Strategic storytelling: 5 questions to ask yourself


The client was discussing a change in his company’s leadership, when he asked the question: “Is this a story worth telling?”

The answer was clear. In most instances, if organizations fail to tell their story, someone else will and the results can be less than pleasing.

But the client really was asking the wrong question.

Any organization facing a change of any sort, be it in leadership, organizational structure, an expansion or any other significant event, should ask itself, “What opportunity does this present to tell our story? To engage in strategic storytelling?”

The digital tools available to communicators today have enhanced our reach and allowed us to tell stories more effectively. Our options for storytelling are nearly endless. This blog is one example. Media relations and digital marketing are others. Google the phrase “strategic storytelling,” and 96,500 results pop up. Happy reading!

With so many options, it can be difficult to know whether your company is telling its story effectively. One thing you can know for certain — if your company isn’t proactively communicating about the aspects of your business that are most exciting, if you aren’t using technology to reach your target audiences and measure your engagement, you likely aren’t telling your story effectively. You are missing opportunities.

Jodi Rudoren, head of audience strategy at The New York Times, recently talked about how her newspaper is trying to communicate more effectively with audiences wherever they are.

“We look for new opportunities to reach people,” she said. “We also spend energy looking at search trends to make sure our report is answering the questions readers ask most…These are people searching for news. They’re our people. They just don’t know it yet.”

Imagine the power of your communications if they were geared to tell your stories and reach your customers and potential customers on any information platform they use! That would be strategic!

How to know if you are heading down the path of strategic storytelling? Here are five questions to ask yourself to help you make that determination.

  1. Have we determined how to measure the success of our communications?
    • In today’s world of digital communications, it is essential that you understand the measurable goals connected to your strategy.
  2. Does the communications strategy support in direct ways our organization’s short- and long-term goals?
    • For instance, it should be clear how your media relations efforts are helping tell your story in your community, helping with talent recruitment and retention efforts or supporting other priorities.
  3. Are we telling the right stories?
    • This is at once difficult and simple. Any organization has significant stories to tell. Identifying them can be fairly straightforward. The difficulty comes when separating the important stories from those that are only interesting, and then determining the best ways to tell those stories.
  4. Are we committing enough resources to tell our stories effectively?
    • This is a common question for marketing and communications departments with tight budgets. The answer differs for every organization, but one rule to consider is that the resources should be enough to support and coordinate consistent communications on more than one platform. Social media should complement media relations, which should support blogging.
  5. Have we implemented a process of ongoing improvement so we can more effectively communicate with our target audiences?
    • Dix & Eaton employs a process we simply describe as “See. Plan. Move.” It works like this. We work to see and measure the current process, identify opportunities and plan for their execution, and finally implement and move forward, while measuring success and improving the tactics.

Rudoren says the Times’ efforts are a “work in progress.” Most storytelling efforts are. That’s what makes them special – and if done strategically – highly impactful.

What’s your story? What’s your plan for storytelling? Contact me to learn more.






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