Skip to main content
Commsy creative stuff straight to your inbox

Blog

Picture this – using storytelling to bring strategy to life

< Blog home

Picture this – using storytelling to bring strategy to life

Picture this: the Chauvet Caves. The South of France. 30,000 BCE. (Best read in the voice of Sophia from The Golden Girls.) 

The Chauvet Caves contain some of the best-preserved figurative cave paintings in the world. These paintings show details of everyday life, an unspoken and unwritten form of communication showing encounters with mammoths, lions, and rhinos. 

Jump forward to 1,000 BCE and Ancient Greek myths and legends are being shared as part of an oral tradition. The Ancient Greeks were the first known civilisation to develop writing and apply it to storytelling, which they did in messages and poems. 

From 200 BCE until the seventeenth century, we see stories being used to persuade – the Bible being the most well-known example. 

The first newspaper was produced in 1690; the snappily-titled Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestic. Shortly after that, in 1704, the first Boston Newsletter was created, called The Statute of Anne. Whoever Anne was…

And, of course, since then we’ve seen the invention of radio, television and so on.

But why am I telling you all this?

There’s a reason why storytelling has become so engrained in our culture. Words – and stories – have the power to unite people. 

In a business context, a story ensures that everyone is aligned behind the same purpose, the same strategy, the same direction. 

But how? Through emotion.

Facts and figures are useful, but the truth is that messages tied up in stories are 22 times more memorable, and it’s no wonder. We like to think we’re rational, factual human beings – but we’re not. 98% of the decisions we make are emotional. So only communicating in factual, rational ways at work is failing to acknowledge the emotional side of things. 

Whatever you call it – storytelling or strategic narrative – the purpose is the same: to bring everyone with us on the journey, painting a very clear picture of the destination we’re headed towards. 

 

So how do you do it?

A good strategic narrative needs a good strategy! You cannot create a narrative in the absence of a strategy. – Simon Monger

 

Keep it simple

You story does not need to be Game of Thrones. In fact, the simpler you can keep it, the better. It will be easier to remember.

 

Follow a story arc

Think of your favourite book, or play, or film. Chances are, there’s a beginning, a middle with some kind of obstacle to overcome, and then an end where the protagonist triumphs and lives happily ever after. Or something like that. Think the same way about your corporate narrative. What’s the destination? That’s your ending. Why do you need to change? What’s the consequence of not changing? That’s your obstacle. And where are you now? That’s the beginning. 

 

Connect your people

They may forget the words you say, but they’ll never forget the way the story makes them feel. It should inspire, excite, and empower. Your narrative needs to be owned by everyone – change fails when people feel done to. Involve them in the story, your journey, and you’ll keep them engaged.

Brown cave wall illustration with white handprints with the wording 'storytelling is about feeling. It should inspire, excite and empower'

Be honest

The current reality you paint needs to be accurate, and the aspiration realistic – albeit stretching. If your people don’t relate to what they’re seeing, they’ll switch off.

 

Use everyday language, not corporate speak

Your story should effectively be your elevator pitch – easy to recite at high level and still capture the main points.

 

Support your leaders

The story is only as good as the way it’s told. When your leaders articulate the narrative, does it ring true for them? Is it relatable? Help your leaders to bring their own stories and experience to bear when explaining the narrative to their teams.

 

Show what it will feel like to succeed

Self-realisation may seem a bit wishy-washy to some, but if you can make that destination tangible and feel real, you’re already halfway there.

According to McKinsey, 71% of all transformations fail. Ensuring you have a strong story, which engages and excites your people, will contribute significantly to helping your organisation to be with the other 29%.

 

By Simon Monger for Alive!

 

Biography

Simon Monger, SCMP® is an internal communications, change and engagement consultant, and President of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) UK & Ireland chapter for the 2022/23 Board year. Since 2007, Simon has worked with a diverse range of global and multinational organisations in 19 countries across three continents, including IKEA, Deloitte, Transport for London, and E.ON UK.

 

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Boom!
Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“Our mission was to update the DASA brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team who provided expert guidance and injected some much needed creativity into the project; resulting in an accessible and engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.

Thank you again for all the work you have done with us!”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead - Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health
Alive logo