TSR Talks Recap: Storytelling for Culture Change

From ancient epics told around the campfire to modern streaming television series, storytelling has long captured our attention. Aside from mere entertainment, good storytelling has the power to influence behavior. Read on for a quick tutorial on how to craft a story for your organization.  

How to Choose a Story

  • Relevance: The more relatable the story is to the individual, the more impactful it will be in inspiring behavior change. 
  • Authenticity: Select a story that is authentic and genuine. People are more likely to resonate with stories that are real and relatable, rather than fabricated or exaggerated. 
  • Emotional Impact: Focus on stories that evoke emotions and create a strong emotional connection with listeners. Look for narratives that can elicit feelings of empathy, concern, or even fear. Stories with powerful emotional elements are more likely to leave a lasting impression and drive behavior change.

How to Craft / Re-Tell an Inspiring Story

  • All good stories have the three W’s:
    • Who? 
    • What?
    • When? 
  • They also include all the C’s:
    • Characters
    • Challenge / Conflict
    • Climax
    • Conclusion

Note: If you are retelling a highly emotional employee story, consider having a therapist on hand to help the employee through the retelling. 

How to Communicate the Story

  • Choose the best method of communication based on your message and the audience.
    • Who is your audience and how do they prefer to receive information?
    • Where / when will they be reading or hearing the message? Note: if the message is highly emotional and will be received by employees it is recommended to share the message after work.
  • What mediums are already available to you?
    • Examples include emails, safety meetings, intranet, social media, internal social media, podcasts, video.
    • Align the message and the medium. If the medium doesn’t feel appropriate for the message, consider developing a new medium to communicate it. 
  • Remember, attention spans are short. Impactful stories can be told in a short amount of time. 

How to Inspire Behavior Change with the Story

  • The conclusion of the story should include a Call to Action. This could be a cognitive action such as a promise to engage in a safe behavior (i.e., buckling up), or it could include a physical action such as signing a pledge card, practicing the safe behavior, or simply posting something in the cab of the vehicle as a reminder. 
  • Design and display a visual to remind people of the story and their emotional connection to it. This will keep the story top of mind and reinforce the individual’s commitment to the call to action. 
  • Simplify the message into a meaningful phrase. This is an easy way to spread the message and remind and reinforce the call to action. 
  • Turn the visual and/or message into a physical object individuals interact with to reinforce the message (i.e., a pen, a work tool, a reminder card, a tee-shirt).