The Secrets to Corporate Storytelling with Microsoft’s Steve Clayton

Storytelling is one of the most important parts of the human experience. Prehistoric humans drew pictures in caves, our ancestors passed down oral stories and treasured artifacts, and today, we share our lives digitally all day long. Earlier this summer, I sat down with an expert at telling stories in the business world, Microsoft Chief Storyteller Steve Clayton. Steve has worked with Microsoft for the last ten years to bring some powerful stories to light.

The seven-part interview series we recorded focuses on story—what is it (and what it isn’t), how to use it most effectively, and what it can do for your company. In our first video, Steve shares his thought process behind a crafty ‘walk and talk’ interview video done to introduce Satya Nadella, the current Microsoft CEO. We also discuss how a story differs from conveying information and data. And how your company culture should define the stories you tell. He shares some of his most unconventional ideas, like handing out tiny paper booklets to the audience at a high-tech artificial intelligence conference. No matter how large or small a project he takes on, he always approaches it by breaking it down into the most essential elements of a story, like audience and core message.

Steve’s mission at Microsoft is to simplify the complex. He pairs down advantageous projects to a basic goal, and builds up from there. When he looks at a company, he sees the people that make up its community. He always considers the Microsoft mission statement, Empowering Others, when deciding how to tell his stories. And he emphasizes that ‘corporate’ doesn’t mean boring. Every story needs a hero, a challenge, and a resolution.

I was really inspired after talking with Steve, and I hope you are too. I also hope this series gives you a new lens to look at your business’s stories. Where can you simplify your message? How can you show the triumphs and failures, love and joy that it takes to keep your business running?

Some of the topics we cover in this series
The Story Behind the Story
Business Storytelling
What’s a Story?
Culture as Story
Using Stories to Go Beyond Case Studies
Storytelling and Purpose
The Medium and the Message

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