The power of employee storytellers in a world of social media
After 15 years in creative agency roles working with clients such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, and EDF Energy, Will co-founded Stronger Stories, a not-for-profit movement of professional storytellers excited about the abundance of good ideas that can have a positive impact on our world.
Stronger Stories Studios helps public, private and not-for-profit organisations tell stronger stories to inspire their audiences and take them on a journey of change.
While recently having coffee with a public sector communications manager, I was asked “Should we be using Facebook Live?” This question made me reflect on how we can get so wrapped up using the latest digital tools, that we ignore one of our most valuable social assets – our people.
Everyone is a storyteller, whether you like it or not.
As professionals working in digital communications, we like to think that organisations tell stories by setting a strategic narrative, defining key messages, creating content and controlling channels to distribute this content.
It’s centralised, clean and helps us sleep at night.
But this is a bedtime story, a fiction we tell ourselves to feel in control.
All your employees (and the vast majority of the public) are carrying the means to broadcast a story about you in their pocket. With the push of a button the average employee can reach 500 LinkedIn connections, 200 Twitter followers or 330 Facebook friends.
Don’t panic! Here comes the good news – empowering employees to become stronger storytellers can turn them into one of your most powerful communications channels.
Content posted by employees:
- Has 5 times the potential collective reach of official social media channels (Nielsen)
- Is re-shared 24 times more than content posted through official social media channels (MSLGroup)
- Is more trusted, with 84% of people valuing information from people they know above all other forms of communication (Nielsen)
So how can you maximise the power of employee storytellers?
To help organisations with this we ask three key questions:
- How strong is your story? Is your strategic narrative one that your people can understand, remember and share?
- How strong is your storytelling? Is the content you create compelling? Does it tell stories employees (or the public) feel included in and want to share?
- How strong are your storytellers? Can you teach employees how to tell their own authentic version of your story? To create social posts and content that supports, rather than contradicts, the strategic narrative of the organisation?
In the age of social media, why am I talking about stories?
Stories are key to how we make decisions.
While we like to think that we are logical beings who make good decisions based on the available evidence, we can all remember occasions where people didn’t act as we expected.
That’s because we’re all sometimes emotional and irrational.
“The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.”
When we hear something new we don’t just judge it logically. We also make decisions based on potential threats and gut feelings.
Stories appeal to us on all these levels – good stories have logic, jeopardy and a pattern we instinctively like.
The pattern behind stronger stories.
In order to survive by being passed on, the strongest stories have evolved a pattern that our brains are hardwired to like.
This pattern was discovered by mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell. He studied of over 40,000 of our most successful stories, from aboriginal legends and religious texts to Victorian penny dreadfuls and popular films, revealing a single most successful pattern – a story structure which he called the Mono-Myth or Hero’s Journey.
At the Granicus Digital Engagement Summit on 20th September, using blockbuster movies like Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games as easy-to-follow references, I’m going to explain the 9 steps in the Hero’s Journey that are key to bringing audiences on a journey of change.
When used effectively these elements can help organisations:
- Build a stronger story to communicate your strategic narrative – so that employees can understand, remember and share it.
- Create compelling content – that employees (and members of the public) feel included in and will want to share.
- Ensure ‘authentic consistency’ when empowering employee storytellers – by teaching them to tell their own version of your story, that’s consistent with your strategic narrative.
Having stronger storytellers within your organisation helps you reach more people, create more engagement and build more trust. It can also increase productivity and performance, boost customer satisfaction, encourage innovation and improve wellbeing amongst your people.
Get inspired by the power of stories!