Stories are incredibly useful tools for getting business results. You can use these tools to make a point; build rapport and connection; explain a decision, change, or strategy; change a mind; and explain the value of what you do. You can use them as part of a prepared presentation, but the vast majority of the time it will be in response to a question or as part of a conversation or meeting.
I was talking with Mike Adams yesterday. He was looking for examples of values stories to include in our company sales story bank (where we share stories that might be used in the sales process). I checked my personal story bank to make sure that the story I shared was in there. It took about 3 seconds to find it—I simply searched on the hashtag ‘values’ and voilà, there it was. Mike recently posted a video on LinkedIn giving a demo of the story bank if you want to have a look.
Tagging stories within your story bank ensures you can quickly access your stories when you need them. Knowing you have a suitable story but not being able to find it quickly can be really frustrating.
This post shares some thoughts on how I approach tagging my stories. This might help you design your own tagging strategy.
Set up a tagging strategy
Step one is to have a story bank. The next step is to attach tags to each story to make them easy to find when you need them.
- Industry. When talking to an insurance company, I’ll search for stories from insurance and other related industries. I have tags for many industries—government, insurance, law, energy, professional services, health, defence, pharmaceuticals, not-for-profit, and the list goes on.
- Location. If I am in Kuala Lumpur, I will want to use a Malaysia story. If I am in New York, a New York story would work best. This could be linked to country or town, and also to places like the State Library of Victoria.
- Values. This could be personal or company values, such as integrity, collaboration, and transparency. It is very useful to have several stories demonstrating what each of your company values looks like in action. You can also have stories that demonstrate how values can be used. For example, back in 2018, we had a contentious request from one of our partners. I asked two of the relatively new team members how they thought we should respond. Each of us proposed a different response—not a good situation. We reconsidered the request in light of our company values (do good things, have a go, and take care of each other). Within minutes, we all had the same answer—it was really efficient. I use this as an example of how having clear values can help make important decisions.
- Famous People. If one of your stories includes a famous person, it works well to create a tag for that name, you might end up with a lot of stories that include Steve Jobs, I know I have!
- Topic. I’ve got many ’topic’ tags. A few weeks back I ran a webinar for a knowledge management group based in Singapore. I searched my stories for the tags ‘KM’, ‘Knowledge Management’, ‘Communities of Practice’, and ‘Collaboration’. Bingo! I had more than enough examples to use in the webinar. It was really helpful to find some of them were also tagged ’Singapore’. This is a big set of tags for me as it lists a lot of topics I am interested in, like communication, values, coaching, leadership, abstract messaging, strategy, rationality, change management, behavioural biases, insight, purpose, listening, approachability, and emotional intelligence.
- Function. Tagging stories by key business functions allows me to be very specific to each audience. Such tags include IT, sales, engineering, finance, legal, strategy, HR, marketing, etc.
- Random. Valuable business stories also come from things that happen outside work. I have tags such as kids, music, diving, golf, and comedy.
One of the nice things about most of the commonly used apps (Evernote, OneNote, etc.) is that you can attach as many tags as you like to a single story. This is important as stories can be very versatile and have applications in a wide range of business situations.
If you’ve taken the time to build a story bank, setting up a tagging strategy can help you get even more value from it.
About Mark Schenk
Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on: