Storytelling hacks for comms pros

How do you use stories in your internal communication? People remember stories far more than they remember facts and figures and they are a fantastic way to help make your thoughts stick.

I love reading stories to my two-year-old daughter and seeing her imagination develop as I describe the Gruffalo stomping around the deep dark wood or the trains that are chuff-chuffing their way around stations. The richness of our language enables me to paint a vivid picture in her mind and for her understanding to develop further, particularly when we devise them together.

In this article I’m going to highlight some shortcuts – or hacks as they are now commonly referred to – courtesy of internal communicator Ian Harris @internal_comms, via video.

Telling stories
I presented at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Inside conference at the end of 2012 on using social media for internal communication. Of all the talks I’ve given over the years, it’s the one that people constantly mention to me and say they have used with their stakeholders (or variations of) to further illustrate their own internal conversations.

magicI introduced the topic by telling a story about school shoes. Specifically, how I knew as a child there were some magical shoes that existed (Clarks’ Magic Steps).

They contained a little gold key in the sole of the shoe and the whole advertising campaign around them appealed to my eight-year-old self.

However, despite knowing they were out there, they were unattainable to me as I went to an extremely strict school where our choice of school shoes was dictated.

Every term I used to go home from school miserably clutching the A4 piece of paper from the dedicated shop we had to go to which outlined the shoes we were allowed – you can picture the type… black leather, buckles, no heels. No patent (shiny) and no embellishments.

However, I had seen the advertising campaign from Clarks promising golden riches and I knew there was another way. If only the permissions were in place. Despite my longing for a pair of shoes with a magical golden key in the sole, I never owned a pair.

(Ironically, as a teenager I then spent years working at weekends in the very same shoe shop in Essex I used to visit as a child – and empathised with those little sad faces from my old primary school who looked longingly at the shiny shoes in our window that were out of their reach.)

I used this example to talk about social media and how locking down devices and access to social networks doesn’t stop your employees knowing such things exist.

Putting barriers in place doesn’t mean they cease to know such methods of communication are being used in other companies, it just underlines the fact they are unattainable to them because of the parameters companies put in place.

Below are some of the Tweets from inside and outside of the room while I was talking…

So why am I sharing this with you today?

Well one of my favourite communicators is Ian Harris at Gatehouse Group. His emails are always packed with interesting tips, stories and things that get me thinking.

I spotted a video he posted online of a talk he gave at Google Campus in London recently where he shared storytelling hacks for startups and I thought I’d post it here. It’s 30 minutes long and I guarantee you’ll find good ideas to take away and new websites to check out.

swipefileIan and I met up a few months back and were discussing where we get ideas from. He shared his ‘swipe file’ with me – he mentions it in the video below. It’s where Ian collates thoughts that he finds; he pastes ideas, quotes and titbits into the notes file on his phone.

He then uses these to pepper his regular emails to the comms community and highlights interesting stories and facts from things he’s read.

I shared mine with him – I’m a visual thinker and use Pinterest extensively. I have a locked board which is very often my starting point when I am planning a presentation for a client or talk at a conference.

I’ve given you a sneaky peek of my board on this page. It’s a collection of apparently random pictures, quotes and websites that have caught my interest for one reason or another. Very often I pin something and don’t refer to it until months, if not years later. You can only see a few on there, but it has dozens on it.

Just this week I ran a social media workshop and talk for a client of mine, Northern Trust bank. The first slides I collated when thinking through the session and writing the content were from my swipe file. I had pinned an image illustrating behavioural change on social media, so an image on one of my secret boards helped me put my thoughts into context for their comms team.

Want to know more about Pinterest? I’ve written on my blog before about how to use it for internal communication.

If you’re interested in shoes I have a public shoes board

But, back to storytelling and I’ll leave you in the hands of Ian. Grab a cup of tea and settle down to feast your eyes on a storytelling masterclass…


Post author: Rachel Miller.

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