Don’t issue a memo; tell a story

Kerala StorytellerPaul Smith is Director of Consumer and Communication Research at The Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire. PR News just published an excerpt of Mr. Smith’s book to illustrate the idea that storytelling is a skill that is not just for librarians. Storytellers are among the most persuasive people in the world, and if you do it right, you can win trust and empower your employees. What a powerful concept!

We’re not talking about “feel-good” stories here–heck, anyone can tell that kind of story. We’re talking about the times when a business is in crisis, and the management has to break bad news. In most cases, an email or memo (maybe via the Friday News Dump) would be the easiest way to go. Convey the bad news impersonally, without fear of anger or tears.

That’s not the route Andrew Moorfield chose. Mr. Moorfield had launched bfinance.co.uk in 2000, and even in that rosy past, the economy made it tough for him to succeed. When he realized he couldn’t make payroll for his 25 employees, he could have figured out a way to spin the situation, but he chose to be absolutely up-front.

The decision paid off. Not only did Moorfield break the news to his employees, he used a whiteboard to help them visualize how much money was coming in, and how much was needed to make payroll. It gave them the news they needed, and it added a persuasive dimension to the message.

Moorfield’s transparency paid off. His persuasive storytelling and employee empowerment led to a surprising result. And in case you wondered, bfinance.co.uk is still in business today, going strong.

Read the full story here:

What an Internet Startup Can Teach the Corporate World About Crisis Communication

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