One of the most fascinating podcasts I listen to is NPR’s How I Built This. The people behind some of the world’s best known brands give an insider’s view of the process of moving from idea to ignition.
In every case, there is not a clear path to success. John Mackey from Whole Foods endured a devastating loss when a flood demolished his store (he had no insurance). Blake Mycoskie, one of the pioneers of social entrepreneurship, received more orders for TOMS shoes than he had inventory. He hired a team of interns to personally contact every customer to let them know there would be an 8-week delay. They only lost one sale.
If you’re not telling your company’s origin story, you’re missing and opportunity to inform, inspire and involve customers and employees.
Stories create memorable bonds. It doesn’t need to be a rags-to-riches chronicle to captivate. Sometimes a failure story teaches a greater lesson. A well-crafted origin story becomes a shared experience, a powerful way to connect your most important stakeholders to your brand. For employees, origin stories help to build appreciation for the past while ensuring their contributions are part of the ongoing narrative.
Here’s how to get started:
Connect visually. Your origin story is your business family tree. Share photos, documents, company meeting videos and artifacts.
Align with the business core values. Show how the values that grew the business are still relevant today. While businesses always evolve, the things that were important then are still important now.
Keep it interesting. Every great business story starts with an inspiring journey and experiences challenges along the way. Don’t just provide a timeline of dates.
Solicit stories. Ask your employees to share stories from their first days with the business. Who inspired them? What was the weirdest tradition?
Tell the truth. Be authentic and don’t embellish the facts. That’s a fast lane to losing credibility. If the founder was a grumpy old so-and-so, say that. It adds more personality to the story.
Successful leaders know that effective communications are a competitive advantage. As you begin 2017, make a resolution to evaluate the health of your employee communications. Are business goals and actions aligned? Do employees understand priorities and do they have a way to participate and share ideas?
Everyone talks about the importance of communications, but it’s just lip service without an actionable plan. Here are four ways to commit to better communications in 2017.
1) Map out your communications calendar right now—Begin with a “Welcome to 2017” message. Schedule dates for the entire year now to ensure it remains a priority. Keep the content fresh with a mix of performance results, customer and employee stories, and encouragement. We all need more of that.
2) Articulate the vision— If a customer asks an employee what your business was about, what would they say? Everyone on your team should use the same headline. When people can connect their work to big goals, they are more engaged. Leaders who communicate the vision and values, then put those values into action, see performance climb.
3) Use stories to make an impact—Think back to the most recent story that struck a chord with you. Was it complicated or overstuffed with facts? Simple stories make an emotional connection with the audience and hold their attention. Use your own experiences to make a point. I recently heard the president of a large hospitality group say that he makes time for fitness daily because “We only get one set of parts and I want mine to last.” That’s memorable and tells me something interesting about him. Leaders who share a little of themselves in communications are viewed as credible and human.
4) Get visual—Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. If you rely on email as your primary form of communication, know that there is a better way. In 2016, there were 4.6 billion cell phone users in the world and most phones have video or photo capability. Your team members are viewing or creating visual media every day. Use photos and video as frequently as you use memos. Video is an excellent way to improve message retention, connect with remote workers, and engage senior leadership with teams. The best part is you don’t have to have a large budget or be an on-camera pro. If you’re sincere, it will be memorable.
That will get you started. Need some help in communications planning for 2017? Get in touch.
This time of year, a kind of holiday haze sets in. The breakroom counters are bursting with tins of holiday cookies and flavored popcorn. Employees are focusing on completing 2016 assignments (and scheduling holiday getaways).
December marks the fiscal year-end for many businesses. Help your employees successfully navigate through the many December deadlines with proactive communications that show you care about more than the bottom line. Here are five tried-and-true ways to do it.
1. Clarify year-end deadlines. Start your team meetings with a reminder or checklist of deadlines for invoice processing, Flexible Spending Accounts, finalize expense reports, and other year-end deliverables. This messaging should begin December 1 and continue through the month.
2. Communicate vacation benefits. Paid time off is treasured by employees. If your business has a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, remind team members so they can schedule time off before year-end. If your company allows vacation accrual, communicate the accrual limit. Ensure there are no surprises in January.
3. Come together through service. Studies show that volunteerism increases pride, commitment and employee engagement. Contact a local charity, food bank or civic association for ideas on how your team can get involved during the holidays.
4. Celebrate 2016 achievements. Create a top ten list of your team’s “Greatest Hits of 2016” or ask team members to talk about one thing that helped them be successful this year. Connect the dots to show how every role contributes to delivering performance and your company’s vision.
5. Say thank you. To make a connection that lasts, send a personal note of thanks. Low cost, big impact. Be sincere and make it personal by including a strength or a behavior the individual brings to the team.
Before you craft your next message, take a look at these and enjoy.
“When you are telling stories, have a point. It makes it much more interesting for the listener.” Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987
“Don’t use seven words when four will do.” Oceans Eleven, 2001
“Learning to listen, that takes a lot of discipline.” Forever Strong, 2008
“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.” Wizard of Oz, 1939
“Avoid using the word very because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he’s exhausted. He’s not very sad, he’s morose. Language was invented for one reason, to woo women. And in that endeavor, laziness will never do.” Dead Poet’s Society, 1997
“The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.” The Social Network, 2010
“Whoever tells the best story, wins.” Amistad, 1997
“You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think.” Finding Forester, 2000
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962
Everybody has to sell a little. You’re selling them this idea of you, you know, you’re sort of saying trust me, I’m, um, credible.” Broadcast News, 1987
An incident this week strengthened my opinion that social media has a purpose beyond Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie or Taylor Swift’s love life. Used effectively, social media should become a plank in every internal communications strategy.
On October 5, the management of Here to Serve Restaurants in Atlanta announced that their ten restaurants would close immediately, putting 1,000 people out of work while the company explores reorganization. No notice, no severance, no return date.
By the next morning, the word spread through the Atlanta restaurant community. Social media became a life raft for impacted employees to connect with restaurants that were hiring. Open positions for back of house and front of house roles appeared on Twitter, trending under #H2H2WORK. Here’s just a sample:
“Lots of ATL resto folks are out of jobs today due to the H2S closings. Resto group—post your opps and I’ll retweet. #H2S2WORK” @ATL_Events
“H2H2WORK come get some fried chicken @WhiteOakAtlanta. We got enough for at least 15 of y’all.” @ChefTRichards
“As much as it hurts to see @H2SRestaurants going away, it’s awesome to see the #ATL food community coming together #H2H2WORK” @Christopherbw
The Giving Kitchen, a restaurant community non-profit, established a fund for Here to Serve employees and there were online job fairs on Facebook.
Think about this: These efforts mobilized within 24 hours of the announcement. Atlanta restaurants belong to a geographically dispersed community with none of the traditional internal communications vehicles (emails, town halls, presentation decks). Yet the response was fast and effective.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is your social media plan established and robust? Would your employees go to your social platforms for information or in a crisis? Have you marketed your social media channels to internal audiences?
2. If you have an existing Crisis Communications plan, when was the last time you tested or updated it?
3. Does everyone with accountability in the plan understand their role? If there are new hires in key roles, do they know their responsibilities in a crisis?
You can bet that nearly 100% of your employees have access to their phones. Build internal traffic to your social media sites and then use social in your internal communication strategy.