Notes and Bibliographic
Paul Smith, Lead With A Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire (AMACOM, 2012).
Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and Principles of Screenwriting (Methuen, 1999). This is an extraordinarily readable and humbling book, which deserves its status as the definitive guide to the craft. Erudite, expert and thorough, it presents the principles and pitfalls of storytelling in a clear and engaging way.
The ‘interpreter’ was discovered by a neuroscientist called Michael Gazzaniga, whose work is summarised in Jonathan Gottschall’s excellent book, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (Houghton Mifflin, 2012). This book explores a number of hypotheses about why humans need to tell stories, and whilst it doesn’t quite identify a definitive answer, it’s a fascinating and thought-provoking survey. Gottschall also usefully summarises the idea that fiction works as a flight simulator for the brain: “The constant firing of our neurons in response to fictional stimuli strengthens and refines the neural pathways that lead to the skilful navigation of life’s problems... Fiction allows our brains to practice reacting to the kinds of challenges that are, and always were, most crucial to our success as a species”.
On the history of brands and branding, see Wally Olins’, On Brand (Thames & Hudson, 2004); Corporate Identity (Thames & Hudson, 1989).
2012 was definitely the year story came to prominence as a business tool. It saw the publication of Paul Smith’s Lead With a Story as well as Jonah Sach’s Winning the Story Wars (Harvard Business Press, 2012). Sachs’ polemical tour de force is particularly compelling, also comprising a lot of what I stress about the instinctive and archetypal power of narrative persuasively applied to a marketing context. His emphasis on marketers as the modern mythmakers conclusively argues for the need to apply mythic thinking to communications. His observations about how social networking is returning storytelling back to its pre-professional, oral foundations, chimes exactly with my own argument developed at the end of my book. His term for this development as the ‘digitoral’ era neatly sums up the paradox I was blindly groping to articulate. Sachs is on a messianic marketing mission in his book, claiming that marketing needs to reinvent itself through storytelling. Going from the old model of trading on people’s inadequacies to empowering consumers and citizens to find the possibility of fulfilment in the morals marketing stories can present. It’s a thrilling, insightful journey he takes us on.
Paul Smith’s book, referenced earlier, is a useful addition to what might be termed the ‘Leadership Fables’ genre of business book. How-to instruction manuals in the narrative art of persuasion. This is most famously exemplified by Stephen Denning’s pioneering work The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge- Era Organizations from 2000. This provided business leaders with alternatives to the more analytical methods they had traditionally employed when seeking to influence behaviour. Instead of giving people facts and figures, and reasons to do something, Smith and Denning suggest using an anecdote or a parable to bring the idea to life. Smith’s book even features “powerful stories for 21 of the toughest challenges business people face”. Whilst some of the methods and insights are relevant to my chapter on Employee Engagement, my emphasis is less on storytelling as an internal leadership tool, so much as an external communications one. Annette Simmons’ The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (Basic Books, 2006), is another essential guide to using story to influence, both inside and outside of the business context. It delves deep into the humanity and psychology of storytelling in all contexts, not just to ‘Win’, or ‘Lead’ in the business jungle. I found Simmons’ book invaluable for understanding the human dynamics of narrative.
John Simmons is the author of Innocent, which was originally in the Great Brand Stories series, now published by Marshall Cavendish (revised edition, 2011). He is most famously the author of Me, We, Them and It (2002); Dark Angels (2004); and The Invisible Grail (2006), collected as TheWriter™ Trilogy and now also published by Marshall Cavendish. He also edited a collection of essays called Bard & Co: Shakespeare’s Role in Modern Business (2007), to which I contributed a humble chapter on what Timon of Athens might teach us about financial crisis. Simmons is clearly not afraid of mentioning Shakespeare in a boardroom.
What Makes a Story
Brand “the most valuable real estate in the world”, quoted by John Hegarty in Hegarty on Advertising: Turning Intelligence into Magic (Thames & Hudson, 2011).
Emotional connection is an unavoidable function of our cognitive life as primates. Brian Boyd refers to an “emotional contagion” that takes place instinctively when normal brains are shown representations of emotions. He refers to something called “mirror neurons … [which] fire when we see others act or express emotion as if we were making the same action, and allow us through a kind of automatic inner imitation to understand their intentions and attune ourselves to their feelings”. This is the basis of empathy in art, allowing us to relate closely with fictional characters in the way we would with real humans. We just can’t help tuning in to others’ emotions, something that confers vital educative functions in social units, and allows us to ‘read’ people as indexes to survival. That is why trust is fundamentally an emotional value, and has little to do with the rational arguments we might offer. Brian Boyd’s illuminating and persuasive book, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Harvard University Press, 2009) informed many of the points I make about the human bias towards storytelling.
Apart from the works referenced, I found the following books useful in writing this chapter:
Aristotle, The Poetics, translated S. H. Butcher (Kindle edn.)
Brooker, Christopher, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories (Continuum, 2005)
Forster, E. M., Aspects of the Novel, edited Oliver Stallybrass (Penguin, 2005)
Frye, Northrop, An Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton UP., 1992)
Goleman, Daniel, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ (Bloomsbury, 1996)
Heath, Chip and Dan, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck (Arrow, 2008)
Wood, James, How Fiction Works (Vintage, 2009)
How to Develop your Story
The classic work on the archetypal hero’s quest is Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), which famously inspired George Lucas in writing Star Wars. This is available in an updated re-print of 2004, published by Princeton University Press, from which my quotation comes.
The application of Jungian psychology to branding is developed by Margaret Mack and Carol S Pearson in The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes (McGraw Hill, 2001). Jonah Sachs offers a succinct application of Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey story structure in his Winning the Story Wars, to help marketers think about their brand’s type, and thus the key to their story.
“Don’t give audiences 4, give them 2 + 2”, Andrew Stanton, in a TED talk on storytelling. There are some excellent insights, and what endeared me to Mr Stanton most of all, is his starting his talk with one of my all time favourite jokes about a man and a goat. http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=KxDwieKpawg (Accessed August 2012).
Where to Tell your Story
Through Annual Reporting
‘Rising to the Challenge’ is available at: http://www.frc.org.uk/Our-Work/Publications/ASB/Rising-to-the-Challenge/Rising-to-the-challenge.aspx (Accessed August 2012).
Through your People
The role of storytelling for engaging employees is well established in the literature. Annette Simmons’ The Story Factor proposes numerous ways in which the psychology of narrative can help influence people to act differently in diverse organisational settings. Similarly, most of the scenarios and narrative formulas outlined in Stephen Denning’s Leader’s Guide to Storytelling use stories to help managers address specific people issues within organisations. Denning outlines a whole variety of different story genres designed to meet these specific challenges. His most famous genre ‘The Springboard Story’, for example, is useful for leaders who need to effect change, but are likely to meet resistance. Instead of just telling people what they need to do or ought to do, you find an appropriate anecdote to inspire people to imagine and feel the advantages of embracing change. Story provides a springboard into a new reality far more effectively than presenting a rational case for change. Story for both these writers is a people-focused tool, that comes into its element less through communications channels than through direct personal and collective engagements. Readers seeking practical guidance for specific scenarios would do well to consult these books.
Wally Olins, On Brand (Thames & Hudson, 2004).
Through the Digital Universe
On standing out through the use of moving image, see http://www.globalspeak.com/component/content/article/47-promo/126-online-video-benefits-.html
An updated version of the Forbes Insights research is found at: http://images.forbes.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Video_in_the_CSuite.pdf
Both sources were accessed December 2012.
The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, was published in April 1999 by Christopher Locke, David Weinberger, Rick Levine, and David Searls. The core idea that the Internet that attempted to market to people in bland business speak, and the Internet of ‘market’ conversations would one day converge appears to be happening. The main message that business needs to speak in a human voice and be part of planet earth is relevant still. The train has a few more stops to go. For the purposes of this chapter I used the ten-year anniversary edition of the Manifesto, published by Basic Books in 2011.
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, Marketing in the Groundswell (Harvard Business Press, 2009).
Where Story is going
Peter Morville, Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become (O’Reilly, 2005).
The best way to get to grips with Liquid and Linked is the explanatory video the company posted on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=LerdMmWjU_E
This is an animated narration of the new policy by Jonathan Mildenhall, the VP, Global Advertising Strategy and Content Excellence at The Coca-Cola Company. You see Coke takes this seriously, his title was VP of ‘Creative Excellence’ until recently. A transcript of a talk given by Mildenhall explaining the new policy in April 2012 is available at: http://www.my-mip.com/RM/RM_ MIPWORLD/2012/documents/pdf/transcripts/miptv-2012-media-mastermind-keynote-jonathan-mildenhall-transcript.pdf
Quotations about ‘Liquid and Linked’ are taken from the video or transcript.
All quotations about Coca-Cola Journey are from Ashley Brown, Coke’s director of digital communications and social media, quoted from the site itself: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/media-center/ press-releases/coca-cola-invites-the-world-to-join-its-new-journey or in a New York Times article that broke the story: http://www.nytimes. com/2012/11/12/business/media/coke-revamps-web-site-to-tell-its- story.html?ref=business&_r=0.
The Coke spokeswoman on the need for the company to tell its story on even a simple mobile phone is Wendy Clark head of integrated marketing and communications, speaking at an Ad Age Digital Conference, in April 2012. A video of her talk is at http://adage.com/article/special-report-digital-conference/coca-cola-s-wendy-clark-liquid-linked-key/226836/
“Be more interesting than your audience’s friends” came from Noah Brier of Percolate in an Internet Week panel on how 2012 was “the Year Social Helps Brands Become Publishers”, a YouTube video of the panel held in May 2012 is found at:
All online sources for this chapter were accessed December 2012.
In addition to the works cited, I found the following books useful in writing this chapter:
Anderson, Chris, The Longer Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand (Random House, Business; 2009)
Briggs, Asa and Burke, Peter, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet (Polity, 2010)
Godin, Seth, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Piatkus, 2008)
Millman, Debbie, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits (Allworth Press, 2011)
Walker, Rob, I’m With the Brand The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are (Constable, 2008)