Storytelling and corporate communication (Trigger 1)

Problem of the Trigger 1: 

How can a corporation inspire or share their message most effectively by storytelling?

Learning Objectives:

  • What are the elements of good corporate stories?
  • What are the most effective corporate communication channels?
  • What is the target audience of corporations?

After an inspiring advertisement from Google, we came up with the main reason and three learning objectives that I will try to cover in this post.

What are the elements of good corporate stories?

Storytelling is older than any marketing strategies and concepts. It was the first option of how people could pass along information, long before the written word even existed. We’re still learning better if someone’s telling us a story that has a meaning or emotion, because the use of narrative helps our brain focus. According to The New Science of Smart by Annie Murphy Paul the neurons that are activated when we are listening to the story are the same as the ones that would be activated if we were actually participating in that story in reality. If you think about TED talk, it always starts with the speaker telling some first-hand experience that shaped the information that follows in their talk.

According to different sources (Businessinsider.com 2016; Corporate-eye.com 2016; Inc.com 2014) the most important elements of a good story are the following:

Simple

Good stories shouldn’t be complicated. They should be told in the language that could be understood by the target audience, so they don’t need to spend time interpreting and then absorbing. The simpler the story, the easier to remember it.

Emotional

A good story requires an emotional part. Stories need to have humour, pain, joy, strong motivational or great inspiration. If a story is just some facts stated most of us wouldn’t listen or remember any of it.

Real

Good stories are first-hand experiences the teller actually witnessed. It is always good if a story relates directly to the teller, told in the teller’s own words and from the heart.

Identifiable Character

All great stories have a primary character who the audience can relate to and identify with. The audience follows the character, supports him/her etc.

Problem / Conflict

A great story has a core conflict that the main character must face and overcome. For a brand story, the core conflict can be a problem that your product or service can solve for consumers.

Passion

Stories written around issues the audience actually cares about will be received and understood better.

Meaning

What is the issue or challenge that your company has been built to address? Maybe it is a cultural issue, a major industry problem etc.

The revelation

Tell people something they don’t know. A good story engages the reader who is awaiting some sort of reveal. Share something unexpected with the reader.

The transformation

Think about the impact of your story. What is different as a result of the story you are telling?

Although there are different elements and suggestions on this matter, in my opinion, it all comes down to evoking emotions and touching target audience. I’ve been working in a magazine as a journalist and writing essays in school, so I would say that the most important thing in storytelling is the plot. People are different and unique, but biologically we react to some things in the same way. The most touching stories have something in common: children, old people, animals, stories of success, overcoming hurdles or just something that can actually motivate people not just to buy a product but to think about their lives and maybe change them in a way. That’s what we saw in Google story, Nike ads etc. So I would say that the most important element of a corporate storytelling is a good plot that would give a meaning to company’s brand and to what they are doing.

Some examples of stories that I would personally call powerful:

The new Nike Unlimited Future 2016 Rio Olympics film featuring some great athletes. It basically tells us that champions weren’t born champions. They were born babies.

Go Pro Fireman saves a kitten. GoPro decided to define themselves not only as a brand for adventurous and extreme people. This footage was taken and made as a story that would target much wider audience – outside extreme sports world. It is an inspiring video of everyday heroism, which would definitely touch many people.

Artifact Uprising “On legacy”. A story from a company that creates a custom made photo books and albums. And in their videos they are telling stories of people like this one. Grandfather leaves for his grandchildren pictures and memories that are more valuable than money.

Dove “Choose beautiful” that inspires women to think better of themselves and be more confident. They are also creating a story that aims not only boost their sales but also to make a difference.

What are the most effective corporate communication channels?

To make sure that the brand’s story is being received, company has to think how and where they actually tell their story. It’s nice to encourage audience to share their experience, to communicate with them and win their trust.

A recent ranking of powerful marketing campaigns from the WARC 100, named the best strategies and ads. And according to the analysis the average number of channels for campaigns was 7.4, meaning that the storytelling has to be multichannel in order to be effective. The emergence of new content delivery options does not diminish the importance of established ones. Twenty-nine percent of the WARC 100 campaigns led with earned media, while use of social media and online video were also prominent in the mix. When you consider these success factors and the ever-changing sphere of audience influencers, it makes a strong case for the enduring effectiveness of brand-building earned strategies used in tandem with digital ones (Prweek.com, 2016).

According to web channel manager for CEB, Iliyana Hadjistoyanova, and her article on how to choose the right communication channel, in order to promote a brand or a story, a company should think of the following 4 steps:

  • Use different channels in order to reach different audience. Even non-traditional channels would work depending on the target customers.
  • As some channels become more popular, concentrate on them. Do the research on current stakeholder behavior in new channels, such as social media — i.e., what channels they use and which are influential. Do not stick to one channel, use the ones that are becoming more popular between your audiences.
  • Experiment with new channels to determine their effectiveness before starting to use them frequently: Measure the use of these new channels as you experiment with them.
  • Evaluate your channel options and select the channel mix that is most appropriate for your objective and target audience of the message.

What is the target audience of corporations?

Founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, Chuck Cohn, wrote an article on Forbes.com and gave some examples on how to identify your target market. Knowing to whom to market a product can result in higher returns and give more meaning to company’s operations.

Here are some steps that can help with this according to Chuck:

  1. Determine what needs your product can fulfil.
  2. Use some criteria that will help you to narrow your audience (gender, age, income level etc).
  3. Use professional market researchers to gather data and learn more about your target audience.

In conclusion, the companies can inspire and share their message by storytelling effectively, if their story has a meaning to it, can inspire or motivate someone and make a difference. The story should be told via right corporate communication channels, that would be different for every company and for every target audience. To sum this topic, I would like to mention a quote by Henry Ford: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”. I guess it describes my personal opinion about storytelling.

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