19 November 2012

To Tell A Good Story, Listen First

By Elizabeth Borton

This Friday, November 23, is the National Day of Listening, a national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that encourages everyday folks to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives. Since 2003, they have collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews that are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

I discovered the StoryCorps interviews on American Voices, Senator Bill Bradley’s show on Sirius/XM. The stories are so unique and so touching because they are real stories about real folks.

Storytelling is a popular buzzword in communications these days, but it’s been a powerful tool since the beginning of time. You can tap into the power of storytelling in your HR and Benefits communications as well. Let your employees tell the story about how they have used a benefit, or improved their health, or saved money by shopping for healthcare services. Believe me, it will have much more impact than any copy you could create.

But, as my headline says, to tell a good story, you need to listen first. Reach out to your population to ask about their experiences. Think about running a contest to find some great success stories. If you have HR reps in remote locations, ask them to hook you up with employees who have benefited from the company’s programs or services.

To practice your listening skills, join in the StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening. Take a few minutes to listen to some examples, then record an interview with a loved one. You can use the recording device on your smartphone, computer or a tape recorder. The Do-It-Yourself Guide on the StoryCorps website provides everything you need, including a list of sample questions.

Enjoy your holiday…and uncover some great stories!