It’s Time for Storytelling – A Proven Management Communication Tool

by Evelyn Clark

Have you or any of your leaders ever been frustrated because your organization’s presentations, memos, or other messages don’t seem to be heard-not to mention heeded? Are you tired of reiterating the same policies and procedures to employees-only to have them fall on deaf ears again and again? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, take heart: there is a powerful solution to the problem that will significantly enhance adherence to your organization’s policies and desired practices.

The solution is innovative, it’s easier to implement than writing a policy manual that gets ignored–and it effectively shapes behavior. It is an approach called corporate storytelling, or “managing by storying around”.

As discussed repeatedly in the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal and other leading business publications, the use of storytelling in businesses and other organizations is more than a valid concept; it’s an essential, proven communication practice. Motivating people to reach the organization’s stated goals is “a big part of a CEO’s job,” says award-winning Writer, Director, and Screenwriting Coach Robert McKee in his HBR interview. “To do that, he or she must engage their emotions, and the key to their hearts is a story.”

In the article, McKee outlines not only the elements involved in developing an effective story, but also discusses why leaders need to abandon the intellectual approach to persuading their audiences– employees, customers and suppliers, to name a few key groups–and instead use stories that touch the heart.

Many people think that stories are primarily for children, but a number of large, well-known companies have been using stories as a management communication tool for years. For example, did you know that Disney Corporation not only is adept with storytelling as entertainment, but also uses stories to manage its operations? So do companies such as FedEx, Nike and The Container Store. The reason is simple: people are far more easily drawn to–and pay far more attention to–stories rather than to dry, boring facts and figures.

Why? Human beings are social beings, and we naturally share stories as a means of connecting with one another. And every time you hear someone else’s story, you identify with a part of it, a part that connects to your own experiences. Stories work because they touch us at an emotional level.

Stories captivate our attention, they motivate us-and they stay with us.

Armstrong International is one example of a successful organization that has been using stories to convey corporate values and desired behaviors for years-since 1988, in fact-because the approach has proven to be so effective. Employees know exactly how they are expected to do their jobs-and the company has no policy manuals! Stories have proven to be so effective in conveying what management wants, the COO has issued four books of stories–and people are always eager to hear new ones. In fact, as soon as Armstrong issues a new collection of stories, employees dig into them like the latest best seller. They even take the book home so they can read it immediately!

More and more organizations-nonprofits and government agencies as well as leading businesses-are discovering the power of stories to persuade, to motivate, to convey policies and procedures…to achieve a number of their communication goals. Isn’t it time you learned how to use stories to guide your organization’s communication efforts?

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Evelyn Clark, The Corporate Storyteller, is president of Clark & Company, a marketing communication firm in the Seattle area. A public relations practitioner with more than 20 years experience, she was accredited by the Public Relations Society of America in 1986. Her firm’s services include facilitation of retreats and communication workshops, marketing and communication management, media relations strategy development, and media training. http://www.CorpStory.com All content © Clark & Company 1993-111 (unless otherwise indicated). All rights reserved.