To provide a sense of continuity yet freshness in the brand through storytelling is not easy, especially in large organisations, where it can be easy to forget to connect the dots.
Bianca Ghose was appointed as the chief storyteller of Wipro in 2017. In an email interview with FE Features, she talks about her role and what storytelling means for corporate India. Edited excerpts:
‘Chief storyteller’ is such an interesting designation, something we hear very rarely. What does the role encompass?
The past 15 months with Wipro as the company’s chief storyteller have been particularly fulfilling. It is my job to unearth unexpected connections and bring together internal and external voices to communicate our company’s vision, values, purpose, strengths and capabilities.
The best way to think of the chief storyteller is as the centre of a vast, interconnected web of stories. Part of my role is telling stories, of course. But another part is listening to stories and unearthing unexpected connections. The most essential part of my role is to develop strategies for which stories should be told where, and how bridging together leadership, marketing, sales and culture communications can create a new and innovative kind of value.
The chief storyteller’s role is more than just a marketing or communications role. It is a leadership skill. Using storytelling as a strategic tool, this person works to influence customers, help change employee attitudes and inspire teams to simplify complex subjects and make them shareable, not ‘salesy’. I work at the intersection of marketing, business, leadership and influencer communications to craft and tell the Wipro story so as to positively impact market perceptions and improve brand permissions. I work with Wipro’s executive leadership on storytelling opportunities and thought leadership. I also lead the company’s thought leadership and ideas exchange platform call ‘WOOL’, and global content partnerships.
What role does storytelling play in building brands?
The need for brand storytelling comes from the most significant change affecting all our lives today: technology. Today, a company’s story has become a combination of the story that the organisation puts out through its channels and the story as key audiences and customers perceive it as. This is where strategic storytelling comes in.
What does a typical day in your work life look like?
To provide a sense of continuity yet freshness in the brand through storytelling is not easy, especially in large organisations, where it can be easy to forget to connect the dots. It, therefore, becomes the storyteller’s job to bring in new thinking and voices. In trying to champion the shift to creative and visual storytelling across owned digital platforms and customer touchpoints, I’ve had to fall back on the basics of story building: searching for people, purpose, experiences, impact… which, really, are the basis of any good story. I spend a large part of my day meeting people and listening for developments, listening to their experiences and to customer feedback. I spend a lot of time reading up about technology, the business landscape, our competition and spotting for future trends. And I try to spend as much time as possible with our senior leadership to understand their vision for the company.
What are the reasons for corporate India to engage in storytelling workshops for their employees? How does it help?
Storytelling plays on our love for experiences. We tell stories to our colleagues and peers all the time either to persuade someone to support our project, to explain to an employee how she might improve or to inspire a team that is facing challenges. Therefore, storytelling is an essential skill to be able to persuade. This is where the employer brand comes in.
Storytelling may seem like an old-fashioned tool, but that’s exactly what makes it so powerful. A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act. To do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.
When used effectively, storytelling can help connect employees to the brand and the brand purpose. It can also help develop brand advocates in existing employees.