Creating animated stories to communicate change - here's what we've learned

Stickystories.co Co-Director Leisha Boyle shares learnings gathered from developing custom Sticky Stories for clients who brought storytelling to their corporate change programs.

After living through decades of change programs I’ve seen many fresh, creative approaches to change communications. The most powerful are always story-driven. They are simple and personal communications crafted from an understanding of change impacts on real people, reflecting their perspective and priorities, and empathising with the challenges that workplace changes will bring for these people. Now, going into a third year of telling such stories through animations, to drive change and learning, I would like to share some of the knowledge so that you can set yourself up to create your own.

Find the right stories

A story is not a content-rich method of communication, instead it is an insight-rich method, so choose one key ‘realisation’ you want people to have when they view the story, then build your story around this. What will it be like in future? Why will it be better? Who will it be better for? What will it feel like for them, what will surprise them about the changes? What new understanding will people come to?

Maybe your one key insight is the fact that customers will do so much more for themselves once the new portal is implemented. Maybe it’s the new way that people across the organisation will be able to collaborate. Decide on this one key ‘aha’ moment and go from there.

Choose characters that your audience want to hear about

Stories have to have characters. Maybe some people would disagree, and say you can tell the story of your company from the beginning to now and there are no real characters. I would say that unless there are characters to identify with and empathise with, it’s not a story, it’s a history lesson.

There’s a lot of work going on in the business storytelling world, to support leaders in telling stories so that they can connect with people and lead better. In this situation it’s good if they often share stories about themselves, to help people see them as people and create an empathic connection.

But if you are telling a story to communicate change, in the main you will want your characters to be people your audience can identify with as change-affected. Maybe employees like them, or maybe customers, for example.

Give your characters a problem to solve or a transition to go through

Stories thrive on tension and they engage audiences in this way. Even a minor problem like day to day work backlog, confusion over a process, doubts about a career move, are all useful problems to give your character, to engage your audience in the character’s journey and decisions.

Voiceover quality matters

This applies to the voiceover talent as well as the sound quality. A poor voiceover track hits the audience straight away and tells them the entire product is low quality. This will distract them from your message.

Don’t be too serious

If you’ve decided to convey the change story with animation, it’s ok to be a little light hearted. People expect that when they are watching cartoons, and it needn’t take anything away from your main message.

Leave something up to your audience

Stories are to be interpreted by the audience, and are more powerful if the audience plays a role in unravelling the message for themselves. So resist the temptation to put your key message across the screen in capitals. Instead, let the story resolution be a question in itself for the audience, that gently asks them ‘what does that mean?’ and lets them answer for themselves.

‘Telling’ - be sensitive to politics and cynicism

One of the biggest challenges we face with clients who engage us to tell change stories to staff, lies in the word ‘tell’. Stories that are clearly a didactic message from leadership to staff about what they should be doing can be (at best) subtly disrespectful and (at worst) cheesy and eye-rollingly irrelevant. 

In our story scripts where employee characters are having natural conversations with each other, client leadership are often tempted to insert strategic terminology, unnaturally sugary statements emphasising benefits and learnings, and extra messaging to address perceived behaviour issues. For example, having two people at coffee saying “I’m so pleased I’m a part of our new procurement framework implementation, I can see how it’s saving the company money and saves us time too!” is just a recipe to disengage. It’s not a story if it’s just a management message imposed on a character.

Another sensitivity is the negative portrayal of current issues. Stories that attempt to highlight the benefits of change by exaggerating how poorly things are working in teams right now can be downright insulting, and get people asking defensively ‘was that story meant to be about our team?’

Think through your distribution approach

There’s no point producing a 5 minute animation with the really important messaging in the final minute, and putting it on the intranet for your change affected workforce to watch in their own time. Many won’t watch it, and the majority won’t watch the whole 5 minutes. Here are my tips for thinking about how you will get value from your animated story when you roll it out:

  1. Design the broader change communications approach: What would you like people to do, read, see, understand before and after seeing this story? What other materials need to be ready so they can progress their understanding afterwards? What messaging will reach them in different ways? Decide what role you want the animated story to play in your broader change communications & engagement approach. Give it a specific objective and a simple scope of messaging.
  2. Accessibility: does your video need to have subtitles added to ensure it meets requirements? There are very affordable services and cheap/free apps you can use to add subtitles to your video after you export it from the animation tool.
  3. Tracking views: if it’s essential for everyone to have seen the animated story, think about how you will achieve this certainty.
  4. Technology: Make sure you engage with the IT function to discuss any distribution approach that will rely on staff being able to launch and play the story on internal networks. Not all default media players will play all types of video files. Also, not all corporate workforces have speakers/audio activated on their computers. Test!
  5. Confidentiality: If you decide to put your story on a public platform like Vimeo or Youtube for staff to play on their own devices, get the right risk assessment and decisions around this before you accidentally expose a cute animated story about your organisation’s future customer service model to the press and competitors.
  6. Opt-in viewing or closed sessions: In our experience, the best outcomes from our animated change stories (Sticky Stories) have been when they are played in roadshows, briefings or workshops with the audience, or in team meetings, as ‘discussion starters’. Engagement is the gold currency of change, so this is a high-value approach, if numbers and logistics make this type of interaction possible. The fact that they are animations tends to lower barriers to engagement and keep things ‘light’. Because they are stories, they are particularly useful to prompt people to tell their own stories and discuss how their own experience is similar or different to the animated story.

It’s not about fancy animation - so use a simple cheap tool

If you are in the midst of a change implementation then you don’t have time and money for Pixar-trained animators to tweak the sparkles on your exploding icons for 8 weeks, you want to get your story out there pronto and avoid asking for extra project dollars. There are a number of cloud based animation tools you should consider that are much more affordable than printing flyers or postcards for your change audience, and will take someone on your team less than a day to learn the basics, by going through short video tutorials and having a play. Some of the tools have a free membership to get started, and are all fairly affordable in a business context. They all let you upload your own images to include in the product, like logos, screen shots, photos etc – this may be important when it comes to telling your change story.

We generally use a simple, well-established tool called Goanimate. It has limitations. It doesn’t win us any kudos as animators, and we don’t get caught up in that, as the main game is to tell a story. We tend to use this tool because it is fast to produce the stories and it has automatic lip-sync, which suits our stories as they are typically conversational/dialogue-driven.

If you are embarking on your first animated change story, I suggest you try one of these:

  • Powtoon – this is a great place to start if this is your first dabble into animation tools, and you are really just looking to add a voiceover, cute characters and some entertaining colour and movement to your message. Here’s an example of a video we prepared about three years ago for a client’s change program using this tool. There is a free membership but you won’t be able to remove watermarks and download it, and the paid memberships are very affordable.
  • Goanimate – more sophisticated than Powtoon by a fair whack, this tool offers lots of scenery and props, and endless characters doing literally hundreds of actions, and they can automatically lip-sync to the voiceover soundtrack you add. There’s no free version and it’s pricier than Powtoon but still very affordable at the base membership level. Here’s an example of one of our Goanimate videos.
  • Animaker – another great option with very cute and contemporary styles of animation & characters. No lip sync but that’s not an issue for all stories. Base level membership is free.
  • Moovly – another animation tool that offers some different looks and capabilities, this is definitely worth a look as recent changes have given Moovly an edge - they are now integrated with Shutterstock as part of the their base membership, which means you can choose from and include images from the massive Shutterstock library as you develop your animation.

Leisha Boyle is the Founder and Co-Director of Stickystories.co, a business that creates short animated stories to start learning conversations and drive change. Stickystories.co offers a collection of downloadable stories for professionals across the globe, to grab that quick video that will engage and inspire in their next workshop. Leisha's business also works with Australian clients to design custom Sticky Stories for their corporate change programs and leadership development needs.



Change resistance turns around with engagement - what does that look like?

Sometimes you need to observe people responding to workplace change negatively, and then witness their turn around to become advocates, to prompt a rethink of 'change resistance'. We've made these two Sticky Stories about Dave so that you can gain an insight into this in only two minutes, and start a conversation in your own workplace about engaging people in change.

Change managers spend a fair bit of their time devising and implementing actions that will minimise the most destructive human reactions to workplace change. Terms like 'change resistance' and 'change fatigue' are labels used to generalise about a broad range of responses that make workplace change more unpleasant and unachievable. Difficult responses to change happen for so many reasons and are very tied up with the approaches that leadership have taken to this change and past changes, so there's no magic formula. However if there is one general rule it is that the more engaged and vested in the change program, the less likely a stakeholder is to undermine and block the change.

Dave's stories offer insights into the change curve

In only a couple of minutes, these two free stories can be a valuable part of any discussion you are leading on workplace change, resistance, and engagement.

They are from a series of four stories about Dave as he makes his way through a personal change journey.

These two are free to stream from this blog or from our Story Shop, and if you would like a download, visit the shop for a ridiculously cheap download copy.

First we meet Dave as he bumps along the bottom of the 'change curve', finding it difficult to see the benefits of the change and excluding himself from engagement opportunities:

Later we journey with Dave as he takes up a more engaged role in assisting the change program, and watch his attitudes and positivity shift:

Did you enjoy these Sticky Stories? Browse our collection of videos for stories that will get learning conversations started- we have so many more! You might also like the next 2 stories about Dave's journey through the change curve:

Dave building new skills and capability in his new post-change role: "Dave's new skills".

Dave embedding changes with his team and dealing with post-implementation issues: "Dave helps the change stick".

This story is part of our 'Free to Play' collection, and can be played in full via our site, and downloaded for a fraction of our normal price.

Follow us on Linkedin for regular news on this growing resource for facilitators, communicators, consultants and change professionals.


Turn your presentation into a story. Easy.

“That’s great stuff” your manager says encouragingly. “But we need them to really connect with this, if we’re going to get a decision from them. Turn the presentation into a story, show them what this change will really mean.”

You smile bravely but inwardly heave a sigh. The problem with turning your presentation into a story is that it’s full of very clever content – rich information about concepts, solutions, statistics, financial results, problems to solve, risks and barriers.

Now that you’ve gathered all this great information to support the decision or message you are aiming for, it’s a big ask to say ‘tell a story’ with it. You’ve already sailed so far with your research-argument-outcome structure, you can barely see the tell-a-story option waving from the shore. 

But your manager has a point. Delivering your most important messages in story form will (if you do it well) engage your audience emotionally and personally, and has the potential to be more influential and ‘stickier’ than all the great content you’ve compiled. So get creative and give it a shot.

Now, you may happen to have an insightful story from your own experience that magically fits your presentation and helps deliver your message.  If you do, maybe test it against the points below. But let’s assume you don’t have anything that’s quite right, and you need to sculpture one from your content.

Here’s how I would suggest you go about it:

Think about your audience and how you want your story to affect them

Who is the story for? What do they care about? Do you want them to be concerned about a new problem? Energised to educate themselves? Ready to make a decision or take on a role? Take a few moments to think yourself into their shoes before you begin, and imagine their ideal reaction and state of mind after they hear your story.

Pick one message. Two at the most.

Don’t make your story a Sherlock Holmes-style puzzle to unravel, with twists and turns to incorporate every message on your wish list. Keep it simple. Your one message isn’t rich content, it’s an overarching message, a ‘key take-away’. So the objective of your story shouldn’t be make sure they understand the trends for each of our products over the past two years, but rather something like make sure they understand that we are seeing our legacy products becoming irrelevant, so it’s time for change.

Find your character/s.

You need to figure out who your story will be about.

Good thing you thought about your audience. The story needs to be about a character they are interested in. Depending on the nature of your content, you might consider a central character a lot like your audience, or a character who represents the people most affected by the ideas/changes/decisions in your presentation, that your audience can identify with. This could be a story about a typical customer, a staff member, a leader in your organisation, or a competitor.

It is possible to use a character that is not a person, but unless you are quite the talented storyteller, it will be harder to engage your audience and generate empathy if the hero of your story is your organisation, your strategy document, your latest product, your city, a country or the internet. A story about the internet is an overview. But when you talk about Angelica, who used to walk 4 miles to the library for basic research needs before she had broadband, that’s the start of a story.

Give your character a situation or problem

Possibly your proposed change, product or idea solves a problem for this character. It could be that they will need to make a big decision which illustrates your point, or maybe they are faced with a daily challenge that helps to illuminate the potential of new services. Whatever it is, the story about your character will work if there is a situation that needs to be resolved for them personally, or a transition they will go through. This creates the tension in the story, to keep your audience listening for the outcome.

The scenario in your story is (of course) meant to highlight your message, so ask yourself what happens to this character in different situations - for example what happens to them if you don't achieve your objectives, what happens if you do, what if the worst happens to them, and what if they achieve their heart's desire. Test the scenarios against your one message to see what power they have.

Don’t leave them hanging

Be kind enough to your central character and to the audience to see it through. A story isn’t just a description of a problem for Angelica, it’s her journey and outcome, even if it's only a minute or two. You may craft a story with a negative ending to illustrate risks or current problems, however if you are illustrating how something might work in future, a story that outlines the intended positive experience can be very persuasive.

Don’t throw away all that great original content

Your story is the hook. Ideally your audience is more emotionally engaged once they have heard it. Now that you’ve prepared the story itself you can reassess the rich content the audience will be wanting to complete their decision making/education/reasoning process.  Maybe your presentation offers some of this after the story, or maybe there are other ways to provide it for people to digest in their own time.

Good luck with your presentation!

As part of our online collection of stories, we have a Sticky Story on this very subject, Tell me a story - you might like to check it out.

 

 

After many years as a management consultant, Leisha Boyle is now the founder and Co-Director of Stickystories.co, a video collection of 1-3 minute animated stories on leadership, communications, HR, change management, Agile and more.



Unmanaged performance issues can eat away at your team

One of the most daunting tasks that confronts a leader is the management of underperformance within the team. It's never straightforward and there are so many reasons a person may not be contributing as expected. There is emotion involved and it can be a challenge for leaders to take a fair and balanced approach, working effectively with their team member to turn the situation around and find solutions.

The untold story is often the experience other team members are going through. This short animation is a discussion-starter for leaders to explore the effect on their broader team and organization when performance issues are left unmanaged, or inappropriate solutions are implemented.

 

We hope you enjoyed this story! Take a look at our collection of Sticky Stories, which is growing every  month. You might enjoy our other stories on Effective Teams and Culture, Diversity and Engagement.

This story is part of our 'Free to Play' selection - these are stories you can play in full via our site, and download at a fraction of our normal cost. A great way to get a taste for Sticky Stories and take them out for a spin in your workshop or presentation.

Follow us on LinkedIn to keep up with our latest blogs and releases.



Where to find change management workshop ideas and materials

Sometimes you need to pull together a training session or workshop with very little lead time and you turn to the internet for help. And while you don't have much time, you still want your session to be a raging success, and to be memorable for something fresh and different that caught everyone's attention.  Well here are some shortcuts that might help you make your deadline, get people engaged and help lift the lid off organizational change.

First, a tip: before browsing around the internet for materials that might suit, be clear on your audience and objectives.

  1. Are you looking to enable change leaders, or employees affected by change, or maybe project team members who will need to manage the change process?
  2. Are you hoping to help people navigate their own emotional journey through change, are you helping them to set direction and inspire others, or to use tools and processes to manage the complexity of workplace change activities?

Ok, now that you’ve thought that through - here are some online destinations where you can cherry-pick change management ideas, workshop materials, icebreakers, videos and group exercises. They are a mix of free and paid resources.

Check Slideshare - it contains many examples of change management workshop materials used across the globe. Just search for Change Management. For example here’s a handy one https://www.slideshare.net/nusantara99/change-management-50378902

Chew on some clever thinking from the gurus – Looking to build in some handy lists of change principles, tips and pitfalls to avoid? Look around the leading change management blogs for some inspiration. Dr Jennifer Frahm has a great post that links to the main bloggers sharing high quality thinking on change. http://conversationsofchange.com.au/12-change-management-blogs-follow/

Spice it up with funny comic strip images – this post from Torben Rick conveniently pulls together some of the change management comic images you may have seen bouncing around social media https://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/change-management/change-management-comic-strips/

Grab some interesting infographics - the Change Activation site (which offers a significant toolkit product as their paid offering) provides some free downloadable infographic-style resources, free videos and  summary materials that you might find useful.

Workshop Bank: This resource provides facilitator overviews of a range of group activities that would suit a change management workshop for leaders or employees. Each technique is described in detail, plus you can download a free PDF. https://workshopbank.com/change-management-activities

Stickystories.co: That’s us! A collection of 1-3 minute animated stories (downloadable videos) specifically designed as discussion-starters for groups exploring topics around change and transformation. A subset of the stories in the collection can be played in full for free on the site, including several Change Management stories. Each story comes with suggested talking points for the facilitator to generate discussion after viewing. https://www.stickystories.co/product-category/change-management/

A few off-the-shelf toolkits and training packages. These are a good shortcut if you are in the market for a more complete product where someone clever has already done all the work.

Incorporate some intelligent sketchnotes and cartoons, maybe get people working on some of their own. There's some lovely work going on with communicating change concepts within sketchnotes. You may not have an artist handy for your workshop but that's no reason to miss out. Here's a couple of sites to visit:

We hope this was useful. If we get a lot of suggestions for further resources we will republish an improved version down the track.

You might like some of our other blogs, or to browse our collection of short animated stories perfect for starting group discussions. We would also love to see you follow us on LinkedIn, just use the link below.

Good luck with your workshop!

After many years as a management consultant, Leisha Boyle is now the founder and Co-Director of Stickystories.co, a video collection of 1-3 minute animated stories on leadership, communications, HR, change management, Agile and more.



What's different for business stakeholders when it's an Agile approach?

There is a lot of material you can read on working in an Agile team, and how different it is to a traditional ‘waterfall’ project approach. But what is it like for the business stakeholders that work closely with a project team to make all the big decisions?

We made this quick Sticky Story from the perspective of a business owner, comparing his previous experiences of IT projects with the one he is now having with an Agile team. It fits perfectly into communications and sessions on a transition to Agile, and makes the point that it's broader than just the immediate team members. You'll be surprised how much we packed into it. Enjoy!

This Sticky Story is part of our 'Free to Play' selection, which can be played in full at no charge, and downloaded at a reduced price.

If you like this, you might like to view our collection of downloadable animated stories designed to start group discussions, support change initiatives and internal communications. Check out our other Sticky Stories on Agile and Project Management topics.

Sticky Stories is a growing collection of insightful animated stories that help start learning conversations on complex topics. Our stories can be downloaded individually or accessed via an annual subscription membership. Check out our stories in the Story Shop.



Sticky Stories introduces pay-per-download

A year after starting our Sticky Stories library with only 12 stories in it, we are now relaunching our 40+ story collection with a few changes. In a nutshell, our customers can now download Sticky Stories individually at really affordable prices. We are pretty excited about it, we hope you are too!

Purchase of individual stories

Now there are 2 ways to access the stories you want.

  1. You can now pay for single Sticky Story downloads, these are individually priced and available in the new Story Shop.
  2. You can purchase an annually renewable membership and access all the stories in the collection. Paid members will continue to access the full story library when logged in, to stream or download any story.

The free ‘Sample Membership’ will be retired, and the free sample stories will be generally available to all our site visitors to play in full.

Easy to navigate our growing library

Our new-look Story Shop and Members’ Story Library area is now easier to navigate, with a simple category listing and sort options.

Updated Terms of Service and FAQs

Updated to align with our changes, if you have questions please check these out.

Some things haven’t changed...

  • Our collection of stories will continue to grow each month and will keep inspiring learning conversations all over the world.
  • Our subscription members will continue to have full access to all stories in the library.
  • The stories that are in our ‘free sample’ selection will still be available to play in full, for free. You can find these by clicking on the ‘Free to Play’ category in the shop.

 

You might have some questions…

I have a ‘free sample’ membership now – do I still need to use my log in?

You are a registered customer of Stickystories.co, and when you make a purchase you will be asked to log in during the checkout process. You will not need to log in when browsing the shop and playing the Free to Play stories.

 Why are some stories lower in price?

Our selection of Free to Play stories are able to be played via our website in full, at no charge. They are available to download at a reduced price.

What is better value, an annual membership or purchasing stories individually?

This depends on how many stories you might use. Annual memberships are available at AUD $348. In 2017 this membership will provide access to a selection of over 70 stories over the coming year, taking into account new content released each month.

Individual Sticky Stories will generally be priced at AUD $27.90.

 

If you have other questions please review our FAQs page, or email us at [email protected], we will do our best to help.



Engaging Stakeholders in Change - Infographic

Every individual stakeholder or group has their own story. To go hand in hand with our Sticky Story Are all our stakeholders equal? (part of our 'Free to Play' selection) we've developed this handy infographic to help you plan effective engagement activities and achieve the ideal 'future story' for each stakeholder.

Download your free PDF using the link below. As part of our 'Free to Play' Sticky Story selection, this story can be played in full via our site at no charge, and download at a reduced price of $9.90. First time visitor to our site? Browse the Story Shop and find out what we're all about.

Engagement-Map_WEB

After many years as a management consultant, Leisha Boyle is now the founder and Co-Director of Stickystories.co, a video collection of 1-3 minute animated stories on leadership, communications, HR, change management, Agile and more.

stakeholder management; stakeholder engagement; stakeholder analysis; stakeholder management plan


Managing stakeholders through change? Understand their stories and tailor your approach

If you work in projects or the delivery of change, you probably use tools to help analyse and categorise your stakeholders (normally a spreadsheet or a quadrant mapping tool) based on how much they are affected and how much they can influence a change. Project managers and change practitioners know that stakeholders all come with their own history and expectations, and the better this is understood, the more effective our engagement strategies will be. The trick is to engage stakeholders in ways that are relevant for them, and practical, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Stakeholder analysis and mapping tools are great, but if you want to make it personal, add stories.

arestakeholdersequal picDiscover your stakeholders' stories

Stories are a handy way to think through the unique positioning of each stakeholder group and fashion the right engagement approaches. Try this:

  1. Tell a ‘now’ story that represents a typical person within the stakeholder group, and
  2. Make up a ‘future’ story for them that is an ideal change outcome.

You’ll be surprised how much this can inform your selection of strategies that will work for this stakeholder group. Here’s an example:

 

nowfuturestory

 

Our latest animated Sticky Story - Are all our stakeholders equal?

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 1.51.33 PMOur newest Sticky Story is all about understanding that stakeholders don’t all have an equal ‘stake’ in a project or program, and our approaches to working with them are tailored, based on what they want, and what the program needs from them too. Are all our stakeholders equal? Is part of our limited 'Free to Play' selection - these can be played via our site at no cost, and downloaded at a third of our normal price!