Identifying inspirational stories within your company is a challenging proposition. Not because they don’t exist, but because we sometimes overlook them, we don’t realize the inspiration that lies within the story, or we just don’t really understand what makes a story inspirational. These stories are an important part of your content strategy because it’s a powerful way for people to get to know the soul of your company. How? Well, you know the saying, “people do business with people we like?" This idea falls into that bucket. If you’re in the “relationship business,” sharing more of yourself (think stories!) is often a good thing.
So, how do you unearth these stories of inspiration? Where do they hide? How do you know when the story is truly inspirational? And how do you make the story inspiring? Here are a few ideas that may help:
1. Unearthing stories of inspiration at work
Get to know the people you work with. I mean, really get to know them. Are they married? Do they have kids? Where are they from? What do they do for fun? What have been their greatest challenges and their greatest victories? Who are their role models? What you’re trying to learn when you get to know your co-workers is how did they become who they are?
CBS Reporter Steve Hartman created a franchise several years ago called, “Everybody Has a Story.” The idea was that Hartman could go to any town in the country and find a compelling story. Miraculously, he did. This piece from 2010 will give you a sense for how Hartman unearthed stories. Even the subject didn’t know she had a story to share! It’s not easy, and there’s an art to turning information into a story that people care about, but it starts with getting to know the people you work with.
What makes a story inspirational?
The most inspirational stories typically are about a single person. Just like in a movie, there is usually one main actor and a number of supporting actors. There’s a lead in a play and there's also a lead in your company stories. There is a star and there are supporting actors, just like in movies. Identifying who fits which role is critical. Secondly, remember that memorable stories of inspiration have themes of overcoming adversity, beating the odds, and uncommon accomplishments. Stories of perseverance are also inspiring for viewers.
How do you make a story inspiring?
This is the tough part. The untrained producer really has a difficult time distilling facts and figures and turning information into a story. As a reporter, people would often approach me in public and say, “Ed, I have a great story for you to cover!” And in most cases, there really wasn’t a story at all. Typically, these stories didn’t have a broad appeal and were of interest to only a small group of individuals. For example, someone might say, “our American Legion baseball team made it to the national tournament.” And while a specific group of people would find that interesting, the entire Twin Cities probably might not find that compelling and definitely not inspiring. Instead, the real story, and inspirational story, is about a person on the team. Is it the starting pitcher whose father passed away at the start of the year? Maybe the team manager who was robbed of a prolific baseball career because of an injury. Perhaps it’s the manager who is going to the national tournament for the first time, or the tenth time. Nevertheless, you can usually create compelling stories when you look for them in the characters of the piece — beginning with your primary character.
Will your inspirational stories be successful? It’s hard to tell until you begin producing them. We have learned through our experience that our best performing and most viewed videos are stories about people who have overcome adversity. These stories generate the most views and retain viewers better than any other type of video we produce. Of course, a successful video strategy should have some variety and provide “something for everyone.” However, when it comes to leaving an impression and creating memorable content, inspirational stories are the most effective. Now all you have to do is find them in your workplace!