I always enjoy reading the articles that get written for summer associates at this time of year. You can always count on finding at least one or two on law.com. The most recent article, Hello, Summer Associates, and Welcome to Chapter 1 by Ari Kaplan, provides excellent advice to summers regarding how to market themselves to their firms. The article discusses storytelling as a marketing tool. The Ten Turths about Branded Storytelling by Alain Thys on the Marketing and Strategy Inovation Blog talks more directly about marketing and storytelling.
As individuals who market their services, resources, and more, librarians could benefit from the same advice. We most often market our libraries by letting attorneys and staff know about the benefits they could derive from using our services. Using storytelling, we can talk about what our users experience or better yet, they could tell the story. What makes some stories so good and others fall flat? Seth Godin has the answer in his blog post Ode: How to tell a great story.
I saw the power of storytelling at my last firm. The IT staff was introducing a time tracking toolbar that stayed running on the computers once launched. As timekeepers moved from project to project, they could click on an icon and change the client and matter that they were working on. This allowed them to capture time more accurately, which in turn, would keep them from guessing how much time they spent when they did their time entry later.
One of the group heads was so taken by the technology that he offered to accompany the IT staff member to each practice group meeting in the firm and tell his story. As he was well respected by other lawyers, they paid attention to him when he talked about how the application changed him from a lawyer who was always late in recording time to one, that not only entered his time in on time, but also increased his billable time overall signifantly. His willingness to tell his story made a big difference in the acceptance and use of the toolbar.
Besides it’s use for marketing, storytelling is also very useful as a knowledge sharing technique. Librarians Sandy Bradley, Barbara Lupei, and Mary Ray of the Weapons Division at NAVAIR created a storytelling initiative within their organization as described in their article, The Power of Storytelling. Some law firms are also testing this type of initiative (even if they aren’t aware that they are storytelling) through practice meetings, mentoring, etc. One firm recently started meetings where the partner in charge of a successful matter would be the speaker as he shared what was done, what they learned to benefit their knowledge of the law and their own best practices. Once a month, a new partner tells his or her story.
Finally, stories help build culture within an organization. The stories that are told about leadership actions within an organization will support and maintain whatever culture exists whether it is good or bad. John Kotter describes how this can work in his Forbes April 12, 2006 article The Power of Stories. I can’t help but think of the firms that allow partners, who are abusive to staff, to continue their less than suitable behaviour. By not doing something about those partners actions, the firm is supporting a culture where staff may not feel they are valued. If you want to make changes to your culture, start taking action that make up the inspiration for a story.
Additional resources regarding storytelling include:
Marie Wallace, Guide on the Side: Storytelling, Wake up Sleeping Beauty, LLRX, March 1, 2002.
Storytelling: Passport to the 21st Century Website created by Stephen Denning, author of Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, Butterworth-Heinamann, 2000.