Children love stories; Jesus taught through parables; journalists call their output ‘stories’. But corporate storytelling sounds like a fiction (‘one upon a time…’). That’s until you remember that there’s a limit to facts unappreciated by Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times:
Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!
What value is the fact that WPP was originally Wire and Plastic Products, a manufacturer of shopping baskets? It’s now a quoted advertising and marketing services group and the interest is in the narrative (how did they get to here from there?)
So corporate storytelling has an important and respectable role (and a large and growing literature). Steve Rubel predicts a great future for digital storytelling. I filter out ads but stopped to read a persuasive advertisement from Shell in The Economist print edition; its narrative is the greatest story ever told. The story of how a nomadic people became city dwellers but never gave up the restless urge to travel. No greenwashing, but a persuasive case for the need for energy.
But what of those professional storytellers, journalists? Adrian Monck discusses stories, truth and trust in Media Guardian.