Telling your organization’s story

Once you understand what the story currently being told about your organization focuses on, the next step is to identify the storyline that you want to tell. There are many story structures that you can use to tell the story in a way that engages your audience. While, at first glance, some of these approaches may seem a little “Hollywood” – keep in mind that show business is a very successful industry that is based on telling stories.

There are some standard approaches to storytelling that consistently work – if you have compelling content. There is the “Hero’s Quest.” This tells the story of someone standing up – against the odds – for what they believe in. We have had many opportunities to use this in showcasing how individuals in an organization brought social responsibility to their workplace or how they overcame personal challenges to grow and evolve, and what that experience means to their professional role.

The “Coming of Age” is the story of transformation where there is a valuable life lesson that is learned through experience. This storyline can be very effective in our wired world. We have used it to showcase how an organization grew and evolved, how another embraced new methods of employee attraction and retention, and how one embraced the new conversational approach of social media and the active, online consumer.

There is the “Stranger in a Strange Land” approach, which speaks to change and how to adapt. We have used this with great success when introducing a new CEO or senior executive that has come from another industry.

And we can’t forget the “Romance” – in a corporate environment, this would be called “Collaboration” – which we have used during mergers and acquisitions, when two diverse divisions or departments were given an opportunity to work together.

These are just a few of the classic storylines that you can use to tell your story. At the heart of it is the human interest component, which we will talk more about in Thursday’s post.

Once you have defined your storyline and understand what it is you want to share, it is also important to identify the medium (or mediums) that will work for your stakeholder groups. Often we develop a storyline that is told through different mediums, which gives us the opportunity to share different aspects of the story. Writing a profile article is very different than a feature piece; telling the story through video will showcase different aspects than a print piece. A podcast is different again.

It isn’t just about what medium will tell the story most effectively; it’s also about how your target audience wants to engage. We often reach out with a brief survey and ask them whether they would prefer to read an article or watch a video or, in some cases, listen to the podcast. Instead of assuming, go to the stakeholder group and ask.

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