As we begin 2023, many leaders will be turning their attention to planning new year business communications. Some may even be preparing organisational messaging that explains a forthcoming change in strategy or desired culture. Whatever the topic, getting the ‘story’ right first time is critical for leaders everywhere, and this includes the way in which the story is told as much as the content itself.

Let’s consider Christmas as an ideal time for sharing stories with people all ages. ‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs is always a favourite in our household. There are so many tales shared around this time of year. What’s your favourite story? I wonder what unique stories are shared in your household?

At Inky Thinking we’re lucky enough to count an acclaimed children’s author and illustrator as a member of the team. Tom McLaughlin has written over 20 children’s books and even has his work read on BBC Bedtime Stories. Tom also spends his time partnering with business leaders, bringing their business strategy and organisational communications to life through powerful storytelling and engaging illustrations. Who better than Tom to answer four simple questions about the power of storytelling.

Tom McLaughlin is a member of the Inky Thinking team and an acclaimed children's author.
Image by Carla McClaren
  1. Tom, why is storytelling important? ‘Storytelling is hugely important, it’s what we do everyday, from social media posts, to conversations in the playground. It’s the way we communicate, it’s how we frame our lives. Business is no different. Whether you’re talking about the mission statement or the origins of your business, stories allow us to or how you connect with customers.’ 
  2. What makes for a compelling and memorable story? ‘The things that make stories compelling is finding the small moments in the larger narrative. For example, taking a huge organisation, maybe one that delivers parcels and talking about how that company brings happiness to one child on their birthday. Making the big money becomes small. It also works the other way too. The tiny things we do can make a huge difference to someone else.’
  3. What can storytellers in business learn from storytelling for children? ‘People want to see the workings out of a business. You can’t hear a podcast without someone talking about how ’two college drop-outs with a dream to give the world cheap razors’. People aren’t just interested in the service, it about the people and ultimately the story of the business. It’s the why as much as the how.’
  4. What are your top 3 practical tips for business leaders as they develop stories for their organisations? ‘

    1. ‘I like to think of good ideas as circle ideas, the end ties in with the beginning.

    2. Make the story about emotions; make it personal.

    3. Try zooming in and out, making the small stuff big and the big things small.’ 

As a business leader you don’t need to be an experienced storyteller like Tom to create and share compelling stories about your organisation’s future, but it is worth asking yourself whether your story is likely to engage and inspire your teams. Here are several questions to get your thinking started…

  • How are you taking the time to ensure your important story for the new year is spot on?
  • How does the end of your story tie into the beginning?
  • How are you emphasising the WHY as much as the how?
  • How does your story communicate the difference your business is making for others? 

About Tom M …

Tom McLaughlin is an illustrator and visual storyteller with Inky Thinking. Tom’s writes and illustrates for publishers including Bloomsbury, Puffin, Oxford University Press, and Simon & Schuster. He also works with Nickelodeon and Disney. Tom’s books include ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’‘You’ve Been Were-Wolfed’‘The Story Machine’and ‘Along Came A Different.’ 

Find out more about Tom and the Inky Thinking team.

About Tom R …

Tom is a visual meeting facilitator and founder of Inky Thinking, a creative agency specialising in bespoke visual communication, enabling leaders and organisations to communicate effectively. Tom works with leaders and teams in global organisations to design and facilitate conferences, meetings and workshops.

Ask Tom M to create visual imagery for your leadership storytelling by emailing hello@inkythinking.com or calling +44 (0)333 567 2121.