Nov 11, 2011
What’s a corporate story? Why is it important? And what makes a good one? Ideally, a good story brings the reader into one’s corporate world and leaves a lasting and memorable impression. In this blog post, we explore the benefits of telling your corporate story and provide suggestions on how to write one and what to say. Remember, everybody has an interesting story to tell – so share it!
Lesson 1 – What is corporate storytelling?
Corporate storytelling is a powerful way to put a face to your company and show what’s going on inside. Companies can use corporate storytelling to convey a picture of the company that is as close to the truth as possible. A good story mirrors the company culture and gives the reader a sense of what it’s like to work there. Your core values can be shown in a memorable format that inspires and attracts the reader.
A badly written story is usually flat, lacking colour and flavour, boringly informative like some brochures or company websites. A corporate story is gained by being personal and playful and, more importantly, by being honest. If you embellish or lie, the reader will see right through it. Nevertheless, remember to keep a positive tone throughout the text. If your company is bad at communicating internally, rather write “we need to work on our internal communication…” than “we are bad at…”
A company never has only one corporate story. There are as many corporate stories as there are employees, since every employee contributes to creating your company’s unique culture. Some employees such as the CEO or HR Director off course have a bigger impact and are more influential on the company’s culture, but young employees also have a message or story to tell.
A tip is to vary the stories by focusing on different subjects. For example, are you an insurance company that has a solid environment plan? And does everyone known about it? There is a high chance that most, or some, employees will be unaware of one of your company’s strengths or may have forgotten about it. It’s therefore a good idea to inform and remind your employees of what makes your company special, and the best way of doing this is by letting the key person behind the programme talk about it.
Lesson 2 – How do you use corporate storytelling?
The corporate story can be used for many purposes. Internally, it can strengthen the feeling of belonging. Externally, it can present a truthful picture of how it is to work for the company. Finally, it’s an effective approach to communicate and build your employer brand image. Do you have a staff bulletin or internal newsletter? Why not have “the story of the month” where employees from different parts of the organisation are given a chance to speak about their jobs. If you work at a big company, maybe someone who’s thinking about leaving discovers positions he/she was unaware of before reading the article; it’s a good way of showing that other opportunities exist.
The corporate story is a great tool when you have changes in your organisation. Everybody is interested in reading an accessible story, one they can relate to, about their colleague. A well written story can help the employees to look more positively upon adjustments such as relocation, new projects, corporate restructuring, etc.
Another way to use the corporate story is to have your employees write their own story on a topic such as a core value. Encourage your employees to write about something that happened at work that shows a core value, e.g. an incident when the people involved showed respect for each other (if that’s one of them). Let the best story teller be rewarded with movie tickets, etc. and publish it in the staff bulletin or internal newsletter.
The corporate story is an excellent tool in marketing both products or services and your employer brand.
Lesson 3 – Who wants to read a corporate story?
It’s everybody. If the story is good enough, it will inspire everyone from high school students to CEOs. But remember to adapt the story to your target group. If the target group is your colleagues, a lot of things can be left unexplained (for example what kind of work your company does). If you want to use the same article externally, you will have to clarify certain parts. But avoid trying to over explain things – to write, for example, that ”To use an insurance, you pay an amount each month to cover for costs if you get robbed or get in an accident” sounds silly and over explanatory.
A friend once said that “the more senior I get in my work life the better my writing has become, since I’ve expanded my vocabulary”. My friend, however, couldn’t be more wrong. The simpler you write, the bigger the chance that you get your message across. Because even if you’re capable of reading a complicated text, full of buzz words, that’s probably not the kind of article you prefer to read. Think of a corporate story as being an article you would enjoy reading while having your coffee in the morning.
Lesson 4 – How do you write a corporate story?
The goal is to give the reader a unique and true story about the company and how it is to work there.
Corporate storytelling doesn’t mean that you should spread superlatives all over and take all the negative aspects out. On the contrary, if you’re bold enough to show both the strengths and weaknesses of your company, you’ll be perceived as more credible. Try to get the interview person to give a nuanced picture of how it is to work for your organisation and simultaneously have a clear thought about how your article can leave the reader with a positive and lasting impression of you as an employer. Here are some things to think about:
• Try to point out what’s unique about your company.
• Be as concrete as possible.
• Be careful of using buzzwords and clichés – they quickly get worn out. Don’t brag about having a dynamic and innovative work place; instead describe something concrete to illustrate it.
• Don’t write exactly what the person says; write what he/she means.
• Question empty words. Interviewees often end-up tangling themselves up in incoherent reasoning that doesn’t make much sense. Encourage them to be as concrete and personal as possible. Don’t be afraid of interrupting, if you don’t understand what they’re trying to say.
• Adapt the text to the target group. The target group consists mostly of highly educated people with good jobs (or if students – aiming for good jobs).
• Use the active form! Instead of “In the 1980´s the software X was developed by Company Y”, write “The software X was developed by Company Y in the 1980´s.”