Storytelling: It's All the Rage

Why Using "Buzzwords" Bugs Me

I like to think I was one of the first to use it in my title. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't; we all know storytelling has been around since, well, the beginning of human existence. For thousands of years, stories were how history, culture, and relationships have been shared and carried forward. They continue to serve multiple purposes, including teaching basic concepts, morality, ethics, religion, and more.

Prior to the age of general literacy, storytelling was the only way to share your community and family history. Stories passed down from generation to generation are what connect us, not only to our family and personal identity, but to the rest of the global community.

Given our human nature to share stories, it’s a bit surprising that suddenly, over the past 2+ years, storytelling has become a big buzzword. Storytelling for content marketing, storytelling for sales, storytelling for company culture, storytelling for interviews & résumés... as if there's some magical component of business and life that was recently discovered and will change everything!

Why does this bother me so much?

Maybe it’s because of my discovery a few years ago of my skill in helping people and organizations better understand and share their stories, both as a tool for general communication, and as a way to improve personal outcomes. There aren’t a lot of really skilled storytellers, and there are even fewer good teachers of storytelling.

Maybe the buzzword status of storytelling bothers me because, by making it its very own thing, we take the word out of the context of every other component of communication. Like the word engagement. Suddenly, over the past few years, engagement is a word that gets tossed around every industry: Education, manufacturing, travel, public sector agencies. As if, by using the word engagement, we can change the culture and dynamic of an environment without putting it into the context of profit, communication, management, leadership, marketing/sales, human resources, customer experience, etc.

All buzzwords do this, and it has always bugged me.

The same goes for storytelling. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To be a storyteller on any medium, you have to have a story to tell. As my friend Shlomi Ron, of Visual Storytelling Institute, says, you have to be a storyMAKER first. And then you must use the story in context, with an audience, in a way that moves people to do something or to feel something. That’s the beauty and complexity of communication; there are so many components, and storytelling is just one of them.

In business, telling your story has to fit into the culture and context of your organization. That means, prior to coming up with the language of your story, you need to do some digging. Remember the “why” behind your business; take into account your mission, vision, and overall goals. Think about the people involved, including employees, leadership, customers, and other stakeholders (the communities you impact), and figure out how your story will impact them.

And then consider which stories to tell, how to tell them them, and where they should be told.

Be intentional about your storytelling, make it real, not just another buzzword.

Here's what Ben Walker at Transcription Outsourcing had to say about No Longer Virtual 2017:

...the NLV conference was full of a bunch of "givers" and no "takers". I'm pretty sure that's why we all loved it so much, no one had an agenda, and no one tried to sell me anything. That's the first time I've been to a conference like that since I started going to conferences 15 years ago. 

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