“It’s all connected!!”
Anyone who’s worked with me on storytelling projects at CDS has likely heard this many times.
This way of thinking really sparked in my brain a few years ago, when reading about ‘the mesh’ in The Ecological Thought. In this book, Timothy Morton shares a vision of the world where everything is interconnected like a mesh, showing the endless potential for (un)intentional impacts.
My neurodivergent brain exploded with connections when adopting this way of seeing the world – and I can’t turn it off (nor do I want to). Through social media and blog storytelling, and learning about diversity and accessibility, I’ve realized how valuable it is to get your brain thinking ‘outside the box’ to see potential connections and impacts.
To help CDSers and other GC bloggers ‘cook up [blog] storms’ and create tasty blog meals, I’ve been designing a blog storytelling toolkit (shared below: a ‘Brainstorming blog ingredients’ activity template).
‘Working in the open’ through blogs
Before expanding on the blog brainstorm activity I developed at CDS, I want to quickly explain how storytelling is an impactful tool for talking about public service work – like sharing successes to scale, lessons learned, and other helpful and relatable experiences!
The GC’s Digital Standard Playbook explains how (as federal public servants) we’re directed to share our work in the open, when safe to do so. This can be done in many ways – like having open GitHub repos for code, publishing reports with learnings, or even blogging about ways of working.
There are lots of public servants sharing their work this way. Many Government of Canada (GC) teams run blogs (including ours that you’re reading now) as one way to share their work in the open – like Living Digital, Canada.ca, and CSPS Busrides. Others are blogging in the open too – like GOV.UK and the Ontario Digital Service (y’all should check them out). Together, we’re building an open community for sharing experiences and learnings, so everyone can learn and grow with us.
Public servants work on a huge range of files, with different security levels, so their abilities to work in the open vary; some work can’t be shared for security or privacy reasons, some needs to be shared. Managers can help navigate what can or can’t be openly shared.
Activity: Brainstorming blog ingredients! 🧑🍳 ⚡️
I’ve found interconnected thinking to be helpful for impactful storytelling. To help bloggers ‘cook up [blog] storms’ and find tasty ingredients that spark connections for their blog idea, I created a brainstorm activity.
‘Cooking up a [blog] storm’ takes practice and you’ll develop your own skills as you learn the craft. You never know what kind of meal you’ll whip up with your list of ingredients – the possibilities are endless!
10 ingredients for a tasty blog:
- The main takeaways for readers.
- Key explanation points for the main takeaways.
- Relatable feelings and experiences that make the story memorable.
- Evidence to support the main points.
- Thinking of who else is connected to the story (give credit where it’s due).
- Potential collaborations (like getting testimonials or input from other teams).
- Potential work to publish in the open (like presentations or documents related to the story that the reader can dive into for deeper context).
- Impactful thoughts (like quotes or analogies that make the story more memorable to the reader).
- Flag(s) to raise to either yourself when writing, or to the reader on the topic.
- Call(s) to action (CTAs) for the reader (what you want them to do next!).
Each blog recipe will have different ingredients (relevant to the topic) and cooks will take different approaches to curating meals to taste just right (using different blog formats and styles). The nice thing about cooking and blogging is there’s room for creativity and improvisation. Start by picking the ingredients you want to use and go from there to see how they are tasty together!
Blog design ‘nuggets’ (tips)
Curating your ingredients into a delicious meal isn’t the only important part of the cooking process. How you present your curation will impact how your target audience perceives it and their likelihood of consuming.
- Identify tasty, memorable quotes and use them for social media promotion. This can help make the blog appealing to potential readers and increase the content’s reach. For bilingual Government of Canada Twitter accounts, English quotes need to be around 220 characters (max), so the French translation fits too (280 characters max).
- Design the meal to look appealing. Think about what would be helpful and relevant to include on the topic, such as: adding resources, incorporating audio or video, making sure the visual is impactful and meaningful (read my coworker Philippe Tardif’s blog for tips on telling stories through visuals!). This will help you craft a blog that is memorable.
- Measure and analyze the performance of blogs so you can improve, but don’t be discouraged by metrics! There are many factors that can impact blog performance – consider them before changing your approach. One factor is that your blog will attract various audiences. Some people will read your text carefully from start to finish, and others may just scan it – that’s okay. Not everyone will be interested in the topic you’re covering and maybe the length or visuals won’t appeal to all. Or maybe your target audience didn’t see it and the blog could use amplification on social media.
Blog in the open with us!
Working in the open can be challenging (to say the least), but the potential for impact(s) makes it worth it. By openly sharing our experiences as public servants in the Government of Canada, we can help each other learn and grow, as well as others in the global ‘working in the open’ community.
Try blogging about your work experience(s) using the brainstorming activity.