tips

Story spotting: listening for stories in your organisation

Everyone is a storyteller. Because we are human. We tell our friends and families what happened at work. We tell our colleagues what happened on the way to work. We tell stories.

And we make sense through stories. We are hardwired for it.

But not everyone is a natural Storyteller.

Here are three resources that start to help identify and shape the stories you encounter in organisations.

Once. Then. Then. The story spine.

A couple of years ago, Pixar’s 22 rules for storytelling

The story spine, Kenn Adams’ definition has been used by Pixar and Disney.

 

The Moth’s 8 Tips

The Moth is a not-for-profit foundation committed to the development of art and craft of storytelling. Amongst their many resources for improving oral storytelling, including videos and podcasts, they have a simple list of 8 tips.  These include:

  • No essays
  • Start in the action
  • Have some stakes

Stakes are essential in live storytelling.  What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story. A story without stakes is an essay and is best experienced on the page, not the stage.

Anecdote’s Spotting Oral Stories Infographic

The clever folk at Anecdote have created a useful guide to recognising stories within an organisation.

The following graphic has been created by http://www.anecdote.com

Spotting Oral Stories

 

Making CSR Communication Pop

Cutting through the noise and getting people to engage in your CSR program can be a challenge. Here’s six tips in two minutes for making your message have greater impact.

These tips and more form part of the next Shorter COMMS Plan workshop being held on 22 June. If you work in community engagement, at an NGO or charity, or simply want to improve your communication results, the workshop will provide you practical tools and tips.

 

Everything Changes: The new role of communicators in navigating complexity

The Government Communications Conference #GCASYD2015 has been an inspiring collection of great practice.

My messages for communicators is simple.

  • Change isn’t as hard as we make out, except when we stuff it up within organisations.
  • As communicators, we have a responsibility to help our audiences, customers and partners to sense-make.
  • It’s about context.
  • Comms people need a broader toolkit and skills base to help sensemake in complexity.

Time for comms to be flexible, agile and adaptable.

The shorter COMMS plan is one tool for managing the complexity of change.

References and additional information

Why the 70% of change fails stat is BS

Jennifer Frahm, Conversations of Change

http://conversationsofchange.com.au/2013/09/02/70-of-change-projects-fail-bollocks1/

How to apply PEST for strategic planning

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_09.htm

The digital divide – Australian’s not connected to internet and digital services

https://theconversation.com/au/topics/digital-divide

Hacktivism as a force for good – Gov Hack 2015

http://www.govhack.org

TEDxParramatta

http://tedxparramatta.com

Hyundai’s message to space

www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EOAXrTrsOE

The rise of mainstream media directly linking to User Generated Content

http://eyewitnessmediahub.com/research/user-generated-content

What is Bitcoin?

https://bitcoin.org/en/faq

Automated email personalisation

http://www.wired.com/2015/04/write-perfect-email-anyone-creepy-site/

Gartner Hype Cycle Research

http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/hype-cycles/

Gaping Void

http://gapingvoid.com/blog/

Edelman Trust Baromoter

http://www.edelman.com.au/trust/

Austin Kleon, Steal Like and Artist

http://austinkleon.com/steal/

Everything is a remix, by Kirby Ferguson

http://everythingisaremix.info

Making your message work for everyone

There is a well known Indian folk story that describes how a group of blind men who encounter an elephant all have very different descriptions based on their individual experience of the parts, rather than the whole. When we communicate, it is important to break down ‘the elephant’ into the parts that make the most sense to the most people.

The 4C Communication test ensures that your messages are clear enough to describe the whole to four very different people.

4C Communication Test

  • A colleague: This tests clarity and depth of understanding. It is the ‘fact check’ version of a message. A colleague will be able to understand the concepts and the detail of the message. Framing your message for a colleague tests for credibility.
  • A child: This forces us to use the most essential elements to create a simple message. Simultaneously conceptual and concrete, the ‘for a child’ test is a challenge of eliminating all but the core. Framing your message for a child tests simplicity.
  • A customer: This message test asks us to focus on the ‘so what’ of a message and to consider the relevance to the ‘other’. How does this help me? Why should I care? Framing your message for a customer tests relevance.
  • A cab driver: Be prepared to explain yourself and to hear a counter-perspective*. Does your message stand up to the scrutiny of a stranger? Framing your message for a cab driver tests for opposition.

There are other variations of this. Consider the personas that would be useful tests in your environment.

*In no way am I suggesting that cab drivers are essentially argumentative. However, my unscientific sampling spread over many years would indicate that many are conversationalists who have a sense of public opinion, often based on talk radio. 

Communicate with…

COmm

How Not to Be ‘Manterrupted’ In Meetings

I once worked in an ASX 25 company where despite there being more women than men in the workforce, only one person in the ‘top 200’ senior manager group was female. Such a chronic lack of diversity changes the quality of communication, collaboration and leadership within a corporate culture.

Similarly, within the communication professions there are a higher number of women in internal and organisational communication roles (although senior roles as disproportionately held by males, as is the focus of research by IABC and Global Alliance). Too often, the biggest issue named by communicators is ‘getting heard’ by management.

At the risk of mansplaining – here are some ways communicators can ensure their voice is heard.

TIME

Manterrupting: Unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man.

Bropropriating: Taking a woman’s idea and taking credit for it

We all remember that moment back in 2009, when Kanye West lunged onto the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards, grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift, and launched into a monologue. “I’m gonna let you finish,” he said as he interrupted Swift as she was accepting the award for best female video. “But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!”

It was perhaps the most public example of the “manterruption” – that is, a man interrupting a woman while she’s trying to speak (in this case, on stage, by herself, as an award honoree) and taking over the floor. At the VMAs it might have counted as entertainment, but ask any woman in the working world and we all recognize the phenomenon. We…

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Change is never a straight line.

Change is never a straight line

Change is never a straight line

This is a helpful mindset whatever the project you may be working on.

Help employees tell their stories with simple tools

The Universe is made of stories, not of

Crowdsourcing is a growing feature of organisational communication; but it is not entirely new. In near-bygone times of the employee newsletter, stories sourced from the frontline were a staple form of content. People like to hear what people like them have done. In particular, people like to hear how people like them have solved a problem, achieved a goal or overcome a challenge. These stories are the lifeblood of organisational life.

As digital communication expands the ability to capture and share stories, it is important to give employees tools and resources to help make their sharing effective. In particular, understanding the basic nuts and bolts of what makes a story a story is a useful reminder.

The four Ps – people, place, plot and purpose

This short video from the clever folk at StillMotion provides a beautifully simple model for helping people shape their information in a way that tells a story.

 

Once…then…then…

There are many tools that help people listen for, capture and shape stories. Various sentence structures provide ways of outlining the context, the characters and the challenge. Perhaps the simplest of these is the Pixar model (adapted from a range of sources)

Once there was a ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

There is always more than one perspective

Organisations are microcosms of the rest of the world. In the world there are millions of stories that overlap, different experiences of the same event. Any story-work within organisations or communities needs to recognise this diversity of experience.  This TED talk from novelist Chimamanda Adichie is a compelling example of how multiple stories shape our existence.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word,that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.
– Chimamanda Adichie

The idea of managing multiple stories in the organisation is at the heart of my work on ‘strategic story worlds

Keep it human

There is an abundance of material on storytelling available on the web. It is important to come back to the basics before embarking on any formal storytelling activities.

We are human, we are already hardwired to use story as our means of making sense of the world. By being conscious of this as a start point, it is possible to ensure ‘storytelling’ in organisations is not a trend or just a process to be followed to get people ‘on the same page’ but is instead a fundamental part of the sense-making capability of an organisation and its people.

Essential persuasion tools for internal communication

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 2.0

I’m a little bit Pavlovian when it comes to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Every time I see it, I have an urgent need to share it with communicators. This is driven in part by the blank looks from managers, or worse still, communicators I have occasionally encountered when talking to them about engagement. Yet this is one of the fundamental ‘ways of knowing’ that informs our communication practice.

That’s why this post from the the clever content marketers, curators and link-baitering masters at Buffer caught my eye. They have curated 10 very useful theories of persuasion, including Maslow’s Hierarchy and the Reciprocity Norm. These are all useful for communicators.

I’d be interested to hear about what models you find most useful. Add your suggestions in the comments.

Social Media Influence: 10 Theories to Know For Greater Persuasion.

The 3am presentation test

I recently overheard this advice on presentations. I can’t credit the source but I love the sentiment.
“You need to be so familiar with your topic that if someone wakes you up at three in the morning and shines a light in your eyes you can still talk about it”