Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review - Business Storytelling for Dummies

The wind was a torrent of darkness
Among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon
Tossed upon the cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight
Over the purple moor
When the highwayman came riding
Riding, riding
The highwayman came riding
Up to the old inn door......The Highwayman, Loreena McKennitt

I love this song adaptation by Loreena McKennitt of the Highwayman.  The music is spectacular, and so is her voice, but it's the story that just holds me in thrall.

I typically don't do book reviews (especially for friends and colleagues) since I am not good at filtering myself and I don't do puff pieces. However, I made an exception for +LoriSilverman and I'm so glad I did.  Her new book, "Business Storytelling for Dummies," written with her friend and colleague Karen Dietz, PhD is really, really good.

For most of our history, our cultural values and stories were passed down through an oral tradition. Humans have an instinctive love of story and our obsession with the modern entertainment industry is clear evidence of that. We write volumes and tell stories every day about our past, our dreams, or things we heard happened to others. We also have tons of apocryphal stories we tell about our associations, why we are here and where we are going. What we aren't as good at, is really crafting a story that can motivate our members to action.

Writing a good story, like any other endeavor, takes effort. It is a craft and deserves study. What humans respond to, and the order in which we respond to it, is the key to not only telling a good story, but ensuring that story embeds itself into the consciousness of the ones we tell it to. This book takes a simple, common-sense approach to storytelling specifically in business settings (and by extension - associations).

What I appreciate about the story approach, vs the "marketing approach" is part of what makes a story a good story is a sense of authenticity. There is a realness you can impart in the body of a story that you cannot impart in any other way. Telling authentic stories takes guts, but it can infuse your mission with a dose of reality, (aka real-world value), like no other technique can. When I boil my personal story down to a sentence - "Blue collar girl in a white collar world," that tells you more about me, my approach and my style than all the text on my website ever could.

I think the most important section of the book is the one that breaks down the specific types of stories you should create, bank and have on hand. Every association has these stories, but do they have them written in a way that can create the most impact and are they easily accessible to industry stakeholders?  The seven story types are:

  • Founding Stories (how did we get here? In associations it usually involves seven or eight disgruntled people and a dining room table :D)
  • What We Stand For Stories (our vision, mission and values)
  • What We Do Stories (what we do for our industries and professions - not JUST our members)
  • Future Stories (where we are taking you since you're along for the ride)
  • Success Stories (awesome stuff we've done because we've stuck together)
  • Overcoming Barriers Stories (we just can't be stopped, no matter what)
  • Memorable Customer Stories (or in our case Members - and can we think of the good ones instead of the ones we usually tell? lol)

So, yeah....kudos to +LoriSilverman  and +Karen Dietz for writing such a great book.  I will be referencing it in the future a lot and I don't know anyone who couldn't benefit from the common sense hints they give about story structure, arc and use in different settings. And for my readers, take some time today and think about the stories you want to tell on behalf of your members and on behalf of yourselves. It's work you will not regret (and it might even inspire you a little - and who couldn't use a little more inspiration? :D).


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