There’s a funny dynamic in my business these days. I’m starting to see it as a push and pull between my business as “communications consulting” and “writing”.
In my mind, I’ve always seen it as the same thing. A consultant is inherently a communicator — a writer — who must advocate his own ideas, analysis and strategy, and outfit the client do the same.
And a writer is a consultant. To do more than skim the surface of business story, you need to bring more than simply curiosity and a way with words. You need an ability to recognize both what makes a good story, and what that story has to do for the organization — the goals the story has to support for the organization to be successful.
There’s a reason that I (and others) use ‘storytelling’ to describe the heart my business. First, I like the word. It evokes something basic and simple that hearkens back to childhood – sitting in the circle listening to lessons and fables and stories of enchanted kingdoms and plucky young Jacks and princes and foxes and rabbits. And storytelling perfectly encapsulates the art and action of communications – the creation of ‘story’ – or message or brand – and the ‘telling’ of it – the strategic and pragmatic task of finding people who want to hear a story and pass it on to their friends.
On the other hand, these days we like to say that brands don’t “tell” their audience anything – they have conversations. They listen and they communicate and they respond and they act.
Sure. But a brand isn’t simply the creation of the crowd, or even its customers.
And have you ever heard a good storyteller? I mean a really good one. The kind that holds the rapt attention of a gaggle of unruly kids? The kind that hears the unscripted shout from kid in the the back with glasses and the attitude and makes him part of the narrative? The sort that listens to the beat of story as it is spoken and can quickly take up new rhythms from the night and the audience as inspiration and slip them into the story as casual as you would in your backyard lawn chair over lemonade and beer?
That’s the dynamic I see in corporate communications and marketing today: You want to create a space where you can sit in the center of the circle with the people inside and outside the organization who make it go. Telling, asserting, advocating — expressing your vision – and listening, adapting, and moving. And setting them free to tell the story to their circles – letting it grow stronger in each retelling.