The Art of Storytelling
Where does a professional communicator fit In a world of "alternative facts" and high profile corporate biographies? Recently, I attended a workshop in the Boston area on "Squeezing Your Creative Juice" - specifically, penning a novel, either fiction or nonfiction. Led by PR practitioner Dick Pirozzolo, author of "Escape from Saigon" (Skyhorse), Pirozzolo talked about his own experience as an Air Force information officer who was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Saigon in the early 70s, and how he parlayed his experience into a work of fiction about the draft, the last month of the war, the fear and the loneliness of a Vietnam veteran coming home.
To get us started, the workshop opened with an exercise inspired by Ernest Hemingway. Using photos for inspiration, attendees were encouraged to pen a six-word short story in an homage to "Papa Hemingway" and his bite-sized tale: "For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn."
"Leadership is taught through real events," said Pirozzolo, and gave examples of Jobs, Wozniak and Ben & Jerry's as leaders who are also master corporate storytellers. Tension, romance, a story arc and great characters all make our corporate storytelling more interesting and force us to look at the characteristics of the individuals we represent so we are seeing them through a different and more captivating lens. Pirozzolo advised: "As communicators, we need to sell the story, and not just the product."
Think about the basics of storytelling when it comes to telling your clients' stories:
- Character: what makes a person interesting?
- Story arc: how does the story build and show continuity?
- Conflict: find the tension in your story to make it more compelling. "All art is the resolution of conflict, and with conflict comes suspense and surprise. That's what sucks us in 'till the end."
- Relationships. Love is a universal emotion: find the love story even in a corporate story.
- Closing: How does your story end? Who solved the problem? Make it real.
- Props: The products drive the story and reveal characters and their development. "How do you set the stage for your CEO's press exposure?"
- And of course, write for a visually-oriented generation. Be descriptive and creative in your descriptions.
Many thanks to all the engaged attendees of this fascinating workshop for reminding us that the core of what we do is simple: good storytelling.