Invest in gold: Your chief storytellers

Gold Man And Woman | Axiom Communications

An investment that pays dividends

In these turbulent economic times, people are turning to a safe haven for their investments – gold. Turning to gold in your organisation is a great investment in getting your corporate stories told in a meaningful, authentic and inspirational way.

The precious resource I have in mind is not the shiny yellow metal, but a person called Gold, Bill Gold – or his equivalents in your organisation.

An informal influencer in action

Early in my communications career, I came across a participant at a roadshow who had enormous influence over those around him. His name was Bill Gold. When Bill agreed with the messages being delivered from the stage, he nodded – and everyone around him nodded. When he disagreed, he shook his head – and those around him followed suit.

A quick bit of research afterwards failed to find Bill at the pointy end of any org charts, so I asked a senior leader who this guy was. “Oh, that’s Bill Gold,” she explained. “If you want something to happen in this part of the world, you’d better get Bill on your side.” From that point on I resolved to make Bill, and people like him, my new best friends.

The power of peer to peer communications

You’ll have Bill Golds in your organisation, too. If you close your eyes, you can visualise them, perhaps even hear their voices. These people need to become your new best friends; and you need to invest in them as your chief storytellers.

“But surely the leadership team should be our chief storytellers?” I hear you cry. I agree they should start the storytelling ball rolling. But put yourself in the shoes of the audience for a moment. You might well be saying something like: “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? They’re the bosses.” But what if someone on your level, and someone you really trust, says it could work? Then it’s worth taking notice.

No lesser body than McKinsey, in a paper ‘The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management’, highlight the importance of communication from ‘a bloke like me’ in delivering successful communication.

Turning influencers into advocates

But what if the Bill Golds in your organisation are cynical or even negative? Well, it’s probably worse that that. They are cynical and negative – and hugely influential, with personal networks that stretch in all directions. All the more reason to get them on your side as early as possible. Imagine the positive impact they could make if you could turn them into advocates for your messages, especially if you invested in helping them become even better storytellers.

So how do you do that? I suggest you involve people like Bill in shaping, evolving and sense-checking your story to ensure it will land well with your audience. Many organisations use John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Successful Change to guide them. Get some Bill Golds involved at step 2, Building a Guiding Coalition.

Bill Golds can advise you on the style of narrative that’d be best for your audience – Pursuit, Rescue, Underdog, Transformation, Lessons Learned, Discovery, Quest, Sacrifice, Overcoming Obstacles, Taking Charge, Leading, etc.

Getting your stories told and acted on

In an earlier blog, I set out what Hollywood can teach us about storytelling in business. If you’re itching to give it a try, just make sure you’re using your stories in an appropriate context.

And the Golds can help on this, too. Here’s one that was caught before it went out, thankfully. The exec in question was really planning to start his downsizing announcement thus: “As I announce the outcomes of the strategic review and the redundancy programme, I’m reminded of the story of [cue apocraphyl story about what drew him to working in his beloved industry…]” Phew – good save, Bill!

If you want to get your stories told throughout the organisation in a meaningful, authentic and inspirational way – and of course get them acted on –  it’s time to invest in your most potent storytellers.

As they said in the Wild West: “There’s Gold in them thar Bills”!