Some of my best friends specialise in Storytelling and, as you see below, are quick to respond whenever the discussion veers towards the importance of Content:
In the course of this discussion I stated that I have contradictory feelings about the word “storytelling” and since I have been asked to expand, let me try to dissect these contradictions.
I associate the word STORYTELLING with an inward-focused posture: take your key messages and articulate them in a well-thought out sequence which drives engagement through narration.
Of course, I fully recognize the power of narration: narration offers context, color and background. It stirs emotion, makes you dream. No question a good narration turns a message into a story.
But here is the itch I need to scrape: the story remains YOUR story, and I don’t think this is what it is needed in today’s world, because however well-written/told/visualized the story still originates from YOU: it is designed to make YOU look better, sort of the same way a CSR program whitewashes (some) of your sins.
Storytelling, in blunter words, does NOT CHANGE you. And profound change is what is needed. CHANGE as in a shift of focus from YOU to THEM, that is to say the recognition (and acceptance) that the play is not anymore about
your brand featuring your users
your users featuring your brand
Nowhere this distinction is more evident than in the communications jargon of car manufacturers: humans are almost invariably represented driving the car, getting in or out, experiencing the beauty of nature cocooned in a controlled, artificial, branded atmosphere. It’s almost as if the car Brand cannot survive without its product without which it becomes totally irrelevant. Car manufacturers brand extensions are the most abject of failures, bar perhaps the lone exception of Ferrari.
Modern Brands instead managed to achieve a much more daunting objective: they have become personalities, capable of abstraction from actual products.
Apple, Disney, Nike or Armani have transcended their products and have become synonymous of values which they carry along and confer on any product they emblazon.
This distillation can only happen if you drop every pretense of telling a story and instead focus on living your story, tearing down the walls of your organisation for others to see exactly what is inside.
The story is not told by well-groomed expert storyteller, but demonstrated as a living thing by each one of your employees, partners and clients. The preparation shift from packaging and delivery to understanding the conversation that’s already going on and making sure your story fits.
The old value proposition:
“This is the role I have reserved for you in my world”
is replaced by a newfangled one:
“Let us talk about which role I would like to play in your world”.
Permission has to be obtained, and honesty is the admission ticket. The brand story is not told, but lived. The key skill is not engagement, but comprehension.