Is Adobe Voice really a storytelling app?

When the interwebs went a little crazy for the announcement of Adobe Voice, the new iPad-based ‘storytelling’ app, my first reaction was skepticism. After all, ‘story’ and ‘storytelling’ are terms that get bandied around a LOT. Rather than be critical initially, I deleted a snarky tweet, went to the app store and gave it a try.

Wow. Let me repeat that. Wow. I created my first Voice in about 15 minutes. I’m not saying it’s going to win a Golden Lion, but as an example of what this can do a tool for pulling together an idea rapidly, you’ll get the idea.

As an occasional gadget geek, I have like shiny objects. But immediately I can see this has some real potential for helping people structure messages, think through what they want to say and get ideas across in a simple way. There are a variety of basic story structures to select from; promote an idea, explain a concept, share a personal experience, and even the classic hero’s journey. There are a selection of visual themes, the ability to draw from a broad range of icons, or the options to draw in files from the cloud, from Facebook or take a fresh pic on the spot. It is a very intuitive interface.

I’m excited by the potential something like this has for capturing ideas and helping people share their stories within organisations. In fact, I predict a Prezi like rush on people putting this to use. I’ll keep experimenting and save a longer post when I get some feedback from other #comms and #internalcomms folk.

In the meantime, give it a try and let me know how you would use this in your communication toolkit.

Note: I have no affiliation with Adobe and this is review is an independent perspective. 

Three types of stories encourage workers to be safe

Workplace storytelling is a powerful and effective tool for improving safety culture, because it’s more likely than “information and instruction” to provoke emotion and encourage workers to act, says communication expert Jonathan Champ.

Founder of communication consultancy Meaning Business, Champ – who is presenting a webinar for OHS Alert subscribers next week – says stories are “great for explaining the ‘why’ of a situation” and painting a picture of incidents.

They also create an emotional connection between workers and an issue.

“Sharing lots of stories of ‘what happened when we did this’, or ‘this is the problem we were having and then this is how we solved it’, is a really strong way of reflecting that culture is changing or that culture is developing,” Champ says.

Three types of stories that help improve workplace safety are warnings, quests and tragedies, he says.

He recommends storytellers – that is, anyone responsible for sharing safety messages – consider children’s fairy tales, which are “often very cautionary in nature”, when sharing stories.

“There’s an inherent human love of a bit of danger or a bit of risk, and a desire to alert people and say ‘look out over there, behind you’,” he says.

“The cautionary tale… is a really powerful tool.

“People engage with the idea that there was a problem or something went wrong, or there was harm or some form of risk.

“Finding ways to be able to illustrate ‘this is what happened, this is what the risk was, and this is what we did as a result’, is a very natural frame for being able to bring that [story] to life.”

People also enjoy listening to “quests” (how someone got from point A to point B), Champ says.

These kinds of stories should be shared when, for example, a safety campaign is held in the workplace. They show what the safety culture is like at the beginning of the campaign and the process of improving that culture.

Stories of workplace safety tragedies, meanwhile, provoke emotion in workers, which has been shown to drive behaviour, Champ says.

Storytellers need to ensure that no matter what type of story is told, it is credible, and ideally based on truth, he says.

Information versus storytelling

The “big difference” between storytelling and information sharing is that workers are involved in the storytelling process; providing information is “instructional and dry”, Champ says.

Information that is sent out as an instruction, process or guideline, and says “this is what needs to happen”, doesn’t reflect how people interact in their day-to-day environment, he says.

Stories help workers see themselves in a situation.

“Stories are how we make sense of the world… We’re kind of hardwired to take things in a story format,” Champ says.

In OHS Alert’s free subscriber webinar on “effective safety communication” next Wednesday, Champ will explain how to:

  • create an appetite for essential safety information;
  • amplify the safety message across all channels;
  • structure communication campaigns for the long haul; and build a committed safety culture.

The webinar will include a 20-minute Q&A session – click here for more information or to register.

This blog first appeared on OHS Alert.

IABC World Presentation : Transmedia storytelling for internal communication

In the era of the remix and mashup culture, I am really excited to be presenting a session on two topics that need to meet: transmedia storytelling and organisational communication. The IABC World Conference in June has me presenting the following session:

The end of the story: Corporate narrative in a transmedia universe

 Traditional approaches to corporate narrative are being disrupted by the multiple forces of technology, social change, trust and a shift in the role of the corporation. In this environment the role of the communicator is shaping, telling and retelling the story of the company is shifting. Employees are co-creators, subject matter experts are curators and traditional business models become opportunities for collaboration. This session will explore:

  • The death of the corporate story
  • Sense making through social media
  • Co-creation as a model for true engagement
  • Empowering employees to own the narrative
  • How IC is the original transmedia communication strategy

As the conference approaches, I will add some pre reading here on the blog.

What do we mean by story?

As trends become fads and specialist practices become hot new things, definitions become increasingly important. I’ve written before on how the term ‘engagement’ has been stretched across the fields of human resources, marketing, digital, and employee communication to the point of near-meaninglessness.

‘Story’ is another of those terms. As I look at my various social feeds, RSS alerts, newsletters and journals, ‘story’ and ‘storytelling’ are everywhere.  But the idea of what a story is varies according to the context. This post, Story: A Definition, from the blog of Eager Eyes is a good example, describing the how data storytelling isn’t always telling the story of the data.

“The strength of visualization is not just to give you a story, but also give you a world. If you don’t agree with the story, or if you want to explore further, you can. Take the visualization and the data and explore for yourself.” Robert Kosara.

Not all stories are equal

[View the story “What’s the (corporate) story?” on Storify]

Forum highlights power of sharing stories authentically

I had a blast on Thursday chairing the Melcrum Strategic Communication Management Summit in Sydney.  

Across two days of presentations and activities, there were some common themes that stood out for me as representative of the things that are helping communicators navigate the ‘new landscape’ (post/mid GFC, social media, changing industries, post-spin). They are not new themes, but regardless of what changes occur in the corporate or public sector landscape, these themes hold true.

1. It’s about stories. For most communicators reading this, I am preaching to the choir. Stories are how we make sense of the world. We can transmit information in a lot of different ways, but the context, the character, and the connections are brought to life through story.

2. Authenticity is the secret ingredient. One compelling theme was the genuine change, engagement and commitment that comes with authentic communication. There were great examples: the CEO of an organisation in crisis, speaking openly to employees in very plain terms about not only what was happening, but how it was affecting the workforce, customers, and him (in that order); the power of simply saying ‘sorry’ (and meaning it); the companies tapping into those parts of their workforce who are already communicating openly and authentically in the social media sphere. There was great authenticity too from those communication professionals and allied disciplines including change and leadership who generously shared all aspects of their stories – the good, the bad and the ugly.  

3. Involve/Get involved. It’s not up to communicators to do it alone. We have to partner with the right collaborators – inside and outside organisations. Although Social networking and web 2.0 tools can help us connect, share information, get feedback, value and rate, it’s not about the technology. It is about the mindset to reach out and involve. The types of scarcity thinking that drives silo mentality in organisations will not support the new social economy. We need to enable and entrust people to participate in the organisational dialogue.

I can’t do justice to the stories that people shared in a few short blog paragraphs. But I can say ‘thank you’ to the communicators who demonstrated these ideas so evocatively.

And a big thanks to Melcrum for asking me to be a part.