12 Leading Storytelling Strategies
Stories Incorporated’s Stories of the Year provide actionable examples of leading storytelling strategies.
Last year was a year of building for us all (sometimes as the plane was flying).
Whether you were building culture, content, inclusivity and diversity, an employer brand, candidate channels, engagement, awareness, or all of the above, it was a year of non-stop creation amidst constant change.
All while pivoting practices, taking on more at home, and navigating the pandemic’s long haul.
This year we continued building our own employee storytelling practices. We grew in size and capabilities, and our storytelling strategies expanded as a result. As we enter our 10th year of Stories Incorporated, we’re excited to share with you our Stories of the Year and the breakthrough recruitment marketing content we’ve created. We’re not stingy with sharing what we’ve learned, our ideas, and we hope these leading storytelling strategies help you level-up your own employee story content this year!
Of course, even after a decade uncovering hundreds of stories within companies across all industries, sizes and countries, the fundamentals stay the same. We continue to get several great stories from every interview — stories that really communicate what’s unique about a company’s culture. Our overarching strategy: always treat the employee interview as the special experience it is.
Some of our favorite employee stories from last year demonstrate some of our best practices.
The result is the powerful, engaging, and compelling stories — and strategies for you! — that follow here.
1. Show candidates what your remote or hybrid workplace really looks like
Studies have shown, again and again, that an overwhelming majority of employees want flexibility and the option to decide where and how they’ll work.
- 1 in 3 American workers does not want to work for an employer that requires them to be onsite full-time.
- 42 percent of employees say that if their company does not adopt or continue to adopt remote work options, they’ll look for a new job.
- 68 percent of employees believe a hybrid workplace model is ideal.*
So, if you’re a workplace that’s providing flexibility and choice in where and when team members work, you have a huge advantage in the Great Resignation.
How do you show what this balance looks like to candidates? Literally show them with real employee photos of the remote work experience.
Check out this Story of the Year example from Dell Technologies of real photos of the right-now employee experience. They’ve always offered flexibility at work, but they set out to capture what life really looks like now, both in and outside the office, for their team members.
2. Invite leaders to get vulnerable and get real
Truly great, mentor-minded managers always have great stories to share (especially after the two years we’ve had — so many stories). Invite them to put their talking points aside and tell candid stories of lessons learned.
In this Story of the Year, AstraZeneca’s Country President for Canada, Kiersten Combs, shares a story of a time when she doubted herself at work. She details how her manager at the time encouraged her forward, to “Go for the big job!,” and how it busted through her imposter syndrome as a result. Kiersten also explains how this experience showed her the kind of leader and mentor she wanted to be for others.
Bonus: This visually-beautiful video was filmed completely virtually via Virtual Story Session.
3. Create DEI content that is both timely and timeless.
Don’t start thinking about Black History content when February is half over or wait to plan your PRIDE messaging in June. Good quality marketing and culture content requires thoughtful preparation and execution, over time.
We helped Labcorp uncover stories from their employees all over the world, centered around the development of their new employee resource groups (ERGs). Then, we created a series of videos that fueled a content calendar of cultural holidays, and showed Labcorp’s appreciation of and participation in observances important to underrepresented groups.
From Black History Month to International Women’s Day to World Mental Health Day to Veterans Day and more, we developed videos for important cultural milestones. As we began planning and filming these stories in January, there was plenty of time and space to tell great personal and organizational stories.
One of these was the story of how Hispanic and Latinx employees formed Labcorp’s HUMANOS ERG. We filmed it virtually, and it was launched in concert with National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month in the fall.
And, don’t stop there. The best DEI content is also timeless.
Yes, it should contribute to important cultural conversations as they are happening during important celebrations and milestones (here’s a download that lists key cultural observances in 2022!). Labcorp now has something to say in key cultural conversations and events on the calendar.
But, Labcorps’ DEI video series also works overtime as cornerstone culture content. Each video will be reused to show commitment to DEI all year long. For example, the HUMANOS video is about the story of its formation. It is relevant to a candidate audience anytime of year.
These stories celebrate employee experiences and personal journeys while attracting candidates. They provide firsthand information about the ERGs and show proof, from employees, of the company’s commitment to supporting inclusion.
Interested in capturing stories from your team members?
4. Celebrate with a round-up stories from all over your organization
Even if company get-togethers and industry conferences continue to look different than they did in 2019, you can still show members the love. Round up stories from across your organization and weave them together. Heartfelt, unscripted stories, combined with gorgeous visuals and editing that honors their stories, is a memorable way to express appreciation.
Last year, the American College of Cardiology honored the hard work of their members, cardiologists who served patients during the global pandemic. Using virtual interviews with doctors from Shanghai to Chicago, and over 250 photos compiled from ACC members, this tribute video was created to honor incredible work during a difficult year. ACC premiered their video to members during their 70th annual all-members event (held virtually). And, it’s a 2021 Story of the Year.
5. Bring key roles to life through employees speaking the language of their job
When bringing a job to life for candidates, there are a few best practices:
- Use real stories and experiences from employees in that role
- Connect the daily tasks to the bigger organizational and/or divisional purpose
- Speak the language of the job.
There’s no better content for engaging the right candidates than the experiences from people in the profession at your company. Candidates respond to stories of potential colleagues speaking their language and showing an employee experience that can be theirs.
This Story of the Year features a Blizzard Entertainment engineer sharing, in detail, what she loves about her role and the tools she creates. It’s also an example of beautiful and practical virtual filming, and features cool World of Warcraft imagery, too.
6. Communicate your company’s track record of inclusivity with stories
Aronson LLC is a national public accounting and consulting firm that recognized early on that including different perspectives leads to better business decisions. That’s a progressive take in an industry where only two percent of CPAs are Black, and public accounting firms often struggle to create racially diverse work environments.
In this Story of the Year, Aronson team members shared stories that explore the firm’s history of developing underrepresented leaders, and how they’ve invested in and committed to DEI over time.
If your company is leading your industry in cultural areas, providing something that candidates won’t find working for your competitors, get started ASAP capturing those stories!
7. Show working parents exactly how the flexibility you offer works in practice
Parents were more likely to have left their jobs over the past several months than their nonparent coworkers, according to a study by McKinsey & Company.** In the pandemic, they’re exhausted from simultaneously working from home and caring for children.
They know there’s a better way, and candidates with kids are looking for companies that offer compassionate flexibility.
This Story of the Year from Eleven Peppers Studios shows candidates exactly how the company supports parents, and what that balance really looks like. The multiple employee stories within speak directly to those exhausted and talented working parents searching for their kind of flexibility.
8. Tell stories on your careers blog … and use SEO best practices so great candidates find you
All of the Story of the Year examples shared here also make for great careers blog content. Employee stories are the most compelling content for candidates looking for the inside scoop via web searches. And, consistent addition of new content on your website is the best way to make it to the first page of a candidate’s web search.
Our Story of the Year example — one of the Life at Capital One blog posts — proves that your career blog can feature any topic focused on team member experiences. Capital One shares team member stories of diversity and inclusion, women in tech leadership, military spouses receiving support at work, employee volunteer opportunities, and more.
Want to capture stories & bring your culture to life?
9. Recognize and retain your employees by amplifying their stories …
Employee recognition is directly tied to retention:
- 55 percent of employees seeking to switch jobs list lack of recognition as their top reason for leaving.
- 69 percent say that better rewards and recognition would encourage them to stay.***
LexisNexis wanted to recognize and highlight the diversity of talent and perspectives across their company through storytelling. They implemented a program that combines classic recognition with diversity and inclusion. By capturing the stories of the DEI award winners and sharing them with fanfare on company channels, LexisNexis supercharged their rewards program.
We were happy to assist them in capturing the winners’ stories, and “award’ LexisNexis as a Story of the Year for this program. Tykori’s story is one we also helped the team tailor to a candidate audience, with Tykori’s enthusiastic approval.
10. … and use their stories to show radical appreciation (even if they’re leaving!)
We’re all familiar with bidding coworkers farewell in the Great Resignation. In our industry, it’s even more bittersweet. But what’s missing in the Great Reshuffle is not just mourning a team member’s leaving, but celebrating the contribution they’ve made!
We are giving ourselves a Story of the Year for this content we created to celebrate our former coworker Brettany Payne. She moved on to serve as an internal DEI practitioner elsewhere, and the stories she shares speak to her personal inclusion experiences and her passion for DEI storytelling, too. We love how this piece honors Brettany’s work here and provided her with a special send off, as well as gives insight into our company culture.
11. Let stories prove the presence of allyship for LGBTQ+ team members
Progressive companies create a culture of belonging for their LGBTQIA+ employees. They can prove inclusion and allyship when they invite team members to share stories of how they have personally experienced support.
Passionate, relatable First Solar LGBTQIA+ team member stories were captured and woven together in this Story of the Year. Kelly’s sharing of how her colleagues showed up for her and her family at a Pride event, as well as First Solar’s sponsorship of the Pride celebration, is particularly moving. She says, “First Solar has blown me away.”
12. Talk about when your company showed up in times of uncertainty
The past few years we’ve learned that companies show us who they really are by their reaction to the unexpected. How companies care for their people during the worst of times shows employees whether the company values are real and lived, or just words on a page.
In this Story of the Year, Labcorp captured the story of Jill, who learned she had breast cancer soon after starting her job. In this standalone story, Jill shares in depth how she was cared for, supported, and provided with flexibility while in treatment.
Ready to level-up your own storytelling content in 2022? We’re ready to help!
* Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Is This Working?, Prudential, April 2021.
** Making the Great Attrition the Great Attraction, McKinsey, September 2021.
*** Achievers Workforce Institute’s Engagement and Retention Report, March 2021.