Jamie Jauncey

 

S&N GOES SHAKESPEARE

With a likely takeover by Heineken looming, the Internal Comms team at Scottish & Newcastle was in need of a morale boost. Team leader Gillian Clelland contacted me to arrange an away-day based around storytelling and writing.

The timing was good and I realised I had something rather different up my sleeve. I proposed that the team join me in a project I was already involved in – to explore the relevance of a Shakespeare play to business today, in my case Romeo & Juliet. Gillian gamely agreed and we got underway. I allocated each member of the eight-strong team a character from the play, then sent them away to read it.

The first challenge was the language. Accustomed to the flat, often impersonal writing of modern business, people found themselves having to work hard to get used to Shakespeare’s richness of speech and layers of meaning - but that in itself was  a useful lesson.

Once familiarised with their characters, I then took the whole group down to Stratford-on-Avon to see a production of the play and hear it brought alive by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Finally, I asked each person to write about what they had learnt from their Shakespearian character about their job at S&N, the company, or the drinks business in general.

Metaphors aplenty

Six weeks later, we all came together again. It seemed that Romeo & Juliet was bursting with metaphors for modern business life. Trust, loyalty, responsibility, moderation, foresight, co-operation, decisiveness, good leadership – or their opposites, in fact mostly their opposites – were all there to be seen in the behaviour of the Montagues and Capulets.

People had found as many different ways of putting these ideas into words as there were ideas themselves. And gone was the impersonal language of business speak. In its place were emotion and humour, imagination and personality, a sense of pleasure in what was written. One member of the team later described the experience as the highlight of her career at S&N.

Gillian Clelland said: “It gave us a chance for personal reflection, inspiration, development and growth. We had fun and a shared experience. It refreshed our writing, gave us confidence that we could tackle something new as a team, and it was a work-out for the grey matter. It reassured us that many more than us think communications in business could tell a better story."

You can read a longer version of this story here.