Opinion: Storytelling to spark growth

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DRIVING return-on-investment (ROI) may not always be seen as a main focus for communications or corporate messaging (though it should be), writes Courtney Malengo. In a landscape with savvy consumers and cause-driven employees, we need to look at how we uniquely and sincerely tell an organisation’s story, and tell it well, targeting audiences at the right place and the right time. Through that lens, your potential ROI is so much greater when messaging efforts are amplified. 

A compelling story is a compelling strategy for articulating your company’s ‘why’ and its unique attributes. Ultimately, your story represents your brand and highlights why a customer or client should choose your organisation. How you tell your story, and control your narrative across multiple communication channels, is crucial for representing your value proposition to the marketplace and maximising your ROI.

The same is true when talking about employee recruitment and retention. What if we started viewing employees as equally important as customers? And instead of only focusing our communication or marketing efforts on customer experience, we focus on employee experience too? We know that engaged employees create better customer outcomes. Storytelling can help create a cohesive experience across organisations, both internally and externally, that bolsters all outcomes. When employees are the first to know, rather than the last to know, that fosters trust. When there is open, two-way communication and a healthy culture, it increases the likelihood of retaining your good employees. We also know that where there is a toxic culture, you will lose your best and brightest. 

Having a narrative that employees embrace and believe is crucial to your mission’s success. A sincere and genuine story also attracts and connects employees to your organisation. It is part of how you communicate values, mission, and culture. According to The Digital Marketing Institute, the power of a great story increases your company’s or service’s value by 20 times. Mere numbers are not enough to convince someone to act. It’s the story that you tell surrounding those numbers, across various communication channels, that can spark your desired outcome. 

If you design your brand experience around both employees and customers, you have a better chance at enhancing company culture, converting employees into brand ambassadors, and creating fans and repeat customers. That all translates into driving growth and higher ROI. Stories create a shared experience that live powerfully in the minds of customers and employees alike. The more connected and cohesive these stories become, the greater the ability to resonate with their intended audiences and drive engagement and action. 

As author and consultant Chris Westfall wrote in his Forbes article, Why Storytelling Beats Statistics, But Only 100% of the Time, “… information doesn’t lead to realisation. Information informs, but decisions come from somewhere else.” He goes on to say that quoting numbers is easy, but the knowledge of those numbers does not change behaviour, not even your own. If we want to inspire an action or a result, we should look at how we are telling that story in a way that connects with our desired audiences. 

Westfall summed it up best with, “Numbers matter, but not as much as the storytelling that surrounds the numbers. It’s the difference between data and insight … change comes from experience.”

Let’s create stories and experiences that drive action, engagement, and growth. Let’s turn customers into fans and employees into engaged brand ambassadors by deploying genuine storytelling strategies throughout every area of an organisation. 

Courtney Malengo is the founder of Spark + Buzz Communications, a strategic communications consultancy that helps brands tell their story to inspire audiences and galvanize growth. From concept to completion, Spark + Buzz designs creative and strategic solutions through branding, marketing, and public relations services. Courtney is an accredited public relations professional with a master’s in communication and organizational leadership from Gonzaga University.