create a bank of short video stories, from employees of different ages and with different life goals, explaining their shareholder journey and what it’s meant to them? A series of 30-second videos, starring previous participants, will create more emotional impact than all the long-form content in the world. And if they talk about how it’s created a good savings habit, or led to a deeper connection with the organisation, you’re educating your people at the same time.
3. Channel your energy…
Okay, so we’ve given you a couple of examples of how you can blend storytelling into your comms mix, but where do you then put all of your amazing content? Even the best story in the world won’t resonate if no-one is around to listen!
For most large organisations, the most obvious choice is your staff intranet. Internal social networks allow people to comment, share and like posts, and automatically give you a mine of data that shows how the content is landing. (For more inspiration, see our recent blog on using social media in employee communications.)
But think outside the box and mix things up, too. A powerful story can be a great way to open up a town hall meeting or even a more regular get-together. How can you create content that explores the emotional side of a subject matter? How can you help your colleagues feel something, and want to engage in the task at hand? People are much more motivated to achieve when they have an emotional attachment, and storytelling is one of the best ways to inject emotion into whatever message you’re trying to get across.
Like all stories, this one is coming to an end. But hopefully it’s given you some food for thought, or a new chapter to think about writing the next time you’re planning an internal comms campaign.
Let us help you create stories that stick. Come and chat to the Eximia team today!