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📖 Take a Storytelling Approach to Internal Communications
Book Report: Do/Story/ How to tell your story so the world listens by Bobette Buster
What do apricot groves in California, a well in Uganda and a bicycle flying over the moon share in common?
These are scenes from powerful stories shared in Do/Story: How to tell your story so the world listens by Bobette Buster.
"Stories possess a spark, a power: to comfort, connect, destroy, transform--and even to heal...The very act of telling your story possesses power. It is through the act of telling and hearing stories that we become inspired."
With a research grant from the Library of Congress, Buster began her pursuit of storytelling at a young age.
"In my quest to capture these soon-to-be-lost memories, I awakened to something quite new. I found myself on a kind of fantastic journey in time-travel, carried by the lyricisms, witticisms, and cadences of expert storytellers, all honed in the remote Appalachian hillsides, like diamonds found in coal."
From this humble beginning, her career has spanned consulting for major film studios to teaching as a Professor. Drawing upon her experiences, the author outlines 10 principles of storytelling.
I highlight three recommendations that feel particularly relevant to Internal Communications. If you’re coaching a presentation for an All Hands, drafting a script for an executive’s speech or writing an employee feature in a newsletter, these recommendations will enhance your stories to inspire, connect and inform colleagues.
🖼️ #1 Showcase the Gleaming Detail
This makes the story stand out from others — it “captures both the emotion and the idea.”The moment should feel natural — “Quite often the more ordinary the detail, the greater or more ‘extraordinary’ the truth that is revealed.”
To experience an example of this storytelling principle, we travel into the film archives as the author analyzes the 1980s movie, E.T., produced by Steven Spielberg.
“The boy’s bicycle is a perfect use of an ordinary object that becomes extraordinary. This singular act of the bikes crossing the moon represents the full emotional arc of Elliott’s transformation into a self-reliant young man.”
By focusing on one moment, the storyteller can make it more memorable for the audience. It’s an experience they are most likely to remember.
How will you find your gleaming detail to showcase?
🍓#2 Evoke the Senses
Incorporating vivid descriptions into a story helps the listener feel a part of it.
“So often, evoking a sense memory can create a strong and lasting bond with the listener...The next story draws on one sense in particular: taste. By evoking it and using it in her narrative, one woman was able to change the way that millions of us bought and consumed food.”
That woman was Alice Waters — one of America’s best-known chefs and the pioneer of the farm-to-table movement. She tapped into taste to make her case for local, healthier and fresher fruits and vegetables rather than processed convenience foods.
“In pursuit of ripe organic strawberries, Alice flew from San Francisco to San Diego — a 500 mile-journey. On the return flight, a New York food magazine editor, who was traveling with her, watched, mouth agape, as Alice carried a large basket of strawberries’ onto the plane and held it on her lap.
The smell overwhelmed everyone on the flight. Hands reached into the basket with requests to taste ‘just one’. Alice obliged, even though she knew that it would probably mean arriving home with an empty basket. She looked at the food editor, eyes aglow, saying ‘ think we’re onto something here.’”
After experiencing this moment, the reader understands the importance of Alice Waters’ mission to transform the food industry and feels inspired to support her. The senses have helped reinforce the power of this moment.
What sense will you tap into as internal communications?
💎 #3 Make it Personal
When stories are shared from a personal perspective, the listener can relate to them and the storyteller. The author shares the way that Steve Jobs incorporated this technique into his storytelling style.
“Every time Steve [Jobs] had to sell an idea or product, he anchored this abstract idea to a personal moment, event, or experience of his own—making himself vulnerable in the process.”
She shares the powerful last speech Jobs delivered to the Cupertino City Council to appeal for Apple’s headquarters to be built — his connection to the land as a child, his love for the apricot groves of the past and his commitment to air quality because of his parents’ battle with lung cancer.
“In every question posed to him, Steve made it personal: his childhood heroes, his love of the region, his passion for green spaces, his remembrance of his parents.”
Taking this personal approach can help people tell stories in meaningful ways by bringing the audience along for the experience.
How can you incorporate the personal into internal communications?
Remember Why We Need Stories
The book ends with a reminder of the importance of storytelling and exercises to help craft them.
“Stories are, at heart, like the baton handed over in a relay team, only they are passed from one generation…They illustrate how to run the race. And win…Stories embolden, strengthen, and establish how we can become our very best.”
To discover the additional seven principles for storytelling, this book is a must-read. It helps approach internal communications in meaningful ways and think differently about our work to find the story in any moment.
What storytelling recommendations resonate with you? Comment below.