Tuesday, April 3, 2012


A client came to me a few weeks ago. The executive leadership team of her company has, finally, realized that their company is bogged down by long, boring meetings and presentations. They have issued a four-page single-spaced email about storytelling, the need for and importance of.

They have asked my client to prepare a short presentation on the do's and don't's of storytelling.

In turn, she has turned to me for help.

Actually, she turned to me to "collaborate" with her. And then she disappeared.

Since I know I'll end up writing this presentation anyway, I figured I'd be better off doing it now rather than later. So I began late last night.

I think teaching storytelling to people who haven't a clue is like teaching people with no teeth how to have a great smile. You have to have a certain degree of empathy and humanity to tell a story. You have to care about what your audience thinks. You have to allow them to think. You have to also have a bit of the risk taker in you. Otherwise, you're not telling a story, you're reading instructions.

My client's told me she ordered from Amazon a few dozen books about storytelling because she is looking for a framework that her audience could understand. I started looking at the blurbs on some of these books and decided that anyone who writes a book on storytelling isn't a storyteller. Also, anyone who says they're a storyteller, or a digital storyteller, or an UX storyteller, or an application storyteller is a fraud and a charlatan.

Storytelling is just the latest phrase that pays. It's as prevalent in business today as the question, "what would Jobs do?"

In any event it occurred to me that an advertising framework, AIDA, is probably all you need remember.

Get your audience's ATTENTION.
Keep your audience's INTEREST.
Inflame their ardent DESIRE.
Impel your audience to ACTION.

I know AIDA is old-fashioned and from the Mad Man era, but I'm sticking with it.

There's one other thing. I've pasted above a page from two-time Pulitzer-winner John Updike's novel "Couples."

Storytelling, even if you're a master like John Updike, takes work.

Something most people just hate to do.

True story.


Graham Strong said...

"You have to care about what your audience thinks."

I'm finally getting around to writing that novel, so I'm listening more to what other novelists have to say about writing. I'm astounded by how many of them expound on how you have to write for yourself, and forget the reader.

Maybe it's reflex or instinct from too many years of marketing writing. But I think the last thing you want to do for any type of writing is forget the reader.

Thanks for reaffirming that for me.


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