Business Storytelling For Dummies
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Here are eight criteria for deciding which media to use for sharing a story. You can use them on your business organization’s stories and your own.

  • Audience experience: How engaged or passive will the audience be when consuming the story?

  • Availability of connection: The kind of link the story will have — will it be to you, the company, a piece of technology? Also look at the quality of this link and how long it takes the bond to occur — is it immediate or delayed?

  • Richness of channel: How much and how dense does the sensory data, language of the sense (LOTS), and body language need to be?

  • Flexibility of the medium: How malleable is the media for changing and adapting the story over time?

  • Audience recall: How will the media affect someone’s ability to remember and share the story?

  • Scale of delivery: How many people need to be reached?

  • The ability to stimulate change: How well is the media suited to promoting the change and how fast does that change needs to happen?

  • Impact opportunity: What’s the overall effect the story may have on Trust, Engagement, Relationship, and Authenticity (TERA), and the best media to achieve these results? These concepts are being brought together here because collectively they influence the degree of impact on an audience.

How to decide which medium fits your needs

Leaders often want to work on a story so they can be videotaped telling it, be done with it, and then get back to work, but that’s the last thing you want to do. Why? As a leader, manager, small business owner, nonprofit executive, or government director, people want to experience you first-hand.

They want to directly experience your authenticity. They want to connect with you, trust you, and have a relationship with you. Face-to-face telling gives you maximum impact in all three areas — whether you’re focused on change, raising funds, managing a team, or growing a business.

Now, that isn’t always possible. And that your department, business, or nonprofit may need to disseminate stories widely. Time, money, and resources all come into play. How static, flexible, and adaptable the medium is also has a role. To figure out which media on the continuum will get you the results you seek, answer these questions.

How to find the purpose of sharing your story

Before you do anything else, outline who the audience is for the story. Be as specific as possible in identifying it. Then determine the desired effect the story needs to have.

This is separate from the story’s content. The effect is what the story needs to do for you personally or for your business — the communication channel (that is, media on the continuum) that’s going to provide the best chance of getting stated results. Issues to consider include:

  • How broadly the message needs to be disseminated.

  • How strong a relationship needs to be built with the audience for the long-term.

  • The degree of authenticity the audience needs to experience.

  • How strong the need is to document and preserve the story for the long-term.

  • The speed needed to get the message to the audience.

Don’t skip these items. Your answers will help you filter through your responses to the questions that follow.

Determine what’s desirable

There are lots of choices and decisions to make when shifting an oral story into different media. Here are the eight criteria again, with questions you can answer based on your specific needs. After answering the bulleted questions, in each section determine which medium will serve the need best.

  • Audience experience:

    • Is the audience going to be engaged in an active, co-created experience or will it be more passive?

    • How much does the audience need to be directly engaged with the teller, or does it matter if their experience is more passive?

  • Availability of connection:

    • How important is it to have a direct connection?

    • How much of a direct connection do I or my organization need with the audience given the identified purpose?

    • Will the chosen medium create an immediate connection or will the audience have a choice about listening to the story?

  • Richness of channel:

    • How important is it to have the story be densely packed with LOTS and physical movement?

    • How rich and dense with LOTS, physical expression, and the like does the medium need to allow for given the identified purpose?

  • Flexibility of the medium:

    • How flexible does the medium need to be for changing and adapting the story?

    • What are the costs of changing the story at a later date?

  • Scale of delivery:

    • How many people need to be reached?

    • How can technology be used for delivery purposes?

  • Audience recall:

    • How important is it for the audience to recall and retell the story?

    • Which medium will allow for the strongest amount of recall so the audience will be able to remember and repeat the story?

  • The ability to stimulate change:

    • How could each medium inspire the needed change?

    • Which medium would be the fastest at stimulating the change?

  • Impact Opportunity:

    • How much TERA is needed?

    • Which medium will best leverage TERA based on stated needs?

Now that you have the answers to all these questions, identify the medium that fits the best with all of these criteria, that also meets the purposes identified earlier, and matches the targeted audience.

How to choose a medium using story length

You can always expand and contract a story to fit different media.

You can take a 10- or 20-minute story, reduce it to its core essence as a 1- to 3-minute story, and then share it as a digital story, a quick audio file, or SlideShare program. Or you can create a photo story. You can use many different methods to get the same story out in a variety of formats.

You can also expand a story by adding maps, videos, infographics, and other supporting materials to create an even richer piece.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Karen Dietz, PhD, is a 25-year veteran in business storytelling consulting, training, and leadership, and organizational development. Lori L. Silverman offers business storytelling training, keynotes, and consulting. For 26 years, she's advised enterprises on strategic planning and organizational change.

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