At Shift, we have been doing a lot of thinking about how we communicate. After all, in a sense, it’s our job. It’s what our clients hire us to do. It’s what we pride ourselves on. The ability to tell great stories. The ability to communicate complex messages in inventive ways.
I was curious to know if the things that make us great storytellers could translate into making our team excellent communicators as well. It’s a similar skill set, but not exactly the same. What are the qualities of our stories that really allow us to drive the message home to our audience? And do those qualities translate over into how we communicate internally on our team, and externally with our clients?
I was trying to explain my thinking to my team, but I wasn’t finding the right words. “In order to provide the best experience to our clients, our internal and external communication must be clear, streamlined, supportive, informative...” I fumbled, to dull response. It’s not that the team didn’t agree, but it just seemed kind of obvious, and was in fact already a given in our team’s communication. Those words didn’t hit at the heart of what I really meant.
When I think about the powerful storytelling work that Shift does, we create narrative set-ups that evocatively demonstrate a problem, so that the payoff for the solution is not just emotionally received by the viewer - it is effortlessly received. The narrative circumstances are so well set up that by the time we introduce our client’s solution, the viewer is equipped with all the information they need to understand why it is clearly optimal. The viewer isn’t focused on the what, how, when. They are simply motivated and galvanized to be a part of it - whether it’s making a donation, purchasing a product, or engaging in new behaviors.
That was interesting to me. What if, in all of our communication, we inspired action that moved our business forward?
I was mulling this over in the midst of the typical high-intensity work that we do at Shift, when a dear friend and highly experienced marketer, Jackie Flynn, reflected the company’s value back to me during a brand brainstorm session. “Ohhh, I see what you’re saying. It’s energy-positive. You provide an energy-positive experience for your clients,” she said. Something struck a chord in me. She was right. That’s the phrase I had been looking for.
“Energy-positive” is not the same as what we colloquially think of when we think about “positive energy,” which implies cheerful, feel-goodness and a plucky “keep your head up in spite of the sh**storm you are in the middle of” attitude. There’s value in that, too, and we do try to smile and grit our teeth when times get tough. But that’s not what we are talking about when we talk about “energy-positive.”
Energy-positive assumes that communication is a flow of energy between parties, and it means that each transaction in this flow is generating more energy, more power, and more ability to act efficiently to get the job done. It means that the sender’s message does not require the recipient to expend more energy understanding or processing the message than the energy it took to send it. It means that the communication empowers the recipient to fully receive the necessary and intentional information, and supports the recipient in being able to respond effectively.
Since introducing this concept to the team, we have taken time to figure out the qualities that make communication energy-positive for us. We created an extensive list and have added it to our company handbook. Now, not only do we have a broad goal for our communication, but we have created a tactical approach to achieving it.
Our Slack channels, email chains, phone calls, and meetings aren’t emotionally compelling, like our storytelling videos are. But they operate in a similar way. With both, there is a clear message that we intend to share with the recipient. It’s our job to serve that message up as seamlessly as possible. We flex different communication muscles in our team communication versus our storytelling, but at the end of the day, we are creating an energy-positive experience. The recipient walks away with a clear understanding of the message and is fully empowered to take action.
And that is the true value of what we do at Shift every day.
Check out our 2017 video for the YMCA to see our storytelling in action! What do you think? Are you inspired to take action? What does energy-positive communication look like to you?
Client: YMCA of NWNC, Chelsea Cullen
Director: Sarah Lupton
Director of Photography: Chandler Cearley
Editor: Shannon Rosato