Storytelling vital to earning employee trust, says journalist Soledad O’Brien

Learn from ‘struggling’ media outlets, and focus on storytelling, trust and transparency if you want to engage colleagues, the award-winning reporter advises at IABC’s World Conference.

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“Two words to remember: trust and video.”

That’s how award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien welcomed the crowd of 1,300-plus—the largest in the past decade—at the 2019 IABC World Conference, which kicked off Sunday, June 9, and runs through June 12.

O’Brien, a former CNN reporter who is now with Oxygen, urged communicators to use the failings of media outlets as an opportunity to gain the trust of employees who have lost faith in news organizations, which are “abdicating the role of contextualizing the issues” in favor of pitting opposing talking heads on air.

“The media doesn’t often give credit to audiences who want to learn about each other,” she said. “You can do better.”

Without trust, even deft storytelling will fail. You have to be honest. “Audiences will not forgive being lied to.”

Employees “want to associate themselves with an organization they trust,” she said. They expect actions to match value statements. “The upside of getting it right is huge.”

Gaining trust

O’Brien described her years as an entry-level reporter as a time when she didn’t dig into issues fully but chased dramatic headlines, none of which served her audience—a problem that remains in news today.

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