Telling stories is by now a well known and accepted strategy for communicators. We advocate story telling to create corporate identity, instill values among employees, and to build strong organizational cultures. Stories help us do that by allowing us to give examples, reveal meaning without directly defining it (leading people to their own meanings), connect with people rationally and emotionally, and to engage in symbolism that can be very powerful to internal and external branding.
The question of how to get to the stories at the heart of your organization has many answers. The nonprofit organization StoryCorps offers one of the most expansive and creative models, I believe. StoryCorps is a ten-year-old nonprofit oral history project, and airs excerpts on NPR’s Morning Edition. Through onsite recording booths, a mobile recording unit, and a DIY online recording program, StoryCorp facilitates interpersonal interviews between co-workers, employees and customers, family members, and any other pair, with a goal to ask and answer leading questions providing insights into that person and their experience related to the interview topic. With permission, the interviews are posted online, can be edited for corporate use, and are given to the interview partners on CD. There have been more than 45,000 recordings since the project started in 2003, and these are archived at the Library of Congress. According to a Chicago Tribune article today about it, “The idea is to weave ordinary people into the historical record and in doing so, make them aware that they are part of history.”
Chicago is hosting a StoryCorps booth at the Cultural Center currently. There are permanent sites in three cities, and several options to bring the recording facilities to you. Check it out and share with us what you think!