Storytelling Can Humanize Executives

A growing role for PR is helping to bridge the communications gap between C-level executives and employees. A daunting task, one way PR execs can improve things is by stealing a page from the media relations playbook: Tell cool stories about senior managers, find offbeat anecdotes about them that employees can relate to and then share the heck out of them.

1. Relate.

Ask executives questions about who they are outside of work. An employee in a Midwest call center might not believe he/she has anything in common with the CEO in a metropolitan headquarters. But anecdotes and shared experiences can help sway opinions and peel back the onion.

We discovered that one of our leaders used to ditch chapel school (on a motorcycle). Another, hailing from England, tried to hide his accent. One of our leaders has an identical twin. And, at such a modern company, it’s not a surprise to find out that none of our leaders can live without their favorite tech gadgets. These are the kinds of stories that can help humanize senior leaders.


Appeal to your employees’ emotion, imagination and hope. Passion is important, and you can tap into it with the right questions.

Have executives look back on their childhood ambitions, share stories about what shaped them, and reflect on those who have inspired them.

One of our senior executives shared a touching story about how the seed for a law career was planted when he read for, and befriended, a blind law school student while volunteering at Reading for the Blind in Los Angeles.


Employees need proof that their leaders are strong and successful. But, again, the way to prove this can be fun and relatable. An executive shared a great story about how he sold pizzas door to door as a kid to help pay for his band trip to Disney World.

His family and friends always knew he’d end up with a sales-related career. Anecdotes like this illustrate the genuine knack and zeal our leaders have always had for their work.

Again, improving the relationship between senior executives and employees means finding stories that can help to personalize senior managers. These are not necessarily stories related to the business per se but, rather, anecdotes from the manager’s life that can appeal to employees and make it easier for leaders to communicate with the rank-and-file (see the next bullet point).


It’s important to find ways to tie executive profile content to the company’s business. This does not mean including business metrics or asking technical questions, but a little reference goes a long way. For example, Esurance executives offer words of wisdom about safe driving, which fits with the company’s identity as an insurance provider.


All the interesting stories in the world mean nothing if no one reads them. You have to bring employees to your content. One powerful yet simple way to do this is by creating incentives.

At Esurance, we factored in an interactive element to boost employee engagement. We hosted a quiz on our Intranet homepage for two weeks, asking a question that only those employees who had visited the executive profile pages would know how to answer.

Source: Anne May Navarrete, communications specialist at Esurance. The above content is an excerpt from The Book of employee Communications Strategies and Tactics. For a copy, please go

This article originally appeared in the June 8, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.