Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tell me a story...


When was the last time you heard a good story? A great anecdote even? The type of story that you just couldn’t wait to tell your friends?


On my drive to work one morning last week, I heard a promo on CBC Radio from a woman with the Ottawa Storytellers. She was encouraging listeners to come to their upcoming storytellers' festival and she told a great, yet simple story about her experience as a child in a elementary school play.


I won't steal her thunder, but I will say it was captivating.


Likewise was the case at the Rideau Street Chapter’s bookstore in Ottawa last night. Author David Sedaris read from his book of wickedly funny short stories called Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk drawing a tremendous response from the crowd.


There is a considerable body of research in the social sciences done on narratives and stories and what they mean. It basically falls under the idea that the narratives we tell also say a lot about who we are. Such stories define our personalities, our character, our beliefs, and our values. A story about our past also tells where we intend to go in the future. The details included (or excluded) characterize what we deem to be important and can say a lot about the storyteller. After all, who doesn’t love someone that can tell a good story?


What does this mean for the Ottawa marketer? Narratives matter.


This is a concept not lost on politicians. The narrative portrayal of the party leader is constantly discussed amongst journalists and politicos. Here the primary question centres on how that individual is perceived.


At the same time, in business, a great narrative is basically a great brand. As a business owner, the story you tell about your past says a great deal about where you wish to go. It encompasses your values and your desires. Treat your customers following the values you wish to convey in your narrative and you have successfully defined your own reputation. A happy ending indeed.