On the one hand, SAS, a business software company, had sheep that grazed under the solar panels on its North Carolina
campus, keeping the grass trim.
On the other, it had employees it wanted to keep engaged.
Put them together, and it came up with a "Name That Sheep" contest, in which staff got to vote on options such as Buttercup and Lilly.
Contests—which can also be used to gather photos and stories—were just one of a basketful of ideas that emerged in a panel discussion on the power of
corporate storytelling and other internal communications areas. The session was part of Ragan's Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference
at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Here are some tactics emerged for finding stories and spreading the word of your organization's successes.
1. Create a 'Report It' link on your Intranet.
At SAS, staffers can click to share a great story or image with the communications team, said panelist Karen Lee, senior director of internal
"All you have to do is click that, and you can send in your news stories," Lee said. "You can send in your pictures. You can send in your video. ... So
people are always telling their stories at SAS."
2. Use a printed form.
In a health care company such as Kaiser Permanente—and maybe in your
organization—employees don't always realize they have a great story, because they are focused on the frontline response, said Catherine Hernandez, VP of national corporate communications.
Start with something like this: "I work in ______ department. We're working on _________. We encountered _______." And go from there.
"Amazing gems" emerge, some that are just used internally, others that also end up on its external health care blog, she said.
Hear more from Hernandez on this subject here:
3. Provide an interactive storytelling tool.
Now, take that form, flesh it out, and turn it into an online storytelling tool for employees. When
they complete it, they have provided you with a story.
Kaiser Permanente's form breaks a story down into four simple parts. Come to think of it, KP's guide points for its employees might be worth using to guide
your own storytelling. It reads:
Once upon a time:
The introduction. Set the stage; where does your story start?
The story's characters are confronted with a challenge.
The characters take action to address it.
Happily ever after:
How did it all work out?
4. Now create a story database.
Using its forms, Kaiser Permanente gathers information about positive outcomes and creates a database of stories it can use. Communications staffers call
the story "author" to see if the patient is willing to do the story. If so, they create a print story or a video.
5. Create an internal campaign.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago created a branding campaign called "We Serve," and it got people to tell what they did that was interesting, said Karan
Chandler, the Chicago Fed's assistant vice president of internal communication.
This blended work with personal. "We feel that it's longer lasting and more memorable if you're connecting with a person relative to their story," Chandler
said. How many people do you know who run a cash machine for the Fed?
6. Use shoe-leather reporting.
Get away from your desk and hang around the cafeteria, department meetings, the executive board, Chandler said.
Added Ragan Communications CEO Mark Ragan: "This is the fun part of your job. ... Stories don't just come in and waft into your cubicle and settle in on
your desk like so many Post-It notes. You've got to go out there and get them."
7. Use video—and humor.
The benefits manager took a Flip-style cam to the gym, Chandler said, and got video of employees doing chin-ups. When the camera pulled back, it turned out
the exercisers were faking it. Viewers laughed when they saw it.
"Just that alone really was hot," Chandler said. "It got quite a few hits and really was successful."
8. Be spontaneous.
Ragan once allowed a staff video producer to interrupt him at any moment all day and ask a question that had to be answered in 30 seconds.
"I'd be in a meeting," Ragan said, "he'd burst in with one of those cameras, and say, 'How do you write a great headline, Mark?' And it was fun; it was
This tip comes with a warning: Others in the meetings got annoyed.