We all love telling stories. It’s how we pass on wisdom, wit and gossip, it’s how we build relationships, and it’s how we influence one another. It’s an intensely social activity.
Yet, in an online world dominated by social media, so many corporate websites are narrative-free zones. No stories, no storytellers, nothing. Just the usual information about products or services, and maybe a few press releases or a stuffy old annual report written by committee.
Why not inject a little life? Tone is everything when communicating, especially when you’re trying to reach outside your organisation to connect with the public.
Some simple changes can help turn your website (and, by extension, your organisation), into a more human, living hub.
Unmask the messengers
You may have a clear message but if the medium is wrong you might as well be screaming in a vacuum: you’ll waste lots of energy and nobody will hear a sound.
The solution is to unmask the messengers. You need photos of the people in your company who will be engaging with the outside world.
Next, you need to personalise the language you use. This is easy. It just means taking a more relaxed approach and allowing some stories to be told in the first person.
You can also begin sentences with a mix of “I”, “We”, “The company”, and “Acme Corporation*” to show the public that behind that dry corporate publication posted on the website is a team of people busily engaged with their work and their communities.
This means giving the story behind the story. If you go to an event, tell people what caught your eye, what it means for your work, and what the pastries were like at the coffee break.
The implied message is simple: the company is its people.
The story behind the story
Another example: Let’s say you work for a publicly-listed company publishing its financial results. The official details are released in the usual form at the usual time – it’s all very tightly regulated.
But having your financial controller tell the inside story on your website, while also dropping in a couple of take-home ideas from the financial report, is a great way to bring the news to the public.
This personal tone need not come at the expense of accuracy. You can still deliver even the most closely controlled information in a human and accessible way.
The personal side helps demystify detailed or technical messages.
It’s the difference between being handed a chemistry text book and having coffee with your old schoolmate who went on to study science. Now she’s a research chemist and a swimmer and a mother and a commuter and a music buff.
You’re more open to listening to her explain her work in five minutes – along with other titbits from the real world – than you would be if left alone with the book for an hour.
Too big to tell a tale?
The temptation for larger organisations is to think that while this approach works neatly for small dynamic start-ups, it’s not for large corporations or public sector institutions. Wrong!
The bigger the organisation gets, the greater the need becomes to remind people that you are not a faceless government agency or a soulless multinational.
If you’re bigger it just means you’ve got more stories and more storytellers.
What all of this boils down to is: if you want to reach a bigger chunk of the public, you need real people from your organisation, saying real things in a jargon-free style. You’ve got to speak the language of the listener.
So ditch the boardroom babble and be yourself…