The Sessions

Your Business Story

Who are we, what do we stand for
and what do we actually do?

There was a time when a business could hide behind its logo but in the digital age, customers, clients, employees and investors are more demanding. Whether it is sofas or software, insights or education, every business needs to be able to tell its story clearly and consistently in a way that engages their target audience.

However, we are so close to the story that we often can’t see what is most important to our audience. There will be parts that are known by the ‘old hands’ but never articulated, there will be parts your customer has struggled with but never told you and there will be parts that are incredibly cool but you have never thought to mention. Every group I have worked with has overlooked some of the most interesting and relevant aspects of their story, and this process helps you identify them.

1

We start by breaking out the seven key components of your business story and exploring each one individually. You will find the same elements in every story ever told and they are the elements your audience is looking for. This process brings fresh insights, new thinking on old ideas and visibility to some of those ‘hidden’ values.

2

We then move on to exercises that help your team think more like the audience.This takes us a step further towards seeing the parts of your story that are most going to connect with the audience – to be successful your story should answer all the anxieties and doubts in their minds before they even articulate them.

3

All these insights are then pulled together into a first draft using my story tracker template, which makes sure that the story we are building together is as succinct as possible and flows so our audience can follow it effortlessly. The output can be an ‘elevator pitch’, ‘About Us’ page or any other short paragraph that you need.

This session delivers so much more than just the story, as it generates a feeling of shared ownership and connection for your team. It also strengthens their effectiveness as brand ambassadors, because they now have a clear business or product story to share.

“Ann’s story coaching is an incredibly powerful technique. It allows you to create a story from all your thoughts and ideas, to find out what you want to say and deliver it in the best possible way to your audience.
It only takes a few hours of practice to start changing the way you order ideas. Ann’s input is smart and is contributed in exactly the right way. It is great value for money – there is no way I could have done this in a more efficient way myself.
The effect of using the story we built in Ann’s session has been immediate. Clients have been extremely responsive and it has already opened new conversations and even won us some substantial deals.”

Karine Marko: Head of Foreign Rights for The Quarto Group

Pitches, Presentations and Campaigns

Grab the audience’s attention and get a response.

This session is about shaping a particular communication for a particular audience. It usually includes an element of business story because we cannot communicate effectively without being clear on who we are first.

The session can be run as a one-to-one for senior leaders or in a group setting where there are more stakeholders. I ran this session for a media agency, Propellernet, who wanted to refresh their pitch. At their next three pitches, the clients all signed up on the spot. While I can’t promise that hit rate every time, this session will help you structure your content and plan your delivery to get the best possible reaction from your audience.

It is my clients who have helped me get ambitious with this session – together we have planned a book which tells the story of a children’s imprint, a recruitment video, a roll out of a new salary structure, and a campaign to reshape the story of a leading public school. I’ve used it to help CEOs prepare their end of year results presentation (where the story is often what is coming next), with the head of the Art Department at a large publishers who wanted to pitch for a decent design budget for a book (keeping the author with the publishing house by delivering their high-end values was the story here), and for a talent manager planning their first call to a new Head of Channel at the BBC (the story? – “business as usual, I have what you need”).

I can also offer support developing the project after the session.

1

We begin by identifying the right audience and the purpose for this message, and once we have agreed this we can look at the key elements of the story that will be relevant to the audience. We then use focusing techniques to home in even more accurately on their true concerns and interests, which starts to help us tailor our content for maximum relevance and therefore impact.

2

Then we move on to planning how to tell this story to deliver the outcome we require. Together we’ll explore how to make the story more ‘real’ – and therefore more memorable – through the use of imagery, statistics and case studies.

3

Finally we’ll use the story-tracker template to pull the whole thing together. The tracker ensures that every part of our piece is doing exactly what we need it to do and that it flows effortlessly for our audience.

This is an enjoyable but hard graft session, which always rewards with a solid, collectively agreed outcome and an understanding of how different a communication can look if you truly consider the audience

“Ann made me step back and think about what I was actually presenting through what the audience heard, not what I thought I was saying. Telling a story has not only helped engage audiences better since but has helped me present in a tighter and more coherent way.”

Marcus Leaver: CEO The Quarto Group

“You know when someone understands your business when they walk into a room and capture your imagination from the word go. That’s Ann. She’s smart, sharp and knows what makes a good story. Having worked with Ann, we’ve completely changed the way we talk about our business. And it’s capturing the imagination of people we want to work with. In short, brilliant.”

Nikki Gatenby: MD Propellernet

Website Planning

Who are we talking to
and what do they actually want to know?

Creating or refreshing a website can be a time-consuming and expensive experience if you are not fully prepared. I know, I have just done mine!

Before a single page is written you need to translate the values, voice and benefits of your business into one coherent story, then convert this in turn into visuals and text that will connect with your audience.This session is so useful because it enables you to do all of this before you sit down with your designer. It will save you hours of misunderstanding and wasted effort – and of course money – once the website build actually begins.

I can help with developing and writing text for the site following this session.

1

We begin by identifying the true target audience for your site and then we explore and define your core business story for this audience. The story element so often missed when planning a website is describing the ‘different world’ of working with you. How does it feel and look? By exploring this you will start to get an idea of the ‘voice’ of your business.

2

Audience focusing exercises then help you identify what webpages and content are actually required to get your story across.

3

Pulling together everything we have learned through the session, we work on a piece of text that will form the core of your Home Page or ‘About us’.

Following this session you will be able to articulate the story of your business and your value to clients and potential clients, as well as your designer

“Telling stories is natural for all of us, but telling a story about yourself succinctly whilst ensuring the listener remains attentive is surprisingly more difficult, as I found when trying to write copy for my company website.
The process of establishing my story couldn’t have been more convenient. Three Skype calls later and Ann had written the copy for the website and I could tell my story.
Was Ann’s support effective? Unsolicited feedback from an associate summed up what I was looking to communicate through the website: “Beautifully laid out and to the point. Like your no nonsense approach…”
If you’re wondering how to effectively tell your story, can I suggest you make a phone call to Ann, and make your own mind up”.

Mark Hurley Consulting

Harvesting Staff and Client Stories

Your best business stories are already in the building,
and this session is dedicated to finding them.

Staff stories about how you do business and how that impacts the lives of your clients, reflects the character of your business. These stories are invaluable for recruitment, internal buy-in and telling your story! Most businesses are yet to set up a system to capture these stories so this session is a great way to start. The session unlocks the natural storytelling skills of your team and shows them how valuable their stories are.

Let me give you a couple of examples:-

Transformation: At Milton Abbey School, staff and support staff shared their stories of students whom they had seen transformed by the experience of being part of the school. New staff heard inspiring stories to treasure, existing staff were reminded of the very special place in which they worked and the school had a set of stories to tell.

Culture of care: At Aimia we listened to a great story from a Market Insights employee about her experience following her maternity leave. She was nervous that her pregnancy would jeopardise her career but instead she was given very flexible terms, decided she would like to come back earlier and she was  greeted on her return by the senior staff gathering round her desk to welcome her back. Younger women in the group were happy to hear her positive experience and they all got an insight into how valuable the culture of support at Aimia is when a woman returns from maternity leave.

1

Story elements: Staff reconnect with their natural story-telling skills by telling a story and hearing a story. Through this exercise the group sees the value of their stories and the power of being storyteller. We soon identify what made the stories successful and the principles we instinctively used.

2

Values, culture, purpose: we break out the story elements that the group feels best describe the experience of belonging to the company and the experience of working with the company. We talk about how that ‘world’ feels, looks and even tastes. This often opens a discussion on values, professional pride, company culture and customer service – and how your staff experience these.

3

Tell the story: Attendees then decide on a story they can tell which reflects one of the themes that have come up in stage 2. This can be their own story or the story of a colleague. They share these stories – feed back to each other on how they could be developed and then share them to the group.

The workshop doesn’t only produce an arsenal of stories, it also sets them off to travel. When staff hear each other’s experiences of where they made a difference, resolved a crisis or showed their commitment, they also learn new stories about the company, which they can pass on to colleagues and to their own external network of friends and contacts

“Ann helped us capture customer success stories in an authentic and compelling way, and increased the awareness of both the importance and impact of effective storytelling across the entire team – a powerful skill and a worthwhile day.”

Damien Kelly, VP Sales and Marketing, Speechstorm

Storytelling for Leadership and Influence

In this session I teach how to unlock the secret power of stories to achieve better communication in everything we do.

Good communication is rocket-fuel to a business. When teams are aligned, departments collaborate and everyone can articulate the story clearly to the customer, there is more energy and more focus to achieve success.

Every single one of us is a storyteller. What I teach people to do in these sessions is to bring these natural skills into the workplace, allowing them to drop the detail and craft something for their audience. This skill will ensure they get their message across in a simple, accessible and engaging way – meaning the audience is more likely to listen, connect and act. The session also helps teams to address the way they communicate between themselves and externally on a daily basis.

I’ve run these workshops for managers, team members, CEOs and sales people, the skills are the same for anyone whose job involves communicating with other people… which is pretty much all of us.

1

Discover the story elements the audience cares about most and how to use them.

2

Learn focusing exercises to help the attendees get inside the minds of their audience and therefore tailor their content to be a perfect fit.

3

Use a ‘story tracker’ which will help their message flow and force them to drop unnecessary detail

Attendees bring live projects to work on so that they can apply the tools to a real challenge and make progress during the session. Alternatively we can work on a group project if that suits your needs better

“Since my training with Ann two years ago I make sure I tell a story in all parts of my work, including negotiations with unions and reporting to the executive.
Nowadays instead of giving people a statement of fact, I will tell a story”

Darren Hockaday: HR Director Gatwick Airport

Strategic Stories Package for CEOs and Leaders

Clear, compelling and authentic communication is a key component of every leader’s tool kit.

You have a vision and a passion for your business, but your audience can only share that vision once they can feel it, imagine it, and understand it. Effective communication is part of effective leadership. This package is designed to unlock your natural storytelling skills, and give you coaching and practical tools that will help to grab the attention of your audience, keep them listening and inspire a response.

It takes thought and planning to tell the right story to a specific audience, but it becomes a lot easier when you start to use your instinctive storytelling skills. A story is perfectly designed to engage an audience and you can use the model as a ‘map’ to plan any type of communication successfully.

Once you know what you going to say, the next step is to plan how you are going to say it. You will be most compelling when you speak with conviction and confidence, and this starts with being clear about your own professional story and therefore using a ‘voice’ that is true to you. 

This coaching package gives you the chance to collaborate with a skilled story coach to: – 

  • reflect and build on your business storytelling skills
  • define your own professional story
  • work on a key communication within your business

The Benefits

In short, ‘buy in’.
Internally, you will help your employees/team understand what they belong to, what they are working towards and why they are a valuable part of that.

Externally, you can express clearly to partners, investors, clients and even competitors, your values and your value.

You will also save hours of time. The story tools that you will learn in this package provide a methodical way to plan communications and interactions because you can identify the key building blocks of your story very quickly.

The opportunity to develop your message, working with a skilled coach, who already knows your business story and personal professional story.

The Practicals.

Sessions to be planned at your convenience and with your objectives in mind, but there will be eight hours in total and they could look something like this:-

1

Intro to story basics, diagnosis and objectives

 

2 hours in person

2

Build your authentic (and engaging) story

 

2 hours in person

3

Build your business story

 

1 hour Skype/call

4

Planning a presentation for the 21st Century

 

1 hour Skype/call

5

Planning a presentation for the 21st Century

 

2 hours in person

You can then choose to book a quarterly refresh session following this initial package.

“Ann made me step back and think about what I was actually presenting through what the audience heard, not what I thought I was saying. Telling a story has not only helped engage audiences better since but has helped me present in a tighter and more coherent way.”

Marcus Leaver: CEO The Quarto Group