Storytelling is an incredibly powerful way to make a message memorable and persuasive. Yet many corporate storytellers still don’t leverage the best techniques to activate their story within the organization – to bring it fully to life.
Stories that resonate are easily understood, memorable, believable, and above all repeatable. For true story activation, employees need to internalize a story’s both emotional and factual elements, so they can relate it to their own experiences and tell it in their own words. After all, a story isn’t a story until it gets repeated.
How corporate stories are told should therefore reflect how people learn best: 70% of on-the-job learning comes from live experiences, 20% from relationships, and 10% from formal training. What’s the best way to incorporate all three into your campaign?
- Craft live experiences. Employees need to experience first-hand the most important parts of your story. For example, is your story focused on innovation? Create an in-house tradeshow where employees can touch and use the products they had a hand in creating. Have all employees actually met real beneficiaries of the services you provide? Facilitate these experiences for them. First-hand experience not only reinforces the message, it leads to personal insights, emotional resonance and strategic actions on an individual level.
- Connect the story to day-to-day experiences. Storytellers must ensure the story’s experiences and self-perspective fits well for the audience. Narratives should be well-crafted and culturally contextualized to resonate with listeners. This works best when day-to-day experience at work mesh seamlessly with the story arc. After you launch your storytelling campaign, it’s crucial to reinforce it with real-world stories curated from the field. This helps employees envision how the overarching story relates to their individual work, lives and priorities.
- Align and equip leaders. Great storytelling starts with managers and leaders – but doesn’t stop there. Employees will have questions and concerns that they may not feel comfortable raising in a town hall or a leadership meeting. Make sure their immediate supervisors and peer “story ambassadors” within the firm are equally fluent in the story. This telling and re-telling is crucial to smooth out any resistance and win everyone over. (See our previous two-part series, 6 Ways People Resist Your Message – And How to Win Them Over.)
- Choose the right messenger. As we’ve blogged before, the messenger is the message. If your storytellers are people employees personally know and trust, they are more likely to be open to that story. Trust and empathy are critical to deliver a truly compelling story that sticks.
- Create a formal communications plan incorporating different learning styles. There are three types of learning styles: oral, visual, and kinesthetic. Most people have a preferred method of learning—whether by hearing something, reading or seeing it, or by jumping right in and experiencing it first-hand. A formal plan will help make sure your campaign supports all three learning styles. A plan also establishes an effective cadence. Employees need to encounter the story multiple times in different ways before it sinks in and a plan will keep you on track.
- Create white space to learn. Fully 30% of knowledge workers feel they have no time for reflection. How will they make space for learning anything new without a period of reflection devoted to the narrative? Carve out time during working hours to create this space for them. An off-site meeting can give everyone a fresh mental start, too.
Story activation is the trickiest part of corporate storytelling – but also the most crucial. Don’t let your great story languish in a binder on a shelf. Bring it to life in the way that truly matters: with your people.