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Category: Consulting

The Power of Storytelling in Internal Communications

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve got an important message or a new program to share at an employee meeting. You know it will be revolutionary, empowering team members to grow and drive performance. Yet the magic is somehow lost in translation. You look out over a sea of disinterested—or worse—bored faces.

Image of cowboys telling story around a fire

Now imagine what happens when you begin this way:

“Once upon a time…”

Did their ears perk up? Did they maybe even lean in? Just a little?

There’s a reason for that.

From the beginning of human time, stories have been the most effective way to pass on traditions, history, values and culture. To influence, persuade, rally, and pretty much get people to listen to and retain your message. And it’s about more than just being entertained.

Neuroscientists have discovered that there are chemical changes that occur in the human brain when we experience a good story. Oxytocin, that feel-good chemical that subtly and powerfully influences people to not only pay attention but to WANT to cooperate is released when we are emotionally engaged by the power of stories.

You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg to tell a good story.

Stories have these elements in common:

  • A character we care about or relate to who wants something dear to him
  • Something or someone who gets in the way of what he wants
  • A breathless moment during which we’re very afraid our hero won’t get what he wants, and then, “Ah…” A turning point
  • Our hero either gets what he wants or doesn’t. But either way, he is changed forever and life settles into a new normal.

How can you achieve your business objectives with stories that engage, persuade, and move people to action? For starters, learn to see your communications in terms of:

  • Characters (team members, leaders, and customers)
  • Desires (objectives you & your audiences want to achieve such as a better working environment, a more engaged workforce, a more effective performance management plan)
  • Obstacles to achieving those desires (not enough money, inadequate systems and processes, the wiles of human nature)

Now go tell the story of how your hero climbed that mountain and planted his flag and be specific about how he did it. Your audience will want to climb that mountain with you.

Need help telling your stories? You’re in luck because that’s what we do here at Insight Strategic Communications. We help businesses tell their stories and get what they want, whether that’s buy-in for a new training platform or accelerating performance or engaging employees. Contact us today and let’s talk about how we can help with storytelling in internal communications (answers@insight-communication.com).

Elevate Your Message Above the Noise

When you log in to Facebook and look at your news feed, what do you see? I’ll wait while you go do that, just remember to come back…

Oh hello, nice to see you again! Did you get distracted by an article someone shared titled “21 Signs You Know You’re From [insert city/state]?” A crazy basketball trick shot video? One of your friends going on a political rant? Maybe it was a “What Animal Are You?” quiz.  (For the record, I’m told I’m a hedgehog. So I got that going for me, which is nice.)

My point is, Facebook has turned into a mess of noise. I had an account since the site’s early, college-only days. Where Facebook was once a coffee shop, it’s now an 8th grade cafeteria. You have to scream and/or throw food to get noticed. Everything else gets drowned out in the noise. Maureen’s last blog about the effectiveness of the Ice Bucket Challenge is a perfect example of the fight to get noticed on Facebook.

Animated gif of Star Trek officer looking at a monitor
Ever feel like this after accidentally spending an hour on Facebook?

 

When you have something to say or a message you really want to get across, it’s tough to cut through the noise. And it’s not just on Facebook, it fills our lives. Junk mail catalogs, spam email, and telemarketers all add to the mess.That is why I deactivated my account. I just couldn’t stand the amount of garbage flooding my news feed (no offense, friends) and realized I wasn’t even being entertained or informed. Facebook wasn’t serving any kind of purpose for me, so it was time to cut it loose.

Early this year, our company was tasked by a client to cut through the noise in an effort to enroll as many participants as possible in its smoking-cessation program. It was a job that required careful planning to elevate our message above said noise while keeping costs minimal. And so far it’s been a success; enrollees in the program as of this summer were up 300% year to date. When planning your own messaging and you want to get your message across, here are three things to keep in mind.

Timing: Choosing the best time to distribute communications is vitally important. It’s also not a one-size-fits-all variable, and can be dependent on the subject matter.

Delivery Method: How you distribute materials is key in determining whether your communications are even noticed at all. Sending an email during peak work hours could mean it gets put on the backburner and doesn’t get noticed. Messages don’t make an impact when they aren’t read.

Points of Contact: How are you touching base with your audience? It’s helpful to try to reach out through various channels to ensure you’re heard loud and clear.

 

How do you try to make your communications stand out? Let me know at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

Qualities to Look for in a Communications Consultant

Recently a friend of mine decided it was time to get a new job.  He wasn’t feeling fulfilled at his current job and wanted a position that he felt better matched his skill set.  He decided he wanted to get into a new field of work but wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do.  After an extensive job hunt he decided to take a position at a restaurant staffing company.  He enjoys working with others and has worked in the restaurant industry previously so this new position was a great fit for him.Illustration of the skills involved with consulting

This got me thinking.  What skills would a recruiter look for if they were trying to place someone in a communications consulting position?

The first skill that comes to mind is the ability to work well with others.  Collaboration is key when working on communications for your clients.  You must be able to listen to, speak to, and get along with all kinds of people with differing ideas and opinions.  It seems almost redundant to say but your communication skills must be very strong.

You must have strong leadership skills.  When a company hires a consultant they expect you to come in and fix a part of their business that may not be reaching its potential.  You need to be able to take charge of the situation and provide them with a fountain of creative solutions for them to choose from.

You must be a problem solver.  One thing that I learned early on working in communications consulting was that things rarely ever go as planned.  Thing will change at the drop of a hat and usually right before your deadline.  You need be able to think on your feet, be flexible and generate solutions to problems that arise.

These are just a few skills that I have found useful in my time working in communications consulting.  When you are considering hiring an agency or communications consultant, keep these characteristics in mind. What are some skills that you would look for in a communications consultant? Please share them with me at ben.clayton@insight-communication.com