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28 Nov. 2016 | Comments (0)

By Alex Parkinson I was recently tasked with uncovering strong examples of internal storytelling—no easy task given that most examples are rarely public. However, at the recent Engagement Institute Summit in Detroit, I was fortunate to hear about GM’s What’s Your GM Story? podcast. Following the summit, I had a conversation with Kerry Christopher, GM’s director of internal communications, to find out more. StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project that collects the stories of everyday people, who take to the microphone and interview each other about their lives. It’s a hugely successful concept that inspired Christopher to turn the microphone on GM employees. An avid podcast listener, Christopher felt that despite the growth of visual storytelling, audio still had a role to play in reaching employees. “Video is expensive and takes time,” he told me. “But talking and recording someone’s voice is easy and cheap and it allows you to listen in multiple ways when you can’t necessarily watch.” And so in early 2016, What’s Your GM Story? launched, asking employees to respond to two very simple questions:
  • What brought you to GM?
  • What keeps you here?
“You can ask these questions to anyone and they will have a unique story to tell,” says Christopher. “The first question is an important, reflective question and the second one prompts people to look ahead. No one yet has responded to that question saying it’s the money that keeps them here, which suggests that people stay at GM for something other reason, something deeper. We’re trying to get at what motivates and drives our employees.” Christopher and his team host 2-3 episodes of the podcast per month, complementing a suite of other internal communications and engagement tools, including intranet sites, news websites, town halls and social media platforms, among others. Although the podcast is still in its infancy, its engagement is on par other more entrenched forms of employee communications and storytelling. The reason, Christopher muses, is that it has started to win hearts and minds. “[With internal communications] you have to go out and talk to people and invest time in the ground game,” he says. “You have to get out and take questions and answer questions, talk to people and make sure they understand the business and its challenges. Content for employees must be as professional and compelling as it is for consumers.” Expanding access What’s Your GM Story? is available on the company’s Sharepoint site and can be accessed via mobile, but ultimately Christopher hopes it will be available publicly through podcasting delivery platforms such as iTunes. He says: “There’s value to this from a recruiting standpoint. What better way to get to know the company?” Christopher is perhaps most excited by the fact that people are volunteering themselves and others to participate. “A lot of the work we do in internal comms is behind the scenes, so there’s not a lot of time to highlight fun stories—this helps bring them out,” he says. “I feel that a lot of what we do is talk at people; we don’t listen as much as we should. This is a way to hand the mic back to people. It opens things up for more dialogue.” Christopher and GM have kindly made the debut episode of What’s Your GM Story? available for readers of this blog. Click the link below to listen. What's Your GM Story? Episode 1
  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

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