From Ordinary To Extraordinary – 11 Tips To Transform Your HR Stories (part 3 of 3)

By Dr. John Sullivan

ATC June 22, 2015

Part 1- Using Stories To Improve Your Recruiting Results

Part 2- Ensuring Your Stories Are Shared And Have Impact

Elements That Will Make Your Stories Significantly “More Powerful”


It’s important to make each story as impactful as possible. Including one or more of these “power factors” can turn an ordinary story into a great one. I have researched this issue for many years and as a result, I have identified 11 unique factors that you can add to any story to make it more powerful. Or in some cases, a single power factor can turn an average story into what I call a “WOW story”.

Once you have identified a basic story, you can improve it by conducting more research/interviews and then add to the story any of the following factors that have proven to make it stronger and more compelling.

1. A great program name

Often just having a program with a great name can make an informal event into something credible. A “cool” or catchy name for any program makes it even better.

2. Compelling quotes

A good story becomes a better one with a short memorable quote that one might remember and repeat. Quotes from “average” people about their jobs and experiences are great. CEO notable quotes of commitment also add value to any story. Quotes from major publications also add significant value. Customer quotes can also be compelling.

3. Degree of participation

Just having a program isn’t compelling if no one participates in it. Showing the estimated percentage of workers that participate in or actually use a program helps make the message stronger.

4. Testimonials from individuals

Short testimonials from individuals outlining their passion for the firm or program are powerful. Testimonials about their treatment or experiences are a “value add” also. Video testimonials on the website can on occasion be powerful.

5. Comparison with the industry average/best in the industry

Always try to compare and show how “yours” is superior to the “name” competitor’s on a side-by-side basis. The use of direct comparison percentages or numbers makes for an even better story. Being first in your industry or region to offer a program is also an excellent story builder.

6. Quantifying program results

Using statistics to demonstrate the business impacts of a program is extremely important. Using dollars as well as numbers to describe program outputs make any story stronger. By including inside a story a description of what good number and a bad number are, you can make a good story better and make any number more meaningful. Also showing the large amount spent per employee or as a large percent of all total expenditures for the program tells the listener right away you think this is important.

7. Add a WOW

A WOW is a short story element (1-2 paragraphs long) that when told, is so powerful that the person literally responds with a verbal sound (WOW).

8. Add a video clip on the web

Sometimes words aren’t enough. Short video clips (three minutes or less) that more clearly reveal the excitement at your firm can be included on the corporate website or on YouTube.

9. Add a picture

A picture that raises emotions can be a valuable addition to a website story. Also consider posting or encouraging your employees to post powerful pictures on interest, Facebook and Instagram.

10. Comparison with last year or the set goal

Showing how your firm has dramatically improved its numbers from last year (or any period) can be powerful.

11. A web link

Add a web link or QR code inside a written story or blog, so the reader can easily find more detailed follow up information.

Final Thoughts

Over the years I have found that recruiting is just marketing and sales, except with a crummy budget! And since invariably marketing gets more executive support than recruiting, it makes sense for us in recruiting to “borrow” the best proven marketing approaches, including storytelling. And with all of the new technologies being developed, in the future your recruiters will have no choice but to become marketers. I recommend that you start with using your stories as part of your employee referral program. Next proactively but subtly spread your current stories in company newsletters, during employee meetings and in executive blogs. Then, as you get more sophisticated, place them where they can be easily found when someone is using an Internet search to learn more about your company. And finally, if you apply for “Best Place To Work awards” use your best stories as part of your supporting material or application. Once you become the “talked about place” your primary recruiting problem will be sorting through the large volume of resumes you’ll get every day (Google utilizes a powerful storytelling approach and it gets nearly 3 million applications every year)!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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