Why Storytelling is Important in Internal Communications

Group of people sitting together at a table talking
Why should internal communications be boring? Tap into your inner storyteller to tell a good tale and engage your audience.

 

Our work lunch breaks are fairly standard, it’s the same six regulars, bringing the same type of food, five days a week. There’s nothing much in the way of newspapers or TVs to keep us entertained; it’s pretty much an hour of self-generated craic. Tales. Anecdotes. Yarns. It’s our chance to impress colleagues with a story or two.

And, oddly, it’s very much frowned upon to check your phone during the lunch session, like an unwritten rule, an unspoken code. No phones allowed during the lunch break. Rules are rules, but I understand why — it’s because we sit in front of screens all day. If anything, this is our downtime. To exercise a chronicle in front of your work chums is a much needed, well-liberated break from the laptop.

The story could be about anything really:

A thought-provoking account all about politics, world health, current affairs. Or an advert.

Or, something we’ve seen on Netflix lately.

Could be a tale from our last holiday.

Or a funny tale from the weekend.

Whatever it is, everyone will get their turn to entertain the gang. Most stories have humour, but that’s not essential.

What is important, is that when the floor is yours, the delivery must be on point – get the structure of your narrative wrong, and you risk losing your audience. Miss the detail out and its potentially game over.

It’s quite cut-throat thinking about it, but it’s honestly an excellent opportunity for you to ‘take the stage’ and share a story with your colleagues that grasp their attention, potentially gives them a giggle, and gives them a break from the norm for a bit.

Ok – the fear of failure probably is never that bad, it’s more about the buzz of getting it right. When you nail it and get the story spot on, there’s a smug like self-satisfactory reward for you at the end.

It’s not easy, and it does take some thinking of how to go about each story. It would be much simpler to show a video from your phone. But a video doesn’t engage like well-narrated tale. And, nothing beats a bloody good story.

This got me thinking. What makes a good story? I mean, not so much the content, but the format. Why is a tale well told so appreciated? And why is telling a well-structured story so crucial with our internal communications to our employees?

Well it’s simple – a compelling story holds interest, inspires emotion, and it builds feelings of connection between the narrator and the audience.

We’ve told tales since the dawn of mankind, sat around the campfire sharing anecdotes with our friends and family and in some weird way, publishing content on an internal communications platform has the same rules. Because a well-written article to our colleagues also entertains, informs and ideally results in a satisfying conclusion. Of course, they are much more likely to remember something that they’re connected and engaged with.

There’s quite a simple structure and theory when targeting our staff audience in news articles and blogs that will help achieve a much higher opportunity of engaging employees. Tips include:
  1. Know your audience
  2. Get some interest going. Have a hook
  3. Set the scene; add enough detail to make them care
  4. Have a narrative, know your points, be creative
  5. Don’t waffle. Be punchy and engaging
  6. Use emotion, share feelings and thoughts
  7. Use anecdotes to illustrate your point
  8. Keep it simple, use a bit of vivid detail when required but not lots of facts
  9. Add meaning to the ending
  10. Summarise the value

The way audiences consume information is consistently changing, and that same concept applies to employees. The constant feed from social media, emails, phone and video calls and chatter from other digital applications make it difficult to capture the attention of your staff.

Storytelling is a powerful tool used by everyone posting content. And, in any internal communications role, it’s your job to make sure stories won’t be lost in all the noise.

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