For millions of people around the globe, it’s a time of anxiety, isolation and change. Work routines look and feel dramatically different, and businesses need to work harder to support their teams and maintain a sense of connection more than ever before.
While it’s easy (and sometimes necessary) to shift into a crisis management, broadcast style of communication, we mustn’t forget one of the most powerful and effective communication methods of all time – storytelling.
It’s also the oldest. Many of the stories that we tell our loved ones today have existed for millennia and will continue to be passed down from generation to generation because they’re compelling and unforgettable.
Stories can bring us hope, inspire us and unite us. Storytelling works because it builds emotional connections. When we hear a story, we instinctively try to relate to it in some way. For businesses needing to connect with and engage their people, it’s a timeless and effective technique.
So how can we find the employee stories with real impact?
- Think like a journalist
The best stories are waiting to be told. Think of all the people working in an organisation. How did they end up with that job? What gets them up in the morning? What’s their proudest moment?
Hundreds of stories are bubbling beneath the surface of any individual and while it may take effort to unearth them, the rewards are more than worthwhile.
Any good journalist keeps their ear close to the ground. Build your network, talk to people, ask questions. Look from the stories from those without motive from across the business. That way you’ll find the authentic stories that people will connect with.
- Make it memorable
Think about your audience. What do they need right now? What do they care about? What don’t they know already? Who will they relate to? We’re naturally most engaged by the stories we can associate with and have an interest in.
Here’s also where it’s also important to keep it simple. Our brains have to process an extraordinarily large amount of information alongside dealing with the additional emotional load of a crisis. We hear and read thousands of words a day.
A story is more likely to stay with us if it’s simple and uses clear, everyday language. The easier you can make it for people to relate to your story and build that all-important emotional connection, the more impact it will have.
- Give people a voice
Employee stories are a welcome change from yet another ‘message from the CEO’ which, many people know, the big boss didn’t actually write themselves. People want to hear from their peers as much as – if not more than – their leader (remember about stories being relatable?)
But in an organisation with thousands of employees, you’ll never have the time to find and share everyone’s story.
Build a culture of storytelling. Include employee stories on your website, social channels, in your onboarding materials, at internal events. Try a simple campaign that gives people some direction or a theme – “what’s been your biggest win this year?”, for instance.
When people start to see how stories are encouraged and valued, they’ll feel motivated to share their own stories without needing to be prompted.
We now have a wealth of communication platforms that even many of the traditionally remote workforces can access. Help people to use them to find their voice and create their own content. You’ll end up with the most authentic, unexpected and compelling stories that resonate with people across the business.
Storytelling is a powerful tool in any workplace. They have an important role to play in a time of physical and emotional distance. If you’re not already, it’s time to tap into one of the oldest traditions in human culture.
Engaging and authentic communications is our bread and butter at Ruder Finn. If we can help, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at InternalComms@RuderFinn.co.uk