Why You Need A Story Section in Your Communications Plan

As we continue to explore the various sections to include in the modern day communications plan, we turn to the heart of your effort: your story. Be sure to include a section in your plan that specifically references the main stories and messages you are going to use.

Of course, this will not include every story. You’ll be pitching unique ideas to the media, developing new content and crafting submessages along the way. However, you should have an inventory of “signature” stories and a high level message guide as part of your plan.

(What? You don’t have a message guide? We can fix that.)  We also can help you with your stories. Yes, there is a difference.)

Your message guide section should include all top level messages from your positioning statement and value proposition to a spotlight pitch and answers to frequently asked questions. It sets the message tone so everyone is clear on how you are going to position the organization at the most basic level. It provides the foundation on which all other messages are developed.

Your story section should include a short inventory of the various customer and client stories you can tell to illustrate what you do, the impact you have and how what you do is better, different and relevant to your target audience. It needn’t include the stories themselves, but rather give some sense of what is available to use. It also will showcase what you may need to develop. Hint: Take a look at your case studies, past media coverage, and customer testimonials to identify themes.

Does this seem like overkill?  You would be surprised at how many organizations do not have this section and then wonder why confusion exists in the marketplace about who they are and what they deliver. Or, why their employee base doesn’t seem to be on the same page. Know what you have to work with from the start. It will get you off on the right foot.

What ‘Showing’ Versus ‘Telling’ Looks Like

A big sin in storytelling is to “tell” rather than “show.” Screenwriting master Robert McKee calls this habit of using exposition, “furniture dusting.” Have you ever seen a play that starts with the “servants” coming out at the beginning to dust the furniture in the “parlor,” all the while talking about the master and mistress of the house and what’s been going on? This is intended to get the audience up to speed and share the back story. It’s downright lazy, says McKee. He’s right.

Sure, some “telling” is necessary. But, it should never be in replace of using other creative ways to show what you are committed to.

A good example of how to show off your commitments is through corporate social responsibility programs. For instance, take the Dyson company, known for their innovative vacuum cleaner technology. We recently bought a new Dyson vacuum cleaner. On the box we found a story of the James Dyson Foundation. It reads:

In schools and universities, the James Dyson Foundation North America encourages young people to realize their engineering potential. It could be prototyping new environmentally responsible designs, disassembling everyday applianaces or tackling fun, practical tasks. As well as inspiring tomorrow’s engineers, the foundation also supports medical and scientific research projects around the world.

What do you think they are dedicated to? Beyond just selling vacuum cleaners and parts, clearly they support innovation and engineering breakthroughs overall.

What stories do you have that show off your commitments?