Storytelling has become a bit of a buzz word for how we should convey our brand story and make ourselves appear more human. In a world where there’s so much noise, and so many brands competing for our attention, it’s never been more important for us to consider how we overcome the noise and engage prospective customers.
Most people perceive storytelling to just be the role of the marketers in their organisation – the ones that are directly involved in creating content for our official channels. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We are all storytellers.
Storytelling Lead at Microsoft UK, Victoria Oakes, explains more;
‘Nobody cares about your corporate message, so you must find a way to connect with your audience and cut through. For me it is about putting the customer at the heart of the content and making them the hero, the product is simply the magical gift that enables them to do amazing things. We also use research to truly listen to the customer voice which has been used as the backbone of our content strategy. This podcast series is a way to share storytelling techniques from some of our leaders across Microsoft to help everyone hone their storytelling craft and give a broader audience an idea of how we approach storytelling and content strategy at Microsoft.’
Imagine a world where your leaders aren’t able to capture an audience and inspire them or motivate them to take an action. Where your sales team can’t convey the value of your products in a customer presentation. Or where your analytics team are unable to share the story behind your data, and help you uncover the insights that will inform decision making.
Stories make our messages stick. They help persuade, influence and inspire. Storytelling can help us all achieve more, no matter what your role is.
To challenge some of the myths around storytelling, uncover what it really means and how we can bring it into our day-to-day roles, we’re really excited to launch our new ‘Art of Storytelling’ podcast series.
The series is designed to bring storytelling to life for different areas of the business, giving you some key ideas and techniques that you can use in your day-to-day role, no matter who you are or what part of the business you sit in.
To kick off the series, Michael Wignall, our Chief Technology Officer, shared his perspective on how he brings stories to life for customers of all sizes. Michael is responsible for all aspects of our UK technology strategy, including the implementation and use of technology by commercial and public sector organisations, and acting as a catalyst for digital transformation. He joined Microsoft back in 2008 and has worked in a number of roles since then – including a role as Government Industry Manager and also in the public sector team, focussing on Microsoft Dynamics. Michael has a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Software Engineering, a Bachelors of Business Management from the University of Queensland and a Master’s of Science in Computer Network Security from Liverpool John Moores University.
A core part of Michael’s role, as our CTO, is about the future of technology and where technology is going, but also articulating that in a succinct and concise way, to customers both big and small. In this podcast, Michael shares some of the techniques he uses to tailor conversations to his audience and really get them excited about what they can achieve with technology.
“We can build the best tech in the world, but unless our customers are using it and changing how they’re delivering their service then it’s just a bit of cool tech.”
Alex leads our Executive Briefing Centre and first party events such as Future Decoded, which brings together around 12,000 attendees across two days. Originally from a technical background in product engineering and consulting, he’s passionate about telling great stories in fun, engaging and impactful ways.
Throughout the podcast, Alex shares some of the techniques that our events team use to put themselves in our customer’s shoes and champion our great customer stories through events. He also shares tips for making online meetings and briefing calls more engaging.
“Storytelling is such a good fit for events. We have this amazing chance, it could be an hour, it could be an afternoon, or even a week, to tell our story in a really intimate way.”
We then had the pleasure of catching up with our Consumer Marketing Director, Paul Davies, who leads the marketing activity for Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Office, Bing, MSN and Edge, and has had 20 years’ experience in the marketing and advertising industry. Alongside, his role at Microsoft, Paul is also Chairman of ISBA (UK Advertisers trade body), has been recognised in Power 100, Vision 100, Hot 100 Digital Marketers and was Marketer of the Year in 2011. He’s a sponsor and mentor at the Marketing Academy, supporting the development of emerging new talent in the industry and a Board Trustee for Punchdrunk, the global pioneers of immersive theatre.
In this podcast, Paul talks about the art and science behind storytelling, how you can seek inspiration from everywhere, and shares techniques that we can all use to make our presentations really engaging and personal.
“Make it personal. It’s really important to give a bit of yourself when you’re presenting so it’s not too stiff and too corporate.”
Having worked for over 20 years in customer referencing and advocacy, Claire Grove, our Customer Advocacy Lead, joined us to share her thoughts on how we can all bring customer stories to life.
Claire is a firm believer that having a holistic and strategic approach to customer programmes and content, is key to help brands differentiate themselves. In an ever-competitive world, where customers are your true brand ambassadors, it’s never been more important to capture those real-world examples of how your products are addressing wider business objectives.
In this podcast, Claire shares how the team here at Microsoft, identifies strong customer stories to go after and the techniques they use to bring those stories to life, whilst creating tangible value for both the customer and the organisation.
“It’s not often that customers go out and buy technology because it’s cool. There’s a real business reason, or compelling event that makes them consider how they use technology for the benefit of their own customers or employees, and it’s about trying to capture those stories.”
Having previously worked at AirWatch by VMware, and at one of our partners, Scott Goodall, Account Executive in the Small and Medium Corporate (SMC) space, has been involved in healthcare for over 6 years. At Microsoft, Scott looks after around 40 customers, engaging with all levels – from the IT teams to the C-Suite. Scott loves the opportunity that we have at Microsoft to digitally transform healthcare for the benefit of us all, as citizens of the UK, and storytelling is a big part of that.
In this podcast, Scott shares tips on how to become a social selling superstar, using tools such as Elevate, Sales Navigator and Twitter to engage customers and talk to them in their language.
“To get to that business decision maker conversation, you need to be telling a story rather than just talking about technology.”
We then caught up with Antonio Criminisi, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, who leads Project InnerEye, a research project that uses machine learning technology for assistive cancer treatment. In 2000 Antonio obtained his doctorate degree (PhD) in computer vision from the University of Oxford. Antonio’s research has been awarded a number of prizes including the prestigious David Marr prize at ICCV 2015 for his paper “Deep Neural Decision Forests”.
In this podcast, Antonio shares how we’re using AI and machine learning to assist medical practitioners and potentially improve the lives of cancer patients.
“I’ve always had this passion inside me for the application of technology to help with patients who suffer from devastating diseases.”
Changing lives with AI in healthcare – Antonio Criminisi, Principal Research, Microsoft Research Cambridge
To wrap up the series, we spoke with Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, who describes herself as a designer, technologist and maker of things.
She is also an inventor appearing in the BBC series, Big Life Fix, of which the second season starts on July 5th. Haiyan has a Masters degree with Distinction in Interaction Design from the renowned Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, and has a Bachelor of Computer Science (First-Class Honours) from Monash University, Australia.
In this podcast, Haiyan shares some of the amazing projects she’s been working on, from gamifying physiotherapy for cystic fibrosis suffers to counteracting the tremors of those with Parkinson’s, and how she brings technology for good stories to life.
“I think it’s more about work, passion, life balance. We should see the companies we work at as platforms to really support society and empower people.”
Bringing technology for good stories to life – Haiyan Zhang, Director of Innovation at Microsoft Research Cambridge
We hope you enjoy the series, and it helps prompt some ideas for how you can bring storytelling into your own roles to better engage your customers. We’d love to hear your feedback and any thoughts on what else you’d like to hear about. Feel free to also share your storytelling tips and tricks in the comments.
Here’s a full view of the series. Be sure to subscribe to the channel for updates on what’s next.