AB Thinks  →  23rd February 2021

Engaging hearts and minds: tips from business storyteller Gabrielle Dolan

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Katie Macaulay’s guest on episode 42 of The Internal Comms Podcast was business storytelling specialist Gabrielle Dolan, who conducted an illuminating conversation over Zoom from her home in Melbourne, Australia.

This highly sought-after international keynote speaker and trainer first realised the power of storytelling while working in senior roles in corporate Australia. Gabrielle spotted a need for senior leaders to bring humanity to the way they communicate.

Her discoveries formed the basis for six best-selling business books, including her latest title Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling.

Here are our top five takeaways from an entertaining hour of IC chat.

#1 Tap into people’s emotions if you want people to connect to your brand
In business, we are biased towards facts, figures and logic. We think that’s how we can persuade people to make a decision – whether that decision is to buy from you, to work for you or to get behind a change. But logic alone doesn’t [persuade people to make those decisions]. We’re human, so emotion plays a really big part in the way we are influenced. There’s all this research to show that story taps into emotion. So it just makes really good business sense – and it’s backed up with science – that we use story to tap into emotion to help influence people. Whether that’s getting people connected to your purpose, your values, your product, your services or your brand, whatever it is, emotion is really powerful.

#2 Be the right type of storyteller
There are four different types of storyteller. You have the Bragger, whose stories aren’t engaging and there’s really no purpose to them, except to tell you how great they are. Then there’s the Joker, who tells really engaging stories, but there’s no purpose except to be funny. And then you have the Reporter, who’s clear on the message they want to get across, but they use a lot of facts, figures and statistics, and it’s not engaging. And then you have the Inspirer, which, ideally, is where you want to be. The Inspirer is really clear on the message, but they’re using personal stories, which makes it really engaging.

#3 Challenge jargon
As an IC professional, when you’re new to an organisation, it’s a really good time to ask, ‘What does that mean?’ As internal communicators, it’s our responsibility to always say, ‘Just to be clear, what do you mean by that?’, because that’s the position of power. Someone new, trying to fit in, will go to acceptance and start using a term, because that’s what everyone else is saying.

#4 Take brand storytelling seriously
More and more customers are making purchasing decisions based on their values, so you want to be aligned with them. Also, employees want to work for companies that have good values. There used to be ‘black box brands’, where you could cover up your internal culture. But now, because of social media, your internal culture can no longer be hidden from the external world. It’s known as ‘glass box brands’. There has to be an alignment between your internal brand and internal values, because that is what will be seen, not only by external customers, but by future talent that you want to work for you.

#5 Authenticity is the key to connection
If a story is true, you believe in the message. We always talk about ‘how do we make our leaders more human and more relatable, and show vulnerability?’ If you are genuinely sharing a story and what it means to you personally, all that stuff comes across naturally. There are so many benefits to it: the message gets across better, it helps your employees and customers connect with your values and purpose, and it builds trust in you, which strengthens the relationship. It’s a win win win win!

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