Since the beginning of time, we’ve used stories to communicate and make sense of the world around us. We use narratives to solve problems; stories help us see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness. And stories are powerful. Think of your favourite Disney film you saw as a child – how clearly can you recall it? Now try recalling the first piece of employee communications you ever received – does that have a space in your memory bank too? Ok, perhaps an extreme example. But you get the idea.
The point is this – there’s a lot we can learn from the likes of Disney when it comes to how we communicate with our colleagues – and particularly when it comes to engaging them around traditionally functional financial and legal topics. This is the bit that sometimes surprises the organisations we work with – they’re well versed in the use of storytelling techniques to bring their purpose, strategy and values to life – but using stories to talk about topics such as share plans and rewards? That’s quite often a new one!
Show rather than tell
Think of it this way. You can tell your colleagues about the benefits of a share plan for example until you’re blue in the face and their eyes glaze over. But it’s much more powerful to show them by using stories. And these stories don’t necessarily need to come from you as an organisation because here, your people are your best asset.
For example, you can bring to life the benefits of joining a share plan by telling personal stories from colleagues who have benefitted in the past. Ideally to humanise your communication, you should opt for video as it’s far more ‘real’ and credible – second to that, written case studies with an image of the colleague. These can be woven into emails, on the intranet, chat platforms, or even a Q&A style session where a colleague(s) meets with others to share how joining your share scheme helped support their financial wellbeing. People connect with other people – hearing their stories helps them feel an emotional connection and relate any learnings to things they may be experiencing in their own lives.
Of course, this approach may not be as clear cut if the share plan or rewards scheme you are setting up is brand new. But the beauty of storytelling is that it involves a creative element. If you’re unable to draw on real life examples, you could ‘think Disney’ and create fictional characters to tell your story, including scenarios and fictitious examples. Most memorable tales follow a simple format:
- There’s a main character facing a problem or issue
- He or she must change something about their lives to overcome it
- They do so and enjoy their happy ending!
As long as your story is engaging, captivating and appeals to the hearts and minds of your audience you’re on the right track. This in itself requires a bit of groundwork – you need to really understand your people’s desires so that you can create content that will ‘stick’ in their minds. Have a mix of stories – just having Carol talking about how her share plan is helping her map out her retirement won’t enlighten a millennial workforce. And encouraging Ben to share how a reward scheme helped him on the property ladder isn’t perhaps going to relate to colleagues who already own a property. Research is key and your end goal must be clear – what do you want people to think, feel and ultimately do when they engage with the story you are telling?
There’s no doubt effective storytelling is an art – after all Disney has spent nearly 100 years perfecting it. But the good news is that with the right mix of insight, planning and creative magic you can achieve the same in a lot less time. Want to find out more? Then talk to us!