Digital transformation: 7 storytelling tips to accelerate change

Successful digital transformation requires shared understanding. Consider these innovative storytelling tips to earn buy-in as you drive change
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In a recent survey by Gartner, data and analytics leaders noted that one of the major trends in 2021 is the need to increase data literacy across their organizations. Creating a common understanding of key terms, reducing miscommunication, and understanding the value that data brings to the business are essential to the success of digital transformation. These goals all require data literacy, which can be accelerated through meaningful storytelling.

To demystify the concepts of data and analytics, and accelerate change, it’s important to first nail the basics of great storytelling, and then boost your impact by looking to social media tactics for inspiration about how to engage your audience. Here are some storytelling secrets for the digital age:

Digital transformation storytelling: Nail the basics

For centuries, good storytelling has relied on a few key elements. These basics still apply, no matter what channel you use or what era you live in.

Begin with an outline that includes traditional storytelling elements: people, place, plot, and purpose. Who are the key players and how will they be impacted by change? Where will the impacts happen? What’s changing and when? What does each stakeholder need to know at each phase of the journey? And most importantly, why are these changes critical to the success of the company and the individual? 

Even the most well-written story may not permeate if it’s not presented in a compelling way.

Then modernize your delivery tactics by looking to social media for guidance. These days, it’s not enough to master the basics. To get people’s attention, organizations must use modern tactics and continue to push for innovation. In a world where we are inundated with content every minute of every day, even the most well-written story may not permeate the barrage of information we receive if it’s not presented in a compelling way.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

So, what does it mean to be modern? It means that form is as important as content. To freshen up your communication approach, look to social media. Here are seven tips to bring great stories to life in an information-overloaded world:

1. Make access painless

To educate employees and increase data literacy across the organization, it’s important to keep access and delivery light and simple. So, eliminate the need for a sign-up, ditch a formal tutorial format, and move away from a long, daunting e-learning process. Sometimes the best approach is the most direct. Share brief content via fun, personally narrated videos that are posted on the company’s internal social media platform. A single click can take users directly to the information they need.

2. Offer snack-sized content for easy digestion

As we’re all painfully aware, attention spans have drastically reduced over the last few years. To address this, resist the urge to provide content that’s any longer than two to three minutes. Develop short, focused, videos or clips with content that are relevant to the viewer. It’s better to break up the content into several short videos than risk viewers “tuning out” halfway through your story.

And keep it simple! Avoid jargon and use language that’s accessible to all. As some experts say, “Write as if you’re explaining your work to your grandmother.”

3. Make it relevant

This applies to the business as well as the day-to-day experience on the ground. If viewers don’t understand why your content is relevant to them in a practical, tangible way, they will not buy in. Create content that clearly shows “what’s in it for me” or you’re missing an opportunity to engage, educate, and activate your employees to be agents of change.

4. Make it relatable and memorable

Balancing education with informality in a corporate setting is always tricky, especially when working with technical content such as data and analytics. You can work around this by putting the creative process in the hands of the leadership team and asking them to inject their own personality and passions into the storyline.

Seek out meaningful metaphors to highlight important concepts and use leaders’ own experiences to help them connect to their people. In doing so, you can make the content more relatable to a broader audience.

For example, a leader could liken clinical analytics to cooking or data stewardship to a community garden. This will help bring the content to life in a fun and memorable way. Using your leaders as the hosts of your video education series can help to personalize the content and allow employees to connect with their leaders in new ways.

5. Engage your audience in a dialogue

The key to a great social media campaign is the ability to interact with content. So, give your audience the power to rate your video, comment on it, and begin a conversation. Perhaps just as important, ask them questions about what else they would like to see or learn more about. This way, they are engaged in the process of creating future content and will be inspired to come back to the platform to learn more.

6. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Posting the video series on the organization’s social media platform is only the beginning. Review and leverage all channels available in your organization and share your stories across various media. For example, think about embedding the content in your function department page or Sharepoint site, integrating it into your onboarding process, and sharing it again at key points of your transformation journey. Tap into every opportunity to raise awareness, and don’t worry about repeating your messages too often – repetition is key.

7. Adjust your approach based on your metrics

The beauty of digital platforms is that they allow you to track numerous metrics, from click-and-open rates to engagement via comments and likes. As you analyze your impact through engagement data and metrics, stay flexible. You may need to shift your approach if you’re not reaching your goals, and that’s okay.

As more and more organizations embark on digital transformation, bringing data and analytics concepts to life for a broad audience will become increasingly critical to ensure that your digital initiatives “stick.” To accelerate change and really embed the concepts across the organization, rely first on the principles of classic storytelling to craft your message, and then on the principles of social media to ensure that message is heard.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Amber Lacanal
Amber Lacanal is a Change Leader and certified coach at Notion Consulting, a leadership and change consultancy. She partners with C-suite executives to accelerate digital transformation, spur innovation, and help build data and analytics capability across their organizations.