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How storytelling can enhance internal communications


People like to hear and read stories. It's how we record history and also entertain audiences. It's also a bonding time. For those of us who have little kids, reading stories at night is part of our family ritual.  

So with storytelling aiding in history, entertainment and engagement, then why is it often left out of internal communications? (And feel free to substitute often with always.)

digital storytellingUsually there's one simple answer. Not enough time. Or at least that's the excuse we've all used. But I would argue that if you invest just a little bit more time and creativity, the reward for that communication will far exceed the extra time spent on it. 

I came across the seven elements of digital storytellling, as created by the Center of Digital Storytelling. It seemed fitting enough given the trend of employee communication to be, in fact, more digital. 

The seven elements of digital storytelling

  1. Point of View
    What is the main point of the story and what is the perspective of the author?
  2. A Dramatic Question
    A key question that keeps the viewer's attention and will be answered by the end of the story.
  3. Emotional Content
    Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the story to the audience.
  4. The Gift of Your Voice
    A way to personalize the story to help the audience understand the context.
  5. The Power of the Soundtrack
    Music or other sounds that support and embellish the storyline.
  6. Economy
    Using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer.
  7. Pacing
    The rhythm of the story and how slowly or quickly it progresses.

These were obviously outlined without employee communication directly in mind but I do think they fit nicely. . . with a few tweaks. Let's go through these one by one. 

Point of View

In the world of employee communications, point of view provides relevancy to the reader. We know that rarely all communications are going to engage all of the audiences. But if you can properly frame the relevancy to the reader and get to the point of the story, you're on the right path.  

A Dramatic Question

Getting to the point is important but so is telling the entire story. And it's recommended that you leave the reader wondering throughout but with confidence in knowing the answer will be revealed in the end. Your employee communications should not read like a script from Lost. 

Emotional Content

Work is emotional for people. It's where we spend the vast majority of our time and attention. So the content you're producing should tap into your coworker's emotional investment at work. Connecting the reader to the story can and should be accomplished through emotions. 

The Gift of Your Voice

This is where it really starts to get fun. Your voice is what will make your internal communication different from somebody else's. Whether that's inside your company or another organization. My writing would not read or sound anything like yours. And that's a great thing. But you need to make the most of your "voice" and know how to make it work best for your company and employees. 

The Power of the Soundtrack

In my world, this soundtrack would be full of Duran Duran songs. But in employee communication, I look at this more from the multimedia side of things. If you're telling a story, is it best told in the form of a video or does video complement the story. There is a TON of opportunity here to tell your story in multiple means across multiple channels to engage your audience. And it's easy. So do it. 


This is a dirty word these days thanks to politics, but this focus is on size. Bigger is not always better and it's important to find just the right amount of content. If you're producing a video, you don't want it to be too short or too long. The same goes with a newsletter story or even a podcast. 


This could be the most difficult element of all in my opinion. It's frustrating as a reader when there are lulls in a story. We get the same in movies. If you're working on a written piece, some advice is to simpily read it out loud to yourself. You'll get a sense for the pace of the story. If your story is a video or audio, just sit back and listen. 


I tell people to never let facts get in the way of a good story. And embellishment is a key component to a phenomenal story. The fish gets bigger with each telling. But this is not an element of internal storytelling. We all know better. 




photo credit: Jill Clardy via photopin cc


My primary comment is not to obscure the meaning of the story -- to the storyteller and the audience -- by over producing or encumbering it. The employees need to see/hear the speaker and themselves in the story and to experience its deep relevance in their past, present and future.
Posted @ Friday, December 14, 2012 12:44 PM by Chris Stuart
An interesting post. I agree Chuck that storytelling helps to engage the audience and aids future recall. But you make a valid observation Chris, the whole process needs to be natural, not set up or learned word or word. I have a fund of anecdotes and case studies that I call on when the need arises - and a story is used as an illustration in response to audience interaction. Fumbling with a computer for an audio track, reciting from a script or pretending to be Laurence Olivier would kill it. 
Malcolm Davison
Posted @ Friday, December 28, 2012 6:00 AM by Malcolm Davison
As a business anthropologist, I certainly agree - stories are the best way to make points, or get points across.
Posted @ Friday, January 11, 2013 5:18 AM by Jasmine Gartner
I thank you for discussing this very awesome details. I always want and really like studying top quality material.Thank
Posted @ Tuesday, September 03, 2013 3:01 AM by click the link
This is a dirty word these days thanks to politics, but this focus is on size. Bigger is not always better and it's important to find just the right amount of content. If you're producing a video,
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Posted @ Wednesday, December 04, 2013 4:19 AM by basketball
An awesome post! Storytelling is the best way to connect emotionally and great technique to engage employees. It’s helpful to delivering the business message. I enjoyed reading your post with informative key points  
Thanks for sharing. 
Posted @ Monday, December 16, 2013 1:40 AM by Grace Atkins
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