25 November 2019

The importance of storytelling: how to make your comms engaging

Storytelling is one of the basics of all good communications, right? But how do you do it well? How do you tell stories that engage and excite; motivate and inspire; compel and connect your people? Here’s our thoughts…

In an age where the incredible and rapid advances in technology have made us more connected, many of us feel more isolated than ever. Technology creates virtual connections, but it can’t create emotional, purposeful, meaningful ones. The type humans have relied on for thousands of years, that social interaction brings.

Stories speak to our hearts and minds. They connect emotion and meaning to action and purpose. With purpose consistently ranking as one of the top motivators for employees, businesses need to use the tools they have at their disposal to create those meaningful connections – between business and employee, strategic goals and day-to-day delivery.

The business case for investing in your storytelling capabilities is compelling. Strategic narrative is one of the four key enablers for employee engagement and helps employees to understand and engage with how their role contributes to wider business success. 

 

How do you take the principles of storytelling and make them work for your business?

Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that to influence people, you must apply ‘ethos’, ‘pathos’ and ‘logos’ – trust, emotion and logic.

In business, logos (rational argument) is overused. Ethos is a prized currency. Pathos often gets edged-out. To engage and influence your audience, you’ll need to play the trilogy.

When telling your stories, you need to:

  • Build trust
  • Make sense
  • Engage emotionally

Ensuring you have all three elements in place in your communications will help stories to land well and will mean that people can understand and relate to the message. 

 

Whoever your audience is, remember the five storytelling principles

So how do you build trust, make sense and engage people’s emotions? Regardless of what you’re communicating, use these principles as an anchor when developing your narrative:

  1. ARC – A beginning, a middle and an end
  2. CHANGE – A transformation of some kind (people, place, circumstances)
  3. THEME – A greater purpose or meaning
  4. COHERENCE – Concrete, relevant details
  5. PLAUSIBILITY – Believability

It’s simple, structured and there’s room for flexibility, but it’ll help you build consistency in how you talk about your history, now and the future.

Take it from Lego, who are masters of using narrative to bring together their vision, values and cultural pillars. Instead of shying away from it, Lego used storytelling to lean in to their tumultuous past, family history and identity as ‘masters of reinvention’. In 2012, they produced a Pixar-esque film to join the dots, with a strong narrative at the core.

It was grounded in truth, accepted and respected the past, and demonstrated their core promise of creativity, imagination, learning and fun. Mostly, it was relatable. Everyone could find a place in the story they identified and connected with on an emotional level.

Creating this kind of emotional connection between employees and your narrative is key, but it isn’t something that can be achieved via an internal memo or the odd poster on the staff noticeboard.

To ensure that connection informs the way your employees approach their roles day-to-day, you’ll need a planned and sustained period of comms activity. Choose your headline message and create communications that not only supports the message, but that your people can connect with. Once you have this, you can build out your comms plan to make updates regular and informative.

We’re helping loads of clients to communicate their business strategy and purpose in a way that is engaging and emotive. If you’re looking for some help with this, or want to hear more, get in touch, we’d love to help. 

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