Why It's All About Stories

I met someone for the first time recently. They asked me “What do you do?”.

The story of what I “do” has changed over the years. I used to just say “I work for [insert company name here].” Then after a while, I started to identify more with the actual work I was doing. “I’m a TV producer.” “I’m a web designer.” “I’m a technical writer.” “I’m a professor.”

When we started the company, my description started to become more complex. “I’m a partner in a production company.” Which always prompted the response, “Oh? What kind of production?”, to which I’d have to go into a long-winded explanation that well, we do tv production, but also web video, corporate video, and oh – yah, we develop web sites too, and do marketing…..

The problem I was having is that I could no longer easily sum up what I actually “do”. I was “doing” too many different things. Then the other day, it hit me. What I do is irrelevant. It’s a task list. It’s what I am that matters.

So what AM I? Simple. I’m a storyteller.

All day, every day, I’m telling stories. I’m telling them here, on my blog. I’m telling them in 140 character increments, on Twitter. I’m telling them when I meet my friends for drinks or coffee or dinner. And I’m helping my clients figure out how to tell their stories too, whether it’s through a new web site, a video, a TV show, a marketing campaign, or all of the above.

It’s all storytelling.

So how does this tie in to the notion that it’s not about the tools? Well, the fact that it’s really all about storytelling rather proves it, I think.

If what we’re all doing out here is telling stories (our own, our clients’, others’ -it doesn’t matter), then really, the tools become irrelevant. Sure, it’s important to know how to use the right tools, and use them the right way to ensure the story is told well. But the tools themselves are secondary. It’s the story that really matters.

When all’s said and done, it’s the story that people will remember – not what you used to tell it. I’m wondering if it’s time to reconsider how much effort we are spending talking about the tools themselves, and if perhaps we should be spending more effort figuring out what our story is and how we’re going to tell it.


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  • April 19, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Love it! When sharing our story, we’re really sharing a real aspect of our being, whereas, telling what we do is really mechanical. Besides we love to hear stories, it is in our nature.

    Now, I got to think what is my story…

    Angelina’s last blog post..The More the Merrier

  • April 19, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I love this post, it’s so exactly true. Beyond storytelling its also important to have a story that is substantive and compelling.

    I work with more than a few folks who think its all about putting up gates to content, or if we follow the formula outlined in some business book we’ll all be Bill Gates by next quarter. Thing about that is, they never see the results because they don’t actually have anything to say. The content isn’t worth gating, and/or when they speak they sound like an inspirational quote-a-day calendar.

    I find the same types of people on Twitter 2/3 of their posts are quotations or top ten lists. Or posts that are about having “authentic” communication and then stop there. Like we’re all a bunch of hyped up, super positive, inspired, list making Buddhas.

    I think you’re setting the bar too high with “real work,” I’d settle for hearing about ANY work. Or even the laundry if it saved me from the next Zig Ziglar.

  • April 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I like the way you think!

  • April 19, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Susan, I agree.

    What we say:
    [looking at Fran] “The other day Jim was telling me about a guy who…[to Jim] was it in your post, no, it was a email…no you were telling me when we were driving. That’s it. [to Fran] anyway, Jim was telling me about a guy who went fishing and…”

    What we (hope) don’t say:
    [looking at Fran] “The other day Jim had the most amazing Facebook status. I have no idea what it was, but I remember it was amazing.”

    Jon Swanson’s last blog post..a story in search of a moral

  • April 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I think there can be a happy medium, It’s definitely about the story, but very often the tool will “make” the story.

    Think about the pictures on Twitter when the pilot landed in the Hudson. Or the worker that was sacked for taking a sickie from work and then boasting about hungover he was on his Facebook status.

    These wouldn’t have made half the news they did if it wasn’t for the fact that both showed the power of the tools in question.

    So yes, it’s about the story – but a master crafstman knows how to mix that with the tools.

    Danny Brown’s last blog post..Talking Twitter with CityNews Toronto

  • April 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Yes, yes and YES! It IS about storytelling. And yes, Danny Brown, a master craftsman does need to know how to use the tools, but —–what I see 90% of the time is talk about tools – with no talk of audience, strategy or story.

    Producers, especially, need both. Even so, if you know what story you want to tell, it’s not that hard to connect with others who can help with tools, if needed.

    I say, start with the goal of the story, then fill in with tools accordingly.

    Leah’s last blog post..Ready for Clients that Want the “Obama Approach?”

  • April 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    I’ve always been of the mindset that it’s not the tools that matter the most but rather the concepts and stories beneath.

    There’s definitely more effective ways of telling stories and some tools work better than others. And once in awhile, it’s the tool that blows the audience away rather than the story.

    Most of the time though, the story is what moves your audience and is what your audience remembers.

  • April 19, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    What kind of story are you telling? A biography? Autobiography? Profile? Essay? Commentary? Or is your story type different for each person and organization you tell it?

    Ari Herzog’s last blog post..Learning from Conversations

  • April 20, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    And at the end, just to seal the deal, they put you in a plot.



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