ideas

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.

Pixar President Ed Catmull on open communication

Communication needs to be between anybody at any time. Outside the structure, and outside the order.

Ed Catmull, President Pixar

In a short video interview, Ed Catmull talks about the challenges to open communication on Toy Story.

via Fastcompany

Ed Catmull, President Pixar

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. 

AWC announces Best Australian Blogs 2014 Winners

The Australian Writers’ Centre have announced the winners of the Best Australian Blogs for 2014 and features, and there are a couple of great ones for communication folk to check out.

The winning business blog, Socially Sorted has some great tips on social media marketing, with a healthy balance of resources, tips, tools. In terms of content marketing, it fulfils its own brief very well and has lots of shareable advice I will be striving to apply.

The best writing blog is TwentySix by writer and sometime social media blogger Andrew Hutchinson. He has some great perspectives on storytelling, and is very frank about the process of writing.

The overall winner, The Hungry Australian is a mouth watering food blog from South Australian, Christina Soong.

The full list is here at the Australian Writers’ Centre Best Australian Blogs: Winners 2014 – Australian Writers’ Centre. Congratulations!

Books every communicator should read

Some industries have a few key texts which were crucial to the development of the profession. Over at the IABC LinkedIn group discussion board, one of the hottest topics currently is a ‘required reading list’ for an Internal Communication Library. Kicked off by Betsy Pasley, ABC, there have been dozens of contributions and over 100 books suggested.

I won’t hijack Betsy’s list here. If you are a LinkedIn user and a member of IABC, I recommend checking out the full discussion.

With inclusion based on the number of post-it notes, dog-eared pages, highlighted passages, and sections I have recommended to others, I submitted a few of my favourites. Applying the “burning bookshelf” test (in which you can take five and only five) I include:

Anything from Roger D’Aprix
All of D’Aprix’s work is really helpful. His chapter fron the IABC Handbook ‘Throwing rocks at the corporate rhinoceros’ should be essential C-Suite pre-reading ahead of their next strategic retreat (or better still, gift them a copy of ‘The Credible Company’) , and Communicating for Change, connecting the workplace with the marketplace 1996, Jossey Bass is still the communication book that influenced my practice the most.

The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication, 2006, Jossey Bass
As a comprehensive survey of current issues in communication practice (without being faddish), essential.

Whatever you think, think the opposite by (the late) Paul Arden, Phaidon is wonderful fuel for looking at things from another perspective.

Communicating Change, Bill Quirke,  McGraw Hill
This is the source of some of the most sensible, practical and applicable communication advice that speaks to the business as much as to the communicator. Also interesting is the degree to which the central challenges of strategic communication laid out by Bill 15 years ago remain current topics of some debate in our industry today.

Well. That’s five. Did I not mention the rules? It’s only five per post. To be continued…