I love stories. As a little girl I would lose myself in books. One minute I’d be walking along the railway tracks in the early 20th century with Bobby, Peter and Phil, and the next I’d be sat in a bedroom in Connecticut, as part of the Babysitter’s Club. Or I’d be cycling up hills in Yorkshire rescuing animals and taking them to Animal Ark, followed by a trip to a chocolate factory with Charlie and his granddad.
And this love of stories didn’t fade as I got older. Not only did I start writing my own, but I also found myself working in an industry that is slowly waking up to the transformational power of storytelling.
Stories allow us to walk in the shoes of others, give a voice to those who aren’t being heard, learn about different places and cultures, aspire to greater things, and in many cases, hold up a mirror to the society we live in.
With storytelling comes great responsibility. They can shape what young people grow up to believe, they can stop atrocities from being repeated, they can bring immense joy and unite people from all walks of life. They can be an outlet for grief, despair and bring hope in the darkest of times.
But how does that translate into business? Everywhere you look brands are telling you a story that goes beyond selling you a product, it sells you a lifestyle, a dream, an aspiration. And now companies are telling stories internally that their employees can engage with and believe in. Whether that’s big ambitious goals that will change the world, or smaller human stories that demonstrate a company’s culture.
So, it’s never been more important for internal communicators to be able to identify and tell a good story, as well as be able to help businesses articulate their purpose (ultimately why they exist). And this isn’t easy. It requires asking the right questions, embracing and sharing failures that have been overcome, allowing voices other than the corporate one to be heard, and a sense of authenticity – that you really believe in the story you’re telling.
But these aren’t insurmountable challenges, and simply present opportunities for us to brush up on our skills and learn new things. In fact by helping your organisations becomes ones that tell stories, you might just end up writing one of your own.
On 22 February I’m running a Writing Skills Masterclass, which will cover content planning, the basics, writing technique, storytelling, editing and proofing – find out more, and book your place, on the All Things IC Masterclass website.