Recently, I’ve seen lots of chatter in Social/New Media circles about business and storytelling. Evidently, storytelling is “in!” Who knew?
I have mixed feelings about the topic. As a storyteller who has produced 70 episodes of a storytelling podcast since 2005, I’m excited about any interest in the craft. But as a New Media Evangelist who looks into the eyes of corporate executives everyday, I have serious doubts. Storytelling for business may sound great to those who push the business communications envelope daily, but when it comes to actually implementing the practice within rigid corporate hierarchies, I’m afraid that we have a long way to go.
How can business be ready for storytelling if most professional business communicators still believe that “conversational” writing is “unprofessional?” How can business be ready for storytelling if the majority of corporate websites are crammed with McMarketing slogans and McPressReleases? How can business be ready for storytelling if only a minority of them actually allow employees to blog? Storytelling for business? Really?
The elements of storytelling have been honed over many generations. Stories require:
- Characters in conflict.
- Characters that we care about…and good characters are flawed.
- Protagonists and antagonists
- Characters must change as a result of conflict resolution.
In essence, stories require all of the things that professional business communicators are trained to eliminate, like conflict, emotion, flaws, etc…
Storytelling involves an intimate relationship between writer and the reader. This intimacy is orders of magnitude higher than the “conversational” style required within Social Media channels.
Can we implement storytelling within business? Damn straight we can! But we have miles to go before we sleep. Show me an industry where 90% of the competitors are blogging and I’ll show you an industry that is ready for the business of storytelling. Until then, we must keep teaching, because business storytelling will be built upon a foundation of New/Social Media fundamentals.
And not a moment sooner.