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5 top tips from Microsoft's Chief Storyteller

Here from Steve Clayton, Microsoft's Chief Storyteller, his 5 top tips for employee storytelling

Krishan Patel image

Written by Krishan Patel

22 Jul, 2021  –  8 min read

In May, as part of our webinar series, we took a coffee break with Microsoft’s Chief Storyteller, Steve Clayton. The conversation was on driving culture change through Employee-Led Storytelling, and Steve talked about how Microsoft not only approach Storytelling, but the impact it has on transforming the culture of an organisation. You can watch it now on-demand or read our key takeaways here.

The webinar was incredibly popular, which meant Steve ran out of time during the Q&A. Luckily this wasn’t a problem as Steve used Seenit to answer the remaining questions and you can watch those responses below.

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Question 1

“We often get the feedback that there’s “too much comms”. Is it possible at all to combine short, concise messaging and storytelling?”

Maxine Bayer, Babbel

Click to see the full transcript 

I think the answer is yes. I think this is where visual Storytelling really comes to the fore, using [either] photography or infographics or illustrations. Two examples I will give you, is to check out gapingvoid and the Instagram account of @lizandmollie both of which I think are great at short-form visual storytelling.

Question 2

“Any tips for a successful internal storytelling?”

 Jolinda Van Jones, Philip Morris International

Click here to see the full transcript

A couple of things I would say, one is that internal storytelling is one of the most fun things to do because you have a ton of hopefully committed employees who are often have got great stories. I think a few of the keys here; one is finding ways to capture peoples attention where they might not have expected it, which means don’t send them another email, we all get enough emails and we’ve done that through all kinds of different methods through physical devices like coffee cups as Storytelling devices or more books as Storytelling devices.

I would also really encourage you to take a look at the One Day, One Microsoft video on our Microsoft Youtube channel which I think is a great example of User-Generated content that we were forced to do during Covid but it was just a great reminder of the authenticity of having employees capture their own stories, in their own environment, told in their own way.

Question 3

“How do you deal with audiences that are not keen on flowery stories (ie a highly technical audience)?”

Moxxy Schoeffler, Salesforce

Click here to see the full transcript

Thanks for your question around flowery stories, It’s definitely one that I’ve struggled with in the past of how do you tell stories to people who are more rational than emotional. I don’t have any flowers here for you but I do have an image of a flower thrower but that’s a whole different story, more of a project I’m working on right now. But, one of the things I would recommend is getting hold of this book called ‘Data Story’ by Nancy Duarte. It’s a really great set of ideas on how do you tell stories with data which I think is a slightly different way of answering your question, but a lot of folks who are less enamoured with these flowery stories are people who are more rational and respond to data.

I for a long time struggled with ‘how do you tell stories with data?’ and Nancy’s book is chock full of examples and so that would be my best piece of advice, go grab that book and that will help bring the less emotional storytellers on this journey I hope.

Question 4

“How do you instill a storytelling culture in your company to make your employees storytellers when they are not at all used to it?”

Émeline Bichet, LM Wind Power

Click here to see the full transcript

Thank you for your question around creating a culture of Storytelling at a company. It’s something I’ve been working on at Microsoft for the last four years and we have 160,000 employees at Microsoft and over the last four years we’ve been slowly building this group of Storytellers. It started out as 20 or 30 people and it’s now about 2000 people which is by no means all of the company but a strong enough population of people and the way that we did that is to just create a sense of community around Storytelling.

We created devices such as this little red book which you may have seen if you watched the recent webinar, it’s freely available at or you can get it from my LinkedIn channel. But, that helped us to galvanise a sense of people who are interested in Storytelling and it just slowly but surely grew over time and it’s completely a volunteer community so I would say that in my experience has been the best way is to create a movement inside the company and people who are interested in Storytelling will gravitate towards that movement and Storytellers tend to find other Storytellers and they bring them on that journey.

I would say start with a community however small, and maybe have people meet once a week or a couple of times a month and share their ideas around storytelling and bring great books they know around storytelling, point to great videos around storytelling and you start to create this sense of community and create a movement and other people will join.

Question 5

“What’s the first step in telling impactful stories?”

Jasmine Clarke, JS Brand

Click here to see the full transcript

I think it’s to recognise your own stories. I have this notebook like most people do, but inside this book it’s handwritten, I collect stories. Things that I see every day that I think have the potential to be great stories, things that I look back on and recognise are great stories and then to hone them into what is it that takes people on the journey of that story and all great stories typically include people and typically have 3 parts; a beginning, a middle and an end and they take people on a journey and tend to have ups and downs.

So I think just recognising yourself when you’re telling the story or when you’re seeing a story and honing the craft of that. When you say to somebody, I listened to this great piece of music recently or I read this great book or I went to this great concert. All of those things are telling people stories and so I think that’s the first place to start is recognising in yourself when you are telling a story how do you make that story impactful, how do you create suspense, how do you create tension, how do you capture peoples imagination and take them on their journey. I try to do this everyday, when I think about it, I try to write them down in my book and then I practise and hone my story.

If you liked these clips, be sure to check out the full webinar. Want to create videos like this with anyone in your organisation? Seenit enables you to easily collect User-Generated Video from anyone, anywhere, which you can turn into engaging video content. Find out more about how it works here.

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