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Use Storytelling In Business Communications

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Summarize the purpose of informational stories.
  • Identify how to use storytelling to host engaging, interesting meetings.
  • Explain how to use storytelling to deliver concise, compelling status updates.
  • List tips for writing onbrand, professional Slack posts.

Informational Stories Bolster Business Communications

Remember that informational stories communicate facts about the business and typically include a call to action. They help everyone on your team understand what they should be doing, when they should be doing it, and why. 

These types of stories often appear in many different forms of business communications, including (but not limited to):

  • Meetings
  • Status updates
  • Slack posts

People communicating in a business environment

Remember, too, that it takes a little more effort to make this type of storytelling engaging. Let’s look at how we turn facts and agenda items into narratives that capture your audience’s attention and move them toward action. 

Stories Make Your Meetings Meaningful

Meetings. Chances are, you have them every day. You might even feel like you have too many of them. But what if the meetings you hosted were more engaging and interesting than the others? It’s possible with a little strategic storytelling. 

Here are a few tips for taking your team meetings to the next level.  

Try this! Why?

Set aside the first few minutes of the meeting to get the team engaged with an activity or puzzle.

This helps everyone loosen up, and activates creative-thinking skills.

Give direct reports the opportunity to lead the meeting.

Having others lead meetings engages the whole team by requiring the host to reach out in advance to gather agenda items and learn what other teammates are working on. It also ensures that no team meeting is exactly the same.

Casually encourage direct reports to share their thoughts and ideas, and to ask questions.

Meeting participants are more likely to retain the meeting’s message because they feel invested in the outcome.

Swap stories when appropriate and to reinforce the meeting’s agenda items. 

This will help provide real-word examples of topics being discussed and build rapport among team members.

By getting everyone involved in meetings, you're telling the story that success is a team effort. 

A project kickoff meeting (aka “KO”) is another perfect opportunity to use storytelling elements. Your team wants to know the story of the project, including the intended outcome, roles and responsibilities, and timelines. Here’s how you can kick your project KOs up a notch with a few narrative elements. 

Try this! Why?

Start with a story or an anecdote that’s relevant to the project. 

A short story will pique your team’s interest and help them understand the project in a larger context. 

Describe your vision of—and expectations for—the project. 

This allows the team to align on a common goal.

Describe the consequences of not undertaking the project. 

Knowing what’s at stake motivates the team to perform.

Define roles and responsibilities. 

This eliminates any confusion about who’s doing what, and why.

Share your timeline.

Knowing the parameters of the project upfront builds a degree of “suspense” and helps set expectations. 

Stories Make Your Status Updates Superb

The projects you work on are exciting, right? (right?) So, let’s use storytelling elements to talk about them in a clear, compelling, and concise way. 

The key is to think like a reporter. Reporters have perfected the art of the status update: They deliver all of the key pieces of news and do it quickly. 

A TV showing a reporter delivering a breaking newscast

How do they do it? They rely heavily on the “Five Ws”*:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?

* “How?” is another question that reporters sometimes answer.

You can answer the same questions to turn your status updates into mini-stories that get right to the meat of the matter. Check out this example (note that you don’t always have to answer the “Five Ws” in the same order): 

The Five Ws Examples

Who is involved in the project?

“I’m collaborating with Sami and Jamal from Creative Services.”

What are you working on?

“We’re making a 2-minute marketing video that highlights the newest features of Lightning.”

Why are you working on the project?

“We want to get people excited about Lightning and show off the amazing UI.”

Where are you working on the project?

“We’re filming in the studio across the street.”

When will the project be completed?

“It’s on schedule, and will be ready for your review next Friday.”

To round out your status update, you might need to ask an additional question: “What do you need from the team?” For example, you might end your status update by saying, “I need you to review the video and provide feedback after our screening on Friday.”

Stories Make Your Slack Posts Stupendous

At Salesforce, Slack serves as our digital headquarters, allowing us to quickly and easily collaborate and communicate with one another.

People posting on Slack

Keep in mind that the most important story you’re telling with your Slack posts isn’t necessarily about the project itself; it’s about your personal brand. Just as companies have brand stories, we each have a personal brand story that encapsulates who we are, what we value, and what we hope to achieve, personally and professionally. You always want to make sure you’re telling the best possible version of your own brand story.

Here are a few tips for doing just that:

Dos Don’ts

Bold key dates, deliverables, and action items.

Bury important information in large chunks of text.

Keep posts focused and brief by prioritizing the most important tasks.

Send multiple individual posts about the same topic or long posts containing a multitude of questions and action items.

Improve readability by using bulleted lists. 

Post large chunks of text without formatting.

@ mention individual team members when appropriate.

Create noise by unnecessarily @ mentioning the channel.

Think before clicking the “Send” button. 

Post when you’re angry or emotional.

Be professional.

Post about inappropriate subjects, use texting abbreviations such as “ur” and “u,” or tell off-color jokes. 

If you’re posting in a team channel, other members of the team can see what you’re writing, even if it’s not directed at them. So, always be mindful of your responses and remember that your direct reports are looking to you to set an example. 

You’re becoming a sensational storyteller! But we’re not done yet—in the next unit, you’ll learn how to use all of those storytelling skills to make your presentations pop. 


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