Lately, every time I turn around, my corporate clients are talking about corporate storytelling. It seems their bosses — and their bosses’ bosses — heard somewhere that storytelling is a great way to engage employees. It’s true, I say. And then we all nod our heads in agreement.
But then the other day, a new-ish corporate communications professional pulled me aside and asked, “But what exactly is corporate storytelling?” Trying to figure out what her peers were talking about, this young internal communications manager had searched the Web for examples and explanations of how to leverage storytelling in the business environment… but she had found very little.
Looks like storytelling is one of those things that everybody secretly thinks they are really good at. Unfortunately, the ability to tell stories is also one of those things that few people are really good at.
So let me take a moment (and maybe a few blog posts) to explain what corporate storytelling is — and what it isn’t. Later, in another blog post, I’ll give my 2 cents on how to find a storytelling writer, photographer, multimedia developer or whatnot and make the most of his/her talents.
First the easy part: What corporate storytelling photography ISN’T. It’s not the:
~ Execution at dawn photo, with team members lined up against a wall and “shot.”
~ Grape leaves photo. Similar to the execution at dawn photo, but here the team members have their hands clasped together in front of their groins in Adam-and-Eve-grape-leaf fashion.
~ Important person with oversized check photo.
~ Employee at work photo, where the obviously posed worker looks self conscious as he/she avoids looking at the camera.
~ Giant-scissor-yielding executive about to cut the giant ribbon photo.
Boring, right? But damaging too. A corporate Webpage, newsletter or annual report with a boring photo is worse than not having a photo at all. Why? Because the reader’s eye is drawn to the photo first. Therefore, a boring photo = boring story = boring event. Yawn.
Now the hard part… defining what a storytelling photo is. I’ll tackle that one in another posting.
P.S.: Are you wondering what’s going on in the image at the top of the post? Excellent! That’s a piece of storytelling photography. A photo should make readers look twice and study what’s going on. In this case, musicians perform among museum statues during the Wells Fargo Community Celebration event held in downtown Charlotte, NC.
You can check out the photos from this and other corporate-sponsored events at http://patrickschneider.photoshelter.com/gallery/Wells-Fargo-Community-Celebration/G0000x2v_e86hR00/C0000sLejZ1oE1sY
Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos led the Charlotte Symphony in a free outdoor concert in June at the Duke Energy McGuire Nuclear Station EnergyExplorium on Lake Norman. Many Charlotteans are familiar with the Charlotte Symphony’s Summer Pops series, which takes place at SouthPark mall’s Symphony Park venue. The symphony orchestra’s outdoor concerts in Matthews, Huntersville, Pineville, Kannapolis and Cornelius are equally good.
A rain storm passed through the area about an hour before the outdoor concert began. Fortunately, the rain (and thunder and lightening) was long gone by the time the musicians took the stage.
The McGuire nuclear energy station is packed with visitor-friendly amenities, including walking trails, a nature trail, picnic areas and Duke Energy’s EnergyExplorium, a hands-on science center about electricity generation. During the June concert, boats rocked gently nearby as their passengers listened to the music.
Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos is known for his passionate dedication to music education and community engagement.
A member of the Charlotte Symphony warms up before the outdoor concert at McGuire energy station on Lake Norman.
Another view of the hundreds (thousands?) of music seekers who turned out for the June 2012 performance at Duke Energy’s McGuire nuclear energy station.
A bit of Charlotte Symphony context (taken from the symphony’s website): Founded in 1932, the Charlotte Symphony is the largest and most active professional performing arts organization in the central Carolinas, giving nearly 100 performances each season and reaching an annual attendance of 200,000 listeners. Now in its 80th season, the orchestra employs 62 musicians on full-time contracts and is led by the acclaimed conductor Christopher Warren-Green, who began his tenure with the CSO in the fall of 2010. Mr. Warren-Green’s nearly four decades of artistic accomplishments most recently included serving as music conductor for April’s royal wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton, an event viewed by more than two billion people worldwide.
Boy Scouts from across North Carolina turned out for the 24th annual Duke Energy Merit Badge Encampment, held May 11-12, 2012 at the McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville. The two-day event gives Boy Scouts the chance to earn merit badges in such subjects as nuclear energy, environmental sciences and chemistry. Several boys in Troop 10 attended the encampment (I’m a volunteer leader at Troop 10, based at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Cornelius, NC). Because I was there as a leader, I took the opportunity to photograph the event while the boys were in classes. Several times a year I take photos for Boy’s Life Magazine and Scouting Magazine. Who knows, maybe the editors will be interested in a few of these.
Boy Scouts with Troop 10 execute the flag ceremony before sessions began on Saturday morning.
The Duke Encampment included camping along the shores of Lake Norman. Duke’s McGuire Nuclear Energy Station is visible behind the tents.
Boy Scouts participate in laboratory work and classroom learning while earning a merit badge.
Duke Energy employees lead the sessions to ensure the Boy Scouts are receiving real-world experience and accurate information.
Scouts practice their First Aid skills as they earn the BSA First Aid merit badge. The First Aid merit badge is required for any Scout working to earn his Eagle badge.
Scouts carry an “injury victim” while practicing their First Aid skills.
Scouts interested in attending the 2013 Duke Energy Merit Badge Encampment should contact the Duke Energy Explorium at 980-875-5600.
The 2012 Charlotte Shakespeare Festival is up and running until June 17 outdoors at The Green uptown. As the photos show, it’s a can’t-miss cultural event in the heart of the center city. Plus it’s free.It may also be the regions only free performing arts festival.
Shakespeare fans crowded in on lawn chairs and blankets to experience the romance and comedy of William Shakespeare and the acting talent of Charlotte Shakespeare, a professional theatre company offering intimate performances of the traditional and modern classics.
The non-profit performance company was formed in 2005 by Elise Wilkinson and Joe Copley under the name Collaborative Arts Theatre. This year the name changed to Charlotte Shakespeare.
The 2012 production featured The Tempest.
Elise Wilkinson is the executive/artistic director and Joe Copley is the managing director of the Charlotte Shakespeare Festival.
Countless pieces of public art throughout The Green make an interesting backdrop to the performance. Image above shows the Charlotte signpost artwork (called “Charlotte — Center of the Known World) by Gary Sweeney, a contemporary artist from San Antonio.
Learn more about the Charlotte Shakespeare Company and the Charlotte Shakespeare Festival at Collaborative Arts online.
The Green has become an iconic area of Charlotte and the Levine Avenue of the Arts. Walking through the tiered gardens, it’s hard to believe the center city park is actually the top floor to a parking garage. It’s a not-so-secret pocket park that makes up that long list of features making Charlotte so interesting.
Few cautions, great weather and no big-bang crashes speed up NASCAR’s longest race
In the 15 years I’ve been photographing Charlotte, I’ve captured on-track action during dozens of NASCAR races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, located northeast of Charlotte in Concord, NC. Often I’m hired to photograph the behind-the-scenes actions of a specific team or the sports marketing efforts of a corporate client. This time, I set out to help the Charlotte Chamber document race day at the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race sanctioned by NASCAR. Here are some of the favorite images I came up with.
The 2012 Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway got a new logo. The logo used during the 2011 race can be seen in the image below:
Held on Memorial Day weekend each year, the Coca-Cola 600 race always includes tributes to the United States military.
Members of the United States Marine Band wait to perform during opening ceremonies. The Marine Corp Band is one of the oldest US military bands, as well as one of the oldest professional musical organizations in the country.
NASCAR race cars sit lined on the track for the start of the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
GoDaddy.com team driver Danica Patrick during opening ceremonies.
Colorful Coca-Cola 600 flags line the entrance to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the May 27, 2012 race.
Race fans capture a good view from atop a customized bus.
Country music star Tim McGraw attended the race.
Lowe’s Team 48 driver Jimmie Johnson and wife Chandra during opening ceremonies.
NASCAR fans rally on the racers from packed stands.
GoDaddy.com pit crew members work to get driver Danica Patrick back on the track during a pit stop.
Thousands of NASCAR fans at the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 race show how popular stock car racing continues to be in Charlotte.
A fan goes all out in his enthusiasm for NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.
A street performer entertains the crowds outside the speedway.
On your mark… Get set… ROW!
Thousands of spectators poured out May 5 for the annual Charlotte Asian Festival and Dragon Boat Races, held on Lake Norman at Ramsey Creek Park. Organized by the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce (CAACC), Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and the Charlotte Dragon Boat Association, the annual event celebrates Asian culture and traditions locally.
I’ve photographed the event a few times in previous years. What caught my attention this year were the number of corporations participating as a team-building exercise for employees. I believe two boats were powered by cancer survivors. Elsewhere in the park, Asian performers danced, sang and entertained the crowds.
Dragon Boat racing is an important part of Chinese tradition. Originating more than 2,300 years ago in southern China, races now take place in communities around the globe. The Lake Norman races began in 2006.
Athletes paddle in sync to a rhythm pounded by an onboard drummer. The competing teams try to power their 40-foot-long canoe-shaped vessels across the finish line first.
Both the race and on-stage festivities make the community event a must-see activity. The event is also fun to photograph. The colorful costumes and brightly painted boats make nice photos.
A young performer fiddles with her costume before going on stage at the Charlotte Asian Festival 2012 event.
I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a young boy playing on the shoreline of Lake Norman while a dragon boat floats by on the water.