According to Kathy Oneto, VP of Brand Strategy at Athem Worldwide, 2012 is "The Year of the Story" where "storytelling is the ultimate branding technique du jour." Really?
There's a difference between "story" and "storytelling."
I remember watching an interview with the great screenwriter Robert McKee where he made clear that, in his mind, there are three ways for business people to persuade someone, and of the three "story" is the most effective:
McKee went on to explain the problems with rhetoric and coercion:
"The trouble with coercion in that it is successful, but only in the short term. And then it will come around and kick you in the ass, if you misuse people like that in business."
"The trouble with rhetoric is that the person you're trying to persuade has their own statistics and their own authorities and their own facts. And while you're trying to persuade them, they're arguing against you. Also, they know from their experience that when you use rhetoric, you are concealing all of the negative evidence. You're arguing only from those points that would support your arguments."
Thus his conclusion, and point of view, that story is the best way to persuade people.
But there's a critical unasked question hidden in the interview, one that changes the dynamics of the challenge and, subsequently, of the business relationship. And it's this: Why try to persuade people in the first place? Why not lay it all out there, albeit in a transparent, expressive and artful way, and let people convince themselves and influence each other?
Like rhetoric and coercion, aren't we catching on to storytelling as a means of persuasion? When Mitt Romney references a particular person in the heartland struggling to keep the family business afloat, don't we think: "I know why he's saying that; he's trying to tug at my heartstrings. He wants me to adopt his point of view."
People's attitudes about an idea are changed in two primary ways: through their active participation (behavior-induced) and through persuasion, where you use semantic and symbolic means to convince them to change.
Persuasion was a perfectly ﬁne marketplace approach when people were predisposed to believe various claims, both overt and subtle ones, and when commercial messages were welcomed and consciously assimilated. But not so much today. The marketplace has changed.
What hasn't changed is that story remains the most influential form of communication. But not McKee's version, which is more properly referred to as "storytelling." Rather, it's the story we tell ourselves and each other about our experiences with organizations, products and people that carry the most weight.
Resist the urge to tell more stories. Instead, create something special that others will want to tell stories about. There's a difference.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Story vs. storytelling: