Story Hour in the Board Room

Growing up in New England, the local library was a focal point of my town. My favorite part of early elementary school was the afternoon story hours held there. Fast forward 30 odd years and stories still play a big role in my life. A favorite aspect of my job is helping professional services and B2B companies tell their stories to journalists, clients, prospects, and the marketplace at large, not to mention their own employees and board directors.  Of the 8200 business books published in 2009, the majority of the memorable ones have one thing in common; they use fables to illustrate their points and allegories to reveal their lessons.

Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter in an interview with Consulting Magazine reminds us that “researchers and experts believe the brain is hardwired to accept stories because that is how it developed over time…stories have emotional glue on them, they flow into the brain without getting rejected and stick easily, and thus anything connected to them sticks as well.”

Companies often underestimate the power of weaving a story into their messaging. Some companies shy away from it because they think it dilutes their branding or takes attention away from their numbers. But people crave context. Executives often don’t realize how interesting what they do every day is,  how attractive they can make corporate information be, or how much the market might care if it was packaged better. A place to start: within the company itself. Practice introducing your facts and figures with a story – see what resonates and hones the messages for the marketplace.

To help you get started, my colleague Elizabeth Sosnow wrote a blog post that offers companies an actual worksheet for finding and narrating stories in their intellectual capital. Jeff Ogden, in a recent guest post gave tips on what does and does not make a good story for print and the press; some of the same tips can be applied when thinking about internal communications.

When executives communicate to an internal team, entire employee base or board of directors they should try telling a story. Humanize the company, the business news or numbers being delivered.  Empower people to remember the company’s chronicles and messages, let them understand the emotional current underlying the news being delivered and measure the response.

What stories do you have to share? What have you found works for internal and external storytelling?

To reach Cortney:

Phone: 212.840.1661
Twitter: @cortneyr
LinkedIn: Cortney Rhoads Stapleton