5 Tips for great corporate storytelling.
With more technology available to help us tell stories, we’ve lost the art of crafting the content of the stories and have relied on gadgets and software to tell them for us. Here are 5 tips that can help.
1. Know your audience.
This is not only the first rule of comedy, it’s the first rule of storytelling. If you want to connect with someone, you first have to know what they care about and craft the story with that direction in mind. The same idea can be spun numerous ways. A marketing person will want to hear how your idea connects with customers. An HR Director will want to hear about the effect on employee retention. And your left-brain CFO will want to hear about the financial implications.
2. Start with the end in mind.
Ideas are catalysts. When executed properly, they create something. So, tell that something. If I told you that I was taking you on a road trip to Las Vegas, your ears would perk up and you’d be excited. You’d probably want to hear more and immediately jump to questions, “Where are we staying? Can we see Cirque de Soleil? Is prostitution still legal there?” But if I chose to tell you in the linear fashion that many tell stories, you’d be bored by the time I said, “We turn right and head on to the Gardiner Expressway…”
3. Describe the characters.
Even those who tell stories will often take the no-name brand approach, using generic people. “There was this guy…” or “we once had a client…” doesn’t add any colour to a story. We already know this. Ask anyone about their grade 6 class and you get first name, last name. “There was this kid in my class, Gregory Albrecht, who smelled liked pee.” Make your characters come to life and the story will, too.
4. Move it forward.
While details are nice, you simultaneously have to ensure that you keep the story moving forward. My mom came from a great line of Italian – Quebecois storytellers but it could be painful listening to one of hers because of the wild tangents she’d take you on. Half way through, you’d be 8 generations away from the original plot, looking for an escape hatch to bring you back to reality. Move it forward.
5. End with what you want them to remember.
“And they lived happily ever after” is often used in fables because that’s what we want kids to remember. It’s like a tagline. There’s a reason taglines are so important in advertising. They sum up everything that preceded them. If you only remember one thing, it can be the tagline because it should summarize all the details. Even Apple, which doesn’t have a corporate tagline, always end their spots on their logo. They want you to remember, “Don’t worry. What you just saw is an Apple product so you can rest assured knowing that it’s simple, innovative and fun.”
A couple of weeks ago, I worked with 600 sales people from Allstream in an interactive exercise that had them crafting and telling stories about the organization. We even picked 3 lucky contestants to get on stage and deliver them to the room. With little time to prepare and no rehearsals, they did it brilliantly. Here’s hoping you can, too.