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November 19, 2012


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I love all of those things!

Not so. You know that many business people don't think communications matters, it's just a cost center to be cut when times are tough. Almost as many believe that storytelling is soft, weak, not businesslike, all very well for children but has no place in the office.

Then they spend ten grand to bring in a big-ass speaker who TELLS THEM STORIES, and they go away not even realizing that they were told stories.

They hire an ad agency to do a PSA, and think it's wonderful, and don't realize that the PSA told a bunch of stories.

I submit that they don't need to be told the importance of storytelling, just sold on its place in the business world.

I disagree. Sure, as humans we know how to tell stories, but many business people have had this skill knocked out of them by misguided advisors.

Donna, who are these misguided advisors to whom you refer? Tim, no adult thinks storytelling is weak, though many probably think TALKING ABOUT STORYTELLING is weak.

You see, I think the reason business leaders are often bad at telling stories isn't that they don't know how. It's because stories are RISKY:

1. Stories have heroes. And as your countryman Gordon Lightfoot said so simply: Heroes often fail. So a great story about a great employee, for instance, risks an embarrassment when the employee fucks up.

2. Stories have conflict. And corporations hate conflict because it acknowledges imperfection, humanity and trouble in an environment that we're trying to pretend is orderly, intentional and utterly sane.

3. Stories LAST. If I tell you this morning's strategy is A and then come back and say it's B, you can't hold me to it. If I tie Strategy A to the story of our founding and then I switch to B, you'll say ... how exactly does that jibe with the story of our founding?

So I think the storytelling expert is brought in a bogus basis, like an optometrist hired to help a senile grandmother drive better.

David, I'm with Donna and Tim on this one. Maybe some storytelling experts are bogus, but as a non-bogus storytelling expert I find it useful to make a distinction between authentic storytelling -- which is about real people dealing with change, or doing good work, or going the extra mile for customers -- and crappy marketingspeak or corporate bafflegab, which often doesn't refer to real people or real problems. I think you're objecting to how the marketingspeakers and bafflegabbers are co-opting and dirtying the concept. I'm going to continue using the word, if only to keep it clean. I see now that the concept is being referred to in some circles as "brand journalism." I find that term yuckier than storytelling.

And Ron Shewchuk wins the thread. Thanks for playing everyone!

Onion headline:

Storytelling expert resists claims that storytelling experts are unnecessary


Other storytelling experts agree ....


[see above]

With love,



I think at its root, the term "story telling" is too soft for today's ROI driven business climate. It conjures up thoughts of children sitting in front of their third grade teacher, cross legged, eyes and mouth agape, as they are read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

As much as I hate the terms "brand journalism" or the epheremal "content marketing" for that matter, they were coined because no one could get their accounting department to issue a P.O. for "storytelling" services.

I don't have time lecturing people who understand what am i saying so it's useless to lecture them.

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