Posts Tagged 'storytelling'

Companies and Storytelling: What Could Go Wrong?

art figures

Considering all the recent talk in PR and business circles about organizational storytelling—including our own contributions to the buzz, “Organizational Storytelling and PR”—got me to wondering: What could possibly go wrong?

What, indeed!

Then I happened upon the article, “Companies Telling Stories.” The red flag raised in “Companies Telling Stories” is that companies may use storytelling to create myths and legends, rather than show the unvarnished truth. I came to realize that my subtle thoughts were very real concerns.

As we’ve indicated, we’re proponents of organizational storytelling to help establish brands, disseminate information, and provide a clear differentiation or explanation on issues; however, our endorsement of the time-honored tradition of storytelling for PR clearly presumes that the same standards of ethics, mutuality and transparency that are the hallmark of public relations practice will apply in business storytelling. Short of that, you’ve just got companies spinning yarns to obfuscate, misinform, or worse yet, deceive.

Once upon a time

To become more than just a passing fad or the hyped trend of the moment, to be truly useful and effective, storytelling must become embedded within the culture of the organization. Moreover, the kinds of stories that build and advance a company’s narrative may not be those that can be readily farmed out; rather, they must be sustained, truly characteristic of the values and activities of the organization, and open to scrutiny and reflection. While many authors may contribute to storytelling process, it’s the guided, ethical overall public relations strategy that makes business storytelling most effective.

So, like others in the industry, while we’re enamored with the storytelling process, we recognize that its true value in PR comes from the strong ethical framework that shapes all content into something useable, truthful and relevant to an audience. As well-known digital strategist and entrepreneur Ann Handley says in a recent post: The best content isn’t storytelling. The best content is telling a true story well.

Storytellers2

We’ll be writing more about companies and storytelling, good and bad, in upcoming posts.  Also, please check out our post examining other aspects of business storytelling at:

http://storify.com/PRDoctorChicago/companies-and-storytelling

Organizational Storytelling and PR

Quotation text: “I do not consider the machines which bear my name simply as machines … I take them as concrete evidence of the working out of a theory of business–a theory that looks toward making the world a better place in which to live.”
-Henry Ford, 1922

We recently attended a Storytellers session during Chicago Ideas Week, which got us thinking about organizations and their stories. Of course, as attendees we walked away with useful information, as well as pearls of wisdom and inspiration about the process of storytelling; but some of the discussion got us to thinking about organizations and their responsibility to tell their story, and to tell it effectively. In most cases that responsibility falls within the purview of public relations and communications professionals.

Yet, too many organizations, profit and nonprofit alike, still view telling their stories and creating their own narrative as a process to be shared only with selected audiences: shareholders, funders, prospects, current supporters or customers, legislative interests or regulators, etc. They fail to realize the broad social interest, at large, in knowing the motivations, history and experiences that drive our nation’s companies, large and small. In a sense, companies have an obligation to tell their stories and lessons learned factually, with authority, and with humanity, for the greater good.

With that in mind, for marketers and communications pros, we gleaned some ideas, insights and trends from Storytellers, which we thought we’d share here:

  •  “Storytelling is giving information, even when people aren’t asking for it,” Arun Chaudhary, Former Official White House Videographer
Storytellers picture board

Picture board of CIW Storytellers Session

  •  “Brands are leaning to purpose … picking stories that will be their narrative,” Susan Credle, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett USA
  •  “Authenticity  is the key to storytelling; letting people be who they are,” Chaudhary
  •   “Good stories follow curiosity and passion … Emotion drives stories,” Rebecca Skloot, Author
  •  “The heart can make anything important,”  Carol Edgarian, Co-founder, Narrative Magazine
  •  “Transparency is a discipline, and not a home run,” Chaudhary

We really hope your company is in the process of perfecting its own story. If you need help, feel free to contact us at MediaWorks:  OrganizationalPR@aol.com.


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