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  • Why Most Marketers Make Bad Storytellers

    I founded the StoryHow™ Institute to teach business communicators how to tell their stories. My goal was to create a method for building a story that used familiar language instead of entertainment terms such as inciting incident, rising action, falling action, or dénouement. When was the last time you useddénouement in a business meeting? Yet, at times, “squishy” words are unavoidable.

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  • Nine Arguments Against Business Storytelling

    I’ve noticed a content marketing backlash, recently, with a particular vitriol directed toward business storytelling. For example, four weeks ago, the author of The Art of Storytelling in the Age of Content Marketing lashed out at brand journalism. “Former journalists,” he said, “who once gave voice to the downtrodden and spoke truth to power, have latched on to this trend w ...

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  • Jake And The Chainsaw: The Power of Myth

    Chief Scientists occupy the highest career rung on the technical ladder. Any ambition to climb higher requires a transition into management–something that most Chief Scientists view as a demotion. You see, Chief Scientists can essentially work on anything that interests them. As a fledgling engineer right out of college, I hung around Chief Scientists as much as I could.

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  • The Professor, The Pub, And The Power Meter

    The only thing standing between us and drinking at the campus pub was getting Professor Sifferlen to sign off on our lab project. As soon as we convinced him that our digital wattmeter was measuring power accurately, we’d have a solid hour of tossing back suds before the pub closed. My team explained how the circuit worked.

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  • MadLibs And The Marketing Reformation

    I’ve been enjoying Josh Bernoff’s blog, Without BS: be clear, be brief, and don’t be boring, where he parses corporate communications to separate the brisket from the balderdash. However, over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself reacting to his posts with mixed emotions. At times, I fist-pump and cheer, “Preach it, Josh!” More frequently, though, I catch myself wondering, “ ...

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  • The Optometrist Storyteller

    I lost my distance eyeglasses a couple of weeks ago. Figuring that they’d show up sooner or later, I forced myself to wander through a blurry world. However, when all hope of such a reunion vanished, I made an appointment to see a local optometrist. “Dr. B.” is a big, gregarious guy. He had a cowboy vibe about him–a cross between John Wayne and Chuck Connors–something that m ...

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  • “Just A Little Heart Attack”

    “We can’t publish that!” the director of public relations shouted after reviewing my cut of an audio interview. She didn’t object to the whole piece, just the founder’s answer to a question about his most difficult day as CEO. “I remember the day that we almost ran out of money,” he said, describing a moment that every successful entrepreneur can relate.

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  • Two Brains: One Story

    As a storyteller with a degree in electrical engineering, I’m about as dual-brained as one can get. I attend both the churches of Pathos and Logos. My left brain is filled with the gospels of physics, mathematics, and the creeds of deduction and induction. My right brain is infused with parables of the human condition, such as art, empathy, and symbolism.

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  • The Heart Is More Than A Pump

    There it was again. The look. I usually get it from traditional marketing professionals, but this time the look emanated from the heart surgeon that I shared an aisle with on a transcontinental flight. He had just finished describing a heart replacement procedure (don’t you wanna be stuck in an airplane with me?) and I had asked a question.

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  • The Churches Of Logos And Pathos

    Twenty-three hundred years ago, Aristotle published Rhetoric, where he listed the three ingredients of persuasion: logos, pathos, and ethos. Ethos refers to the character of the presenter. It includes things like trustworthiness, credibility, or respect. Logos refers to the data, facts, and logic behind the message. Pathos refers to the emotional component of the message.

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  • The Four-Letter Words Of Business Storytelling

    You cant put a sausage into a meat grinder, crank the handle backward, and get a pig, a friend once told me. The gruesome reference has always helped me with the concept that once mixed, some things remain that way forever. The same can be said for business and storytelling. While its trendy to portray them as new BFFs, the duo has always held a tight relationship.

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  • The Best Stories Come From The Worst Examples

    The best way to become a better storyteller is to study the bad storytellers. He circles the room in search of his next victim. You try to avoid eye contact, but fail. He approaches and within a few minutes, it’s like you’ve been transported into a conversation with Michelle from the movie American Pie.

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  • The Entrepreneur, The Compass, And The Fog

    Serial social entrepreneur, Arthur Nelson, describes how a company’s story is always filled with twists and turns. “I’ve never started an organization that ended up doing what it was originally intended to do,” Arthur Nelson once told me. Coming from the founder/co-founder of over twenty organizations (half of them nonprofits like TERC), his statement has stuck with me for o ...

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  • The Three Whats of Storytelling

    You were drawn into the story but its ending left you unsatisfied. You were likely the victim of a storyteller that ignored the three whats. Have you ever been hooked by the opening of someone’s story, only to be disappointed after they finished it? It began with so much promise, but instead of progressing toward a satisfying conclusion, the story meandered aimlessly? The ne ...

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  • Feeding Your Customer’s Story

    Enterprises must orchestrate ways to trigger a story in their customers’ minds. And it all starts with story prep. You can’t do the telling without the story Storytelling happens long before the first word is written or spoken. Business storytellers prepare. If done well, your communications team has the ability to tailor that story for the nuances of their preferred media.

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  • Yeah, But Who’s The Protagonist?

    Most business communicators understand the concept of story, they just have a very loose definition of it. So, whats the story behind this brand campaign? I asked. One of the communications pros read the following (abbreviated) words from a PowerPoint slide: As a global developer of innovative business and industrial products(Company)is applying its cutting-edge technologi ...

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  • The Accidental Storyteller

    For some reason people don’t think that they’re good storytellers…even when faced with evidence to the contrary. A few years ago, I met a guy who described himself as a 20-year veteran of the apparel industry. When I probed further, he rattled off manufacturing facts for all kinds of apparel, from Argyle to Zibeline. Impressed with the depths of his knowledge, I asked if he had a blog.

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  • Unlike Marketing Messages, Stories Are Messy

    Perfection is one of the largest traps that business communicators fall into when turning messages into stories. The key is to identify the trap before stepping into it… “What do you mean, you fixed it?” I asked. His reply floored me. “I centered the flag.” I looked at the photograph again, feeling as if I were playing an odd version of Where’s Waldo. Then I saw it.

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  • “Who’s the Bad Guy?”

    Children inherently understand the structure of stories, but somehow it’s lost as we become “professionals.” Many years ago, my wife and I would take our kids to Saturday matinees. Our daughter, Stephanie, loved them. She’d sit wide-eyed, barely able to see over the seat in front of her and absorb every movie detail.

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