PreRamble: Having been on both ends of the bedtime story routine, I have witnessed the magic and power that is the “story” forum. Simple concepts presented in an engaging mix of image and narrative, revealing ever deeper layers of meaning through repetition and reflection.
No wonder then, that storytelling is being used to great effect as the new darling of brand marketing, social media and even hyper-partisan politics. (Well, and, historically an “old darling” … via cave painting, Bible, The Starbucks Experience … )
A couple recent angles on storytelling:
Form – “There’s communication, and then there’s really telling your story” writes Leigh Buchanan, Editor at Large for Inc. Magazine. She and her Inc. posse made a recent visit to the Moth – premier storytelling training ground — to learn about great storytelling.
“Since roughly the dawn of time, leaders have recognized the power of stories to clarify, mollify, unite, inspire, and stir to arms. In the past 20 years, as storytelling has been adopted as a ‘management thing,’ we’ve been deluged with books, workshops, conferences, and TED talks on the subject. So it’s not surprising that an organization like the Moth would offer a program to train businesses in storytelling.”
At their boot camp visit, Leigh’s team learned about idea-generation, developing the story arc, metaphors, the personal perspective, confidence, and “the purity of true stories plainly told.” George Dawes Green, novelist, poet and Moth founder, stresses the natural beauty of a well-told story, noting that “At the center of every great story is some kind of human flaw” …
“It is actually human failure. A great storyteller recognizes in some way that he is a clown. And we immediately respond to that, because we are all clowns.”
Function – In a piece for Linked-In, Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte, Inc. and author of Resonate, Slide:ology, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, discusses the practical, organizationally relevant aspects of storytelling by suggesting that beyond content for marketing campaigns, stories are a powerful way to communicate values and engage people. She cites a couple of organizations that use storytelling to “feed and sustain their corporate culture” and provides some guideposts that signal a story-driven culture:
- Information delivery reflects a balance of analytical and emotional content—it’s not just about the facts but also about the context … the “why” and the “what”
- The underlying values and principles that govern day-to-day decisions are documented in the form of anecdotes or narratives that explain their origin
- Corporate artifacts and “lore” are actively collected, documented, and archived for use in communications and celebrations (extra credit for having a staff historian or librarian)
- It’s second nature to look outside your four walls to learn from the stories of other companies, industries, and disciplines
- A high value is placed on activities that foster understanding between people and investment is made in training to build communication skills
Other stories on stories:
- SnapChat - Quick-form photographic/social media app SnapChat recently launched its new “storytelling” feature that lets users cobble together multiple images taken over a 24 hour period to create a narrative.
- TED – As mentioned above, storytelling/TED talks have become the currency of credibility
- Micro-storytelling – An engaging slideshare of concepts and quotes by co-founder and CEO at Scribz, Gael Guillet, shows how social medias such as Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Vine, Tumblr, Reddit and others make us get to the point in a trend that he calls “micro storytelling.”
- Oh, no he didn’t ?! Most blasphemous use of a story this week – Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” as part of a 21+ hour filibuster on the Senate floor.
The Take-Away: There’s a reason why storytelling has been around forever and has naturally become a prominant dynamic in 21st Century social media. Storytelling as a vessel for communication spans all realms, allowing us to record and relay context, content and meaning, and to access and understand ourselves and our world.
Behold the power (and value-add skill-set) of a good story well told.
Post-Note: I have personally read Michael Rosen’s “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” (shown top) to my children 1,000 times … a great exploration of perseverance, fear and fun word sounds; delightful illustrations by Helen Oxenbury.