Storytelling

by seanlow on January 12, 2011

The best part of today’s technology is that you can share your “story” instantly with the world and in whatever way you wish.  Fifteen years ago, the cost to create a video of you drafting at your desk and time lapsing the work to finished art would have been prohibitive.  The cost to produce the CD’s to send the video to potential clients and valuable supporters (vendors, colleagues, etc.) also significant.  How about today?

As the cost of media production and distribution approach zero, the premium is on valuable, interesting (read: fascinating) content.  Too often, I see creative business owners using technology to tell the story instead of telling their story with technology.  Just because you can create a pictorial storyboard for every piece of work that you do does not mean that you should.  Nor should you link to everything you ever do on video (TV, YouTube or otherwise) if it is not very good or, more important, does not fit your brand.  For instance, if you are in the luxury market, doing “design on a budget” does far more harm than good, even if it is on national television.  Unless there is a bigger “mass” strategy, doing on TV what you do not do in real life undercuts the value of your real life.  Why? We do not know who you are.

One of my favorite experts on strategic storytelling, Bill Baker, puts it this way: “Strategic Storytelling breaks through barriers of cynicism, opens channels of understanding and creates the kind of ripples that can make big waves.” However, you can only do that if, in fact, you are paying attention to the story you are telling.  And, yes, everything tells a story – on top of the direct story you tell, there are the clothes you wear, the way you deal with situations, even how you answer the telephone.  Allowing yourself, your art or your creative business to be seen in a way that is not an accurate depiction for the sake of exposure or expedience is a sure way to make you look like a rudderless ship and, therefore, small potatoes.

Better to do what you do and invest in being all things consistent to the mantra you espouse.  Your passion for your mantra will always be a compelling story.  Just think about how far Oprah has taken “live your best life”.  The point is not to get exposure.  In today’s world, that is the easy part.  The point is to tell a story (your story) in a way that resonates and is in the fabric of your art and your creative business.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Raf Stevens January 13, 2011 at 7:05 am

Hi,
Reading and telling stories are always interesting.
The last couple of years I have been reading about all aspects of storytelling. How it influences the economy, the society, leadership, authenticity, social media and so on. Interesting stuff. But then it happened to me: peer-to-peer storytelling. I connected my story to that of peers. And my peers and their matching stories helped me to come to a simple set of rules for creating your own new trade.

The last 3 years I have been guiding a lot of international companies in using storytelling as a business tool. I have given a dozen workshops and lectures about this theme to blue chip companies. I have been working with all sort of businesses, with all sort of people, at all levels. They’re all convinced about the new trade. The new trade is the new business as usual!
To make it simple and concrete I summarized my view in one sentence:
It’s all about people connecting with other people by sharing their stories for everyone to repeat hoping to inspire the world and ultimately make it a better place.
I am currently doing a project on storytelling. Have a look at
http://www.linkedstories.com

You can also become a part of this project:
http://www.believersfund.com/projects/project/the-new-trade.
What do you think about it?
– Raf Stevens

2 Nick Trendov January 13, 2011 at 10:56 am

Great use of storytelling and for advertisers, storytellers or great teachers out there it may be possible for listeners to create their own stories.

Great sales people don’t sell but offer value stories in such a way that customers pick up the ones that suit their situation or scenario. Stories may be treated the same way as it is possible to deliver them to allow listeners to pick up the story elements that appeal to them.

Great teachers however know that students may be attracted to story elements that are toxic, that won’t help them achieve their objective. This is a little more difficult than ‘feel good’ storytelling.

In my experience the greatest storytellers don’t tell the story, they ensure the listener or student finds or has access to the story elements that are necessary for their situation. Then they help the listener or student learn the art of measurement and construction to assemble the stories themselves.

TransMedia or Cross Media content deliver has that potentional as do self-forming groups that ‘resonate’ with a common purpose and disband once the objective is achieved.

The coffee shop or water cooler or Twitter or Linkedin are some iconic examples where stories are traded and while it is easy to see participants in anyone of thes places or spaces, in my view the most interesting story construction happens in the minds of the people that watch and don’t participate.

Cheers,
Nick @SpeedSynch @Resonantview

3 Donnie Bell Design January 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm

What about social media? Isn’t that story telling in real time?

4 Geneve Hoffman January 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Hi Donnie Bell Design! Just thought I’d ping in…the answer is yes, as long as (as Sean describes above) your story is compelling. If the story is that you are using social networking, then you have put the cart before the horse.

This post struck a chord with me (as do all of Sean’s muses!)…first figure out and develop what your story is, then sing it consistently through all avenues of branding. Love the Oprah example…from the outside her story may be “wealthy talk show maven gets wealthier.” But if you read her magazine (and watch her show…although I have to say I’m not nearly into her show as I am into her mag!), she gives tools on almost every page to “live your best life.” It has nada to do with who she presently has become–that is not the story. Light bulb moment. 🙂

My story from the outside could be “semi-successful and chic wedding photographer will tell your story beautifully.” And that is what my current branding is telling (Read: BORING and SO WHAT–SO IS EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER OUT THERE). But the real story is “celebrating life’s moments”–or whatever…that is not a good example, but whatever my tagline is, it shouldn’t be “i’m a good photographer, hire me”–there is a bigger more compelling story out there that I am not telling.

Thanks Sean!

5 Tom Hlas January 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for reminding me of the importance of stories. I too often get wrapped up in the day-to-day business of creating that I forget to take time to share the stories and welcome folks into the process so it lives for them, too, in their own way.

6 John Moon January 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Last week I presented along with Steve Zugelter of Studio Z Films at a conference in New Orleans called In[Focus]. We really hit it hard that Storytelling is so important to include in every stage and level of your brand. People want to feel some type of connection to you and one of the best ways to build that emotional connection is through telling who you are, where you came from and where you are going. Your story continues and it’s important to let people in on that journey. One of the reasons Social Media has taken off is that it is a way for people to connect with other people and to feel a sense of community.

John Moon
Filmmaker
Northernlight Filmworks

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