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Building an employee brand

I’ve written before about how the superhero story structure or Hero’s journey can act as a template for external communications teams to craft strong brand videos.  These stories can cut to the heart of your company’s values and communicate the big picture of your organisation to a large audience.

This story structure is also effective for internal communications professionals.  It can help you perform one of your key roles which is to capture the big picture – the vision, the values, the goals – and disseminate this throughout your organisation to create cohesion and a shared sense of purpose.  

Telling stories of ordinary people as heroes is an effective way to connect your workforce to the big picture and values of the company.

But effective communication is a two way street and a brand story is often communicated from the top down.  For the average employee it can feel cold and corporate. Distant from their everyday experience. Rather than engaging employees, it can be alienating.

Your job is to connect these two perspectives.  To drill down to the details, empathise with the individual and help each employee understand the way in which they are integral to making that big picture a reality.

A connected workforce that feels valued, self-fulfilled, and part of something worthwhile, is the driving force of workplace satisfaction.

The power of stories

Stories have created this sense of cohesion, community and purpose in human culture for millennia.  You only need to look at the popularity of Netflix and the phenomenon of binge watching box sets. Our brains are hardwired to love stories and the emotional connection we feel to characters strongly influences our behaviour.

Our love of a good story is hardwired. Now mobile communications makes it easier than ever to deliver powerful stories to your workforce.

That’s why storytelling should be part of your internal communications toolkit. It will help you build an engaged workforce and develop an employee brand.   

You’re no doubt already doing some of this:  sharing staff success stories on a company newsletter, posting pictures on the company app of an employee who made a difference,  rewarding employees at annual awards, inviting a successful team to a conference to share the innovative solution they devised.

You know the stories are there.  There are people from your workforce who daily live out the values you are trying to promote.  The question is how to tell those stories more powerfully and how to get more people to engage?

Video

Video is the most powerful medium for storytelling because it combines visual and audio.  Because we see and hear the ‘character’, we form a deeper connection and we trust the person more readily.

Video storytelling mirrors what we do in all social situations to build connections with strangers.  A Harvard study found that, when we watch a film or video with a strong story, our brains react in the same way as they do when meeting someone face to face.  It releases a hormone, oxytocin, sometimes called the happy hormone. This makes us more open to the message and more likely to change our behaviour to mimic that of the character on screen.

Video is the most powerful storytelling medium because it can combine visuals, speech, music, and text for a more complete experience. We trust what people say when we can see their body language and hear their tone.

A range of storytelling mediums

While video is the most powerful medium for sharing stories and influencing people, a strong strategy will incorporate a variety of story outputs. Blogs exploring one employee’s journey with the company; short photo stories on social media; a podcast interviewing staff about a specific project; or a ‘talking head’ video giving the audience a chance to see and hear their colleagues directly. All these are excellent ways to share authentic staff stories and build engagement.

Employee story examples

There are some strong examples of company’s building their employee brand through sharing real stories.  Marriott’s Instagram, marriottcareers, shares regular photo stories of their worldwide workforce. The Heart of the House Blog invites employees to submit their stories and photos which are then written up professionally.  The strongest stories are made into videos which are also shared through the blog and on social media.

Microsoft Life offers a similar range of outputs.  The Spotlight blog shares stories of projects and people that have made a significant impact, while Journeys is a blog and video series focussing on people’s individual career journeys. Their Instagram page allows them to share shorter photo stories for regular engagement.

Marriott’s Instagram site gives them a platform to share regular photo-stories showcasing the dedication of their staff. Some of these stories are then given a more detailed treatment through the blog or video.

Stories for employee engagement and branding

These career portals serve the company and employees in several ways.  Internally, celebrating employee achievements and stories undoubtedly improves employee engagement. These stories connect each employee to the bigger purpose and make them feel valued as individuals.  Building a strong employee brand online aids recruitment. After all, employees trust colleague feedback far more than they trust employer generated feedback. And finally, the authenticity of the stories you produce will build trust with key stakeholders externally.  

Learn the art of storytelling

These examples come from huge organisations with large budgets. But wherever you work and whatever resources you have, there is no reason you cannot be sharing employee stories that show off their dedication to the job, their loyalty to customers, or their innovation in a particular field.

To share stories that have an impact, it is really worthwhile for any communications professional to learn more about how to find, structure, and write strong employee stories.  We help businesses tell their stories every day. Whether that’s by producing videos, or running training in video production, writing, or podcasting, stories are our speciality.

If you want to find out more about how we can help, please give us a call on 0808 133 1353 or email us.

You can also follow our blog where I write regularly about employee storytelling and how to build regular video content into your internal communications strategy.