Archive for the ‘Corporate Storytelling’ Category

3 Tips for Telling Your Own Story

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

A friend asked me to give her daughter feedback on her resume because her daughter had just learned about the job of her dreams–and, of course, she was eager to present her credentials in the best way possible. I, in turn, asked another friend–a former HR director and executive recruiter, for her input since she’s truly an expert on the subject.

As I looked at my recruiter friend’s best tips, I realized how they dovetail with tips on crafting a good story. That shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, a resume is a brief version of a person’s career story.

Here are three tips for crafting a compelling story, whether it’s a story you’ll be telling to your employees or one that you’ll be writing in the form of a resume:

  1. Know your audience — Who are they? What do they most care about? What do they need to hear from/about you to accomplish their goals? When you have a clear understanding of the audience’s needs and desires, you’ll be better able to create a story that’s interesting and meaningful for them.
  2. Edit ruthlessly! — After you’ve prepared your first draft, read it from the audience’s point of view. Which words relate key elements of the story? Just as importantly, which words are unnecessary to convey your message? Cut everything that isn’t absolutely essential.
  3. Use descriptive verbs — Enliven your story with verbs that clearly convey what happened. Did you learn a lesson, or were you struck by a lightning bolt of insight? Would you like a particular job, or are you excited by the challenge?

It’s difficult for everyone to determine what someone else wants to hear from them or about them. But when you start first by considering who the audience is, you’re able to see yourself from their perspective. With the audience in mind, you’ll be able to build a solid foundation for shaping and telling an engaging story, regardless of the format or the presentation mode.

 

Virtual Storytelling Is the Future

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

The future of storytelling is here!

Rather than simply listening to a storyteller or watching it unfold on TV or a movie screen, virtual storytelling technology enables people to actually experience–and influence–the story. After years of experiments with so-called “Smell-o-Vision” and 3-D movies, people now can actually immerse themselves in the action virtually. “Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences” is currently on exhibit at Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. It runs through July 26th and then will go on tour.

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Birdly Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image

As Margaret Rhodes writes on wired.com, the most sensational of the techniques in the show is Birdly, pictured above.  By lying face down on a padded platform and slipping your arms into a set of plastic wings, you can experience the sensation of flying over, zooming in between buildings with the wind blowing through your hair.

Other displays allow a person to get caught up in the emotion of the story and to actually participate in weaving the story. All in all, it’s a fascinating look at what the future of story looks–and feels–like.

Great Corporate Storytelling at Microsoft

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

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 When I saw the Google news alert about an article on Microsoft’s great use of brand storytelling, I was immediately intrigued. As a long-time contract writer for Microsoft, I helped create the company’s intial collection of corporate stories, but that’s been a few years ago and I haven’t checked their website for months to see how the storytelling efforts have grown. Not only that, but I helped a colleague with a book on technology branding more than 20 years ago–before most consumers were familiar with technology products by brand.

When I checked out Arik Hanson’s blog discussion of the Microsoft Stories site, I was captivated even further by the screen shot included in the post (shown). As Arik points out, you’d expect to see the program manager being featured to be show in the office working on the development of great new software. But instead you see a dominant photo of the employee in a barrel room sipping wine. That drew me in even further because my husband and I have been part of a wine-making group for the past 11 years–and we live in Washington near the largest collection of tasting rooms in the state!

So you’ll understand why I agree with Arik that it’s a great example of corporate storytelling. Employees are brand evangelists, and they’re also interesting people whose non-work activities are at least as fascinating as their professional involvement. By helping co-workers and customers get to know the whole person, Microsoft is creating deeper, more lasting connections than work-related topics alone ever would.

Key point: When people develop deeper connections, they become more committed to one another’s success. Stories that help people get to know one another more fully result in a win for everyone involved.

How about you? How well are you telling corporate stories that do that?

Storytelling and Listening for A Collaborative Culture

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Do you have a collaborative culture? One where people are open to others’ ideas? Where individuals consider how their colleagues’ ideas can work, rather than instantly pointing out why they won’t work? A culture where people are comfortable expressing even “far out” thoughts,  knowing that it’s safe because everyone realizes that sometimes the farthest out ideas are the ones that spark absolutely brilliant new products or services?

If you don’t have a collaborative culture but want to build one, storytelling is a tool you can’t do without. By sharing stories with one another–where you came from, why you believe what you believe, how you learned valuable lessons about work and life–you get to know one another, discover shared values and interests–and Speakingbuild strong connections. The bonds developed over time through workplace story swaps lead to a strong sense of “being in this together” and motivate people to listen carefully to one another. They will begin to treat treat one another with more respect and will develop a ready willingness to collaborate and help one other. I’ve seen this happen time and again when leading work teams through my Corporate Storytelling® system.

Listening to others’ stories is a crucial component of the process. As Nelson Farris, Nike’s official storyteller for many years, says the company’s success “is based on collaboration, and the only way you’re going to collaborate is to talk to each other. That means you have to talk and then listen.

“Listening is huge. If we don’t listen, then the collaboration begins to disintegrate.”

Here are a few steps to get started with storytelling to build a collaborative culture:

  • Tell a well-developed organizational story, or a personal “lesson learned” story that conveys your values, your mission and your specific goals
  • Tell this story–and others you develop–repeatedly and systematically
  • Train others in your organization on how to tell stories
  • Underscore to your employees and other stakeholders the importance of telling values-based stories
  • Incorporate storytelling in regularly held meetings

3 Effective Ways You Can Engage Millennials

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Because the Millennial generation is expected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, you must learn how to keep this “digitally distracted” group engaged with your organization–fast! Millennials are already noted for changing jobs often, sometimes after just one or two years. More than anything, Millennials crave training, and if you don’t give them plenty of opportunty to learn and advance quickly, they’re gone!

Here are three secrets to keeping this bright, accomplished generation committed to your mission by adapting your corporate training programs to their preferred modes of learning. As reported by newrow, a company that provides an interactive video platform “purpose-built for instructing large groups of learners online,” you must revamp your training to

1) Make learning mobile for these “digital natives” who have grown up using computers and intuitively know how to use new devices. They see mobile devices as the most efficient way to learn, connect with friends and get things done. Video conferencing and video-based instruction enable them to work remotely, too, which seems basic to them and is expected to become the main delivery system for training in the future.

2) Keep learning social so that this generation who stays connected with friends on social media can access training when they’re ready, collaborate online with co-workers and converse with instructors by posing questions as they arise.

3) Make learning personal by providing mentors who can help Millennials gain the knowledge and cultural insights required to advance. Career development is more important to them than salary growth, and they value the wisdom of those with more experience–so they can become their mentors’ peers as quickly as possible!

Personal Values Trump B2B Brands

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

In Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, he describes his research that led to this conclusion: despite their protestations to the contrary, human beings make decisions based on emtion, then justify those decisions by developing a rationale after the fact. This process held true in a wide range of case studies that Ariely conducted involving insignificant decisions, such as choosing a beer or a dinner entree when out with friends, to more significant choices, such as buying a new car or selecting from an offering of business tools.

His findings are confirmed in a study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board in partnership with Google. Based on a survey of more than 3,000 B2B buyers, as well as 70 marketers and 15 academics, thought leaders and consultants in different industries, the research revealed that the power of brands’ “unique selling propositions” has greatly dimished. Instead, the ability to connect with customers through personal values makes all the difference in a company’s ability to grow and prosper.

In the summary statement reporting the results of the survey, the CEB and Google point out that 1) only 14% of B2B buyers see a valuable difference between brands’ business value”, and 2) personal value will provide 2x as much impact as business value will on a B2B purchase. In other words, connecting on a personal level enables a company to cut through the increasingly cluttered marketplace. To learn more of the data and the compelling reasons to emphasize emotion rather than features and benefits in your marketing, download the complete survey report, “From Promotion to Emotion.”

The bottom line is, as more and more businesses realize the necessity to connect emotionally with their customers, the use of values-based stories in marketing and sales will grow even more dramatically than it has in the past 10 years. As I’ve been teaching Corporate Storytelling clients for the past 21 years, stories are far more powerful than most people–and especially business leaders–realize. Among the many reasons are that they help us make sense of the world, they illuminate values, and they help people remember essential information, which sometimes means the difference between destruction and survival. Stories have always fulfilled a multitude of purposes. They do so by touching people’s hearts.

Listening A Hot Topic

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Listening is a topic that’s been getting frequent attention in recent weeks. I suspect the reason is that fewer and fewer people listen closely to anyone or anything anymore. In a 24/7-connected world, more and more people are multitasking nearly all their waking hours. Or, more accurately, they’re attempting to multitask, which studies have shown isn’t, in fact, productive.

In my experience it’s been obvious that people on conference calls are often checking their phones and emails, reviewing papers on their desks, and answering questions from direct reports and co-workers instead of paying attention to the meeting discussion, not to mention participating in it! And some workshop attendees are on their laptops much of the time, purportedly taking notes but often working on their own projects.

Listening–truly listening, by giving someone your undivided attention–is an increasingly rare practice that many seem not to value highly. As a communication consultant whose entire career has focused on written and verbal interaction, this is very disconcerting. If we don’t listen carefully to one another, how we will ever reach learn waht we need to know? How we will ever reach an understanding of what we’re doing, where we’re going, what we need, what we want, etc.

So imagine how pleased I was to see today’s article in The Wall Street Journal that says focused listening is among the behaviors that conveys intelligence to others. Sue Shellenbarger reports that “a lot of people do things that make them look dumb” (such as using big words or looking very serious) when they’re trying to look smart. The people they’re trying to impress read these efforts as trying too hard, so the attempts to look smart actually have the opposite effect.

To look smart, the first thing a person needs to do is this: Put away the phone and look directly at the person you’re speaking to! According to Nora A. Murphy, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. who’s conducted a number of studies on the subject, the other behaviors that convey intelligence are sitting up straight, speaking clearly in “a pleasant voice,” displaying self-confidence, and actually engaging in a conversation. Some of the ways to do that, says Suzanne Bates, chief executive of Bates Communications in Wellesley, Mass., are indicating you understand the person’s point, asking questions and being willing to hear another’s point of view.

Who knows? By actively listening, people may learn more than they ever imagined, all the while seeming more intelligent than ever. So what have you got to lose? Put down that phone, get away from email–and start listening!

Stories Help to Fix Content Marketing Mistakes

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Are you making any of the four content marketing mistakes recently discussed by best-selling author and executive coach Christine Comaford? One of the four that I wholeheartedly agree with is neglecting to think of your core information as a corporate story (#3 below, conveying facts but missing emotion).

A recent blog posted by Comaford discusses the top four common mistakes people make when developing their content marketing. If you’re committing any of these missteps, you may not be getting the results you want or deserve.

Based on an interview with Amanda Milligan at Fractl (an online marketing agency specializing in engaging and emotional web content on the web), whom Comaford calls a “super brain,” here are the four big mistakes to avoid:

  1. Content that’s too branded
  2. Not getting your audience involved
  3. Conveying facts but missing emotion
  4. Overthinking content and missing context

And, I would add, a fifth mistake you definitely want to avoid: failing to illustrate the benefits of your products or services with relevant stories. Stories help your audience to experience the benefits, and that experience makes a stronger, longer-lasting connection than data can.

The full discussion on Comaford’s blog not only explains each of the four points she focused on, but also offers tips on how to fix or avoid these missteps. What was the most important tip you learned?

6-year-olds Offer Lesson on Managing Change with Story

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Children can teach adults a lot of lessons about life–if the adults pay attention! One of my favorite lessons on managing change was demonstrated by 6-year-old twins whose father attended one of my Corporate Storytelling workshops for sales managers a few years ago. It’s a story I love to tell because it has all the basic elements of a memorable tale: it’s concise, it’s clear, it begins with a challenge to be overcome, describes how the hero overcomes the challenge, and concludes with a memorable lesson for leaders in any organization–business, nonprofit or family.

Paul Smith, a former Procter & Gamble executive, loves the story, too. He included it in his book, Lead with a Story, and asked me to share it when he interviewed me for a podcast that was broadcast yesterday. It’s a great example of how a meaningful business message can be conveyed in a charming and engaging story that everyone can relate to. We’ve all been children, after all, and we’ve all been faced with change. And sometimes, like one of the twins featured, we haven’t been sure how to handle a change that at first seemed overwhelming. Listen to the podcast here and let us know how you will apply this savvy lesson on change management from two 6-year-olds!