In the first part of my ‘What’s your story’ blog I talked about importance of storytelling. But how do you get your story across to your audiences – and ensure they react in the way you hope for? That can be quite a skill in business as much as it can be in your day to day life.
Getting your story out there
At a technical level, telling your story involves using the widest range of media available, including ‘traditional’ means of communication such as face-to-face meetings and public events, leaflets, partner or third-sector liaison etc if you are working in the public sector. And the range of stakeholders and engagement methodologies grows by the year. But it also means more than just understanding ‘the tech’. I have many friends and family members who shudder when confronted with the plethora of ways we can communicate these days. I am sure you do too.
But for those of us not looking to hang up our boot just yet, there is a growing importance to be placed on you becoming more comfortable and familiar with online means of engaging with people. And yes, using forms of communication and engagement that did not exist even five years ago. Are you old enough to remember when mobile phones did not exist? Or perhaps when their only function was, well, to and make a phone call? Now think how long ago that was. Not so long huh? And the world is moving forward at a faster pace so don’t sit there worrying too long.
For many in the public sector some of these methods may sound daunting. But how much off a sobering thought is it that to get anything across to someone under 25, you are likely to have to engage their attention in the first five seconds or you will have lost them. Is your organisation or service wise to the difference between millennials and baby boomers? Have you thought about testing you assumptions with your target audience? Some are surprised when they embark on a storytelling venture to find their message or medium is badly targeted or just plain wrong.
Traditional, online or both?
Deploying a combination of traditional and online methods will often maximise your opportunity to engage with as wide an audience as possible. Online engagement will probably entail you becoming more familiar than you currently are with social media. While we all tend to think of the more common forms of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, there are many other options and alternative social media platforms such as Instagram. Think digital. Think about blogs, online surveys (such as SurveyMonkey), emarketing platforms such as MailChimp and other ‘accelerating transaction’ models that progressively and increasingly engage your audience. Don’t be frightened to ask what these things are and how they work. Ask me in an email and I will see if I can point you in the right direction. Quietly.
You will also want to consider other benefits of non-written media and the power of short videos or podcasts about your service. Perhaps just you explaining clearly what your service does – delivering your pitch, in fact. Consider the uptake and usage patterns of YouTube, and you begin to realise just how much the world has gravitated towards online media. Watch this space for my efforts.
But as we know, not all of your audience use only online media. Many will prefer slower and more traditional forms of engagement, and many may prefer the option to mix formats. Understand how to communicate with different ages sections of society, cultural groups etc etc. And make sure you pitch and your message is tailored accordingly. Sorry but one size fits all no longer cuts it.
An important point to remember – just because you have put something out there, either by traditional means or online, doesn’t mean people will automatically know about it. We know that certain groups of people are difficult to reach for a variety of reasons. For some it is time, competing messages and perhaps lack of interest. For others it could be lack of access to computers, or understanding about the message, or reticence in responding. Many people wait for information be pushed at them rather than actively seeking it themselves, and today we have more information pushed towards us than ever before. So you will need to adopt a proactive approach during the engagement process and not be afraid of changing your plans if one route is not yielding results.
As ever, you can read more about my thoughts for how public sector managers can best position their service in my book, How to Survive Austerity.