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What is internal storytelling and why is it important?

Internal storytelling is a way to boost employee engagement. Find out what goes into internal storytelling and how it can benefit your business.

Krishan Patel image

Written by Krishan Patel

4 Oct, 2022  –  5 mins read

From Egyptian hieroglyphics to children’s fairy tales, and Shakespearean plays to Instagram stories, humans have always been compelled to share stories. Stories teach us life lessons, engage our imagination, stir up emotion and create a sense of community through shared experience.

Internal storytelling harnesses this power to engage and inspire your employees. Why do they turn up to work every day? Why should they go above and beyond? Internal storytelling answers that “why” with a well-defined, emotive company narrative. It tells your team what their shared values, experience and collective purpose are. It tells them why they turn up to work and what they’re doing it all for.

Sound pretty impactful? It is! Let’s delve a bit deeper into internal storytelling and how it can benefit your company:

  • What is internal storytelling?
  • Why is internal storytelling so important?
  • What is the difference between internal and external storytelling?
  • How to create an internal storytelling strategy
  • What are the benefits of internal storytelling?

What is internal storytelling?

Internal storytelling is all about crafting a business narrative that connects with your employees on an emotional level. It tells the story of your company mission, goals, and values and helps your employees visualise the exciting, key role they play (or can play) in making that story – your business - a success. We all want to be part of something exciting and successful that we can take pride in.

Storytelling is a more effective way to engage your employees because it builds a more human and emotional connection between businesses and employees. When employees feel emotionally connected, they have a greater sense of belonging and purpose and are driven to succeed.

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Why is internal storytelling important?

Internal storytelling positions your employee as the protagonist of your organisation’s mission. It allows them to see how they fit into the bigger picture and how their personal goals and achievements are linked to company success. Simply put: a win for the business becomes a win for them. Employee’s who feel this connection are much more likely to stay motivated and engaged, creating a happier, more driven and productive workforce.

What is the difference between external and internal storytelling?

On the other hand, external storytelling taps into customer emotions to build trust and brand affinity. A great example of this is Spotify’s “Spotify Wrapped” feature. Here, Spotify tells a hyper-personalised story of the user’s year in music to create an emotional connection and persuade the user the company cares about them.

Internal storytelling takes the same approach of using narrative to connect with an audience emotionally. Still, instead of trying to persuade customers to buy into your brand, you’re trying to get your employees to buy into your internal culture and mission. Internal storytelling should focus on company strategy, values and personal employee stories, including User-Generated Videos, rather than the company’s service offering.

How to create an internal storytelling strategy

Now we know what internal storytelling is and why it’s important, let’s walk through how you can create a stellar internal storytelling strategy:

Include more than one approach

People consume information differently – some are more visual or auditory, while others prefer information to be written down. Including more than one approach in telling your story is important to appeal to a wider audience. Emails, newsletters, infographics and podcasts have merits, but videos are one of the best ways to expand your reach by combining visual, audio and written content.

Understand your audience

As with all communications, it’s vital to establish who your audience is. What are your employee demographics? What’s likely to resonate with them? If you’re already engaging well with your workforce, you should have a good idea — but don’t be afraid to use surveys and regular feedback channels for additional insight.

Use the right channels

Makesure your stories are published somewhere people will see them! Think about the best channel to maximise employee engagement, whether SharePoint, Yammer, Slack, or Microsoft Teams —anywhere people can comment, like, share and engage with your content is a good bet.

Track your engagement and results

Choosing the right channel also means selecting a medium you can track. It’s pointless having a great story if it’s not reaching or resonating with your employees. Tracking engagement through comments, likes, shares, page views and employee engagement surveys will help you understand if employees are engaging and what they’re connecting with. Use the results to refine your strategy and focus your efforts on where you can make an impact.

Distribute your content effectively

Consider employee demographics and work environments. Do you have Gen Z employees in an office environment more likely to engage with social media newsfeeds or Boomers on the factory floor more likely to access emails on their mobile phones? Adjust distribution channels and formats to engage effectively with different groups without locking them out.

The benefits of internal storytelling

Internal storytelling is key to making your internal communications strategy a success. It’s not only a more creative and inspiring way to engage with your employees, but it also has several other benefits, too.

Providing opportunity to track and analyse performance

Storytelling in the workplace told through User-Generated videos can tell you how things are going internally – are you an inclusive and diverse employer? Does it look like employees are socialising and having fun? Are people engaged in company issues? Learn more about how having User-Generated Video can improve your internal communication.

Encouraging employees to participate in future projects

A human story about a team’s epic win or a compelling narrative about an exciting new company mission speaks to the hero in all of us. Employees are more likely to stick their hand up for future projects when they can see how their participation will pay off.

Building workplace culture

Frame your company narrative to match the culture you want to create. Make your company culture central to your story and highlight how your team contributes to that.

Helping with wider communication

Storytelling is a versatile and effective tool that can be used for many other great internal (and external) communications ideas, like:

  • Making leaders more relatable - what was their personal career journey?
  • Driving business change - ‘be a leader in our IT revolution!’
  • Give potential employees or clients an honest insight - ‘what’s the culture really like, and do I want to work there/do business with them?’ Learn more about how storytelling can grow your business

Employees are more invested in business goals

A compelling story will align employee focus and purpose with business goals. Help employees understand the critical part they play in your story, and they’ll invest in making the business a success.

Helping you connect

To situate your employees in the story you need to see things from their point of view - what makes them tick, what their day-to-day looks like and how does this fit with company goals? It forces you to understand and empathise with your employees, making better connections with your workforce.

So go beyond the facts: engage, inspire and unite your employees in common purpose with these great internal storytelling tips. Once you’ve found your narrative, distribute your content efficiently and motivate your teams by telling them your story!

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