I stood before a distinguished panel, in an imposing, wood-panelled room outside London that was briefly the epicentre of WW2, and delivered a pitch. It was about the benefits of having staff describe their work online, in their own words and using their own social media accounts.
I winced several times, because I had to use the word Storytelling. I have hated seeing that word, more so writing it into my work. I see it every day in huge letters just inside the News building and it did the rounds of various conferences a few years ago.
Storytelling ended up in the pitch as a suggestion from some colleagues I respect, and I was on holiday beforehand, so I left it in.
This got me thinking about the labels we attach to our work.
Another colleague said that Digital Engagement is a term that’s been emptied of any meaning.
Perhaps unsurprisingly (but, I promise, not just because we won the Storytelling pitch!), I’ve changed my views on this. A bit, at least.
I think it’s OK to pick and choose from these labels, if the ends justify the means. I’m OK using Storytelling to brand a particular project, because I’m confident that we are delivering this properly: staff are building their digital capability, talking openly about their work over a number of years, and publicly responding to questions and comments.
Ghost-written corporate ‘blogs’, grip-and-grin photos at meetings and shamelessly positive stories won’t feature as Storytelling.
In the same way, I think it’s OK to continue using Digital Transformation in your organisation, provided the outcome is better online services for staff and customers, and processes redesigned for the web.
If a popular label gets people in to a room, inspires them, helps maintain momentum and deliver something meaningful to the organisation and its customers, then that’s OK.
I have not seen a digital transformation programme that got outreach right. I’ve seen push comms, push comms dressed up as engagement in the form of roadshows, social media and cake, but I haven’t seen a user needs led approach.
This sums up a lot of what is wrong about labels for me. Roadshows and cake are easy to deliver, and easy for participants to get excited about. But they don’t make change happen.
Labelling social media content as Storytelling doesn’t make it so.
Labelling a digital programme as Transformation doesn’t make it so.
In the same way that simply having sticky notes, Macbooks and hashtags doesn’t mean digital things are really happening. However, if the labels and baubles of work contribute to actual outcomes, than that is OK.
Worry less about how projects are described, and spend more time focussed on change.