One week ago I had the pleasure and privilege of attending Hubspot’s Inbound 2013 Convention and hearing inspiring, meaningful, poignant, timely Thought Leadership from the likes of Pam Slim, Arianna Huffington, Seth Godin, Scott Harrison, and Dan Lyons. I already wrote about Visual Digitalization, a current theme in social media marketing, and the speeches that Pam Slim and Arianna Huffington gave, on my Tumblr blog. I did so there, as opposed to here, for several reasons.
Visual Digitalization in my opinion (as an educational technology consultant and human communications specialist/ behaviorist), is actually not a separate entity, but is encompassed in an age old educational and marketing technique that has been “rediscovered” by social media and communications management gurus and thought leaders: Storytelling.
Last week, the Story of both Arianna Huffington, (through her Inbound 2013 speech which went viral: http://youtu.be/UcNXNtydKSY) and Marissa Mayer, (through her pose in the September issue of Vogue and the media frenzy: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227988) intersected, collided, and provided lessons in female entrepreneurship, female collective gender loyalty, and both common and fashion sense. I wrote about in my Tumblr blog. Because Tumblr is now part of Yahoo, thanks to CEO Marissa Mayer. Because Tumblr is my landing site, where The NICE Initiative For Female Entrepreneurship lives. You can access those lessons here:
This is my landing site for my book, The NICE Reboot: How to Balance Your Craving for Humanity & Technology in Today’s Startup Culture. Because my book lives here, I want to write a post about Storytelling here. Because all books, whether fiction or nonfiction, are written as part of someone’s Story. The best books help you further your own Story and make sense of other people’s Stories while doing so. In this post I thus want to reflect on the second social media marketing theme that’s currently being touted online, especially by Hubspot and the entrepreneurial zeitgeist, as seen from this Hubspot video’s line, “We Stopped Telling Stories” http://youtu.be/mOiVhNr7Qms, and these recent articles:
I have been a storyteller all my life, which is why I started off in the educational arena, before crossing over to the entrepreneurial arena. I have worked on storytelling skills, which involve nuanced language and humor, as well the abilities to sequence, inference, and problem solve, with young children with Autism for twenty years. I have discussed my Socially Speaking™ Technique for teaching aspects to storytelling, in my national/international seminars for the past 3 years.
Seth Godin’s excellent writings about creating art, and the Misters Heath who wrote the illuminating book, Made to Stick (more on that in my next post), have profoundly influenced my public speaking/presentation style. Storytelling really is an art, one that Arianna Huffington repeatedly shows she has mastered; both personally and professionally. It is not a lost art, despite what you hear of journalists jumping ship and changing jobs. Journalists like Dan Lyons, whom I avidly listened to on Day 3 of Inbound 2013. He informed us that he is now a Hubspot Fellow, after a long and illustrious career which includes being a tech blogger for Forbes and Newsweek. I felt drawn to hear his talk entitled, “Tell Me a Story: When Media & Marketing Become One”, for the title alone, and for the simple fact that he is the one who pretended to be Steve Jobs in his groundbreaking, viral blog which I industriously followed for a long time, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. As someone whose own career has pivoted, who is also an Apple™ techie since childhood, and a public speaker/ iPad Evangelist to boot, I was quite curious to hear what he had to say about storytelling, social media marketing trends, entrepreneurship, and in essence, life. I’m glad I chose his session to attend. His unconventional delivery, humor, content, interwoven stories, and insights into the world of Apple™ Inc. were all a breath of fresh air.
Dan seems to feel that business models in general, and the landscape of marketing in particular, have changed dramatically. So the rules of engagement need to be revised and shaken up as well. He discussed how business journalists can actually teach social media marketers a thing or two about:
• Storytelling using this formula: Tiger, Tree, and Treasure, to depict elements of quest, struggle, and acquisition/resolution, applicable to most life situations, especially in corporate settings.
• Retaining consumer loyalty, in an age of transparency and tech piracy and oneupmanship about prototypes, especially with regard to disruptive innovation. He declared there is no point in approaching today’s customer using carnival barker or used car salesman tactics, or even outbound marketing techniques, for that matter. (As a bootstrapping, somewhat tech savvy, startup entrepreneur with a growing digital footprint, I tend to agree.)
Dan said that we should all take a lesson from “one of the most important, newsworthy, and interesting companies today, Apple™ Inc.” for three reasons:
1. Apple™ has great products that speak for themselves
2. Apple™ marketing does an excellent job and tells great stories showing how lives were actually changed for the better, because people used their products
3. Apple’s own Story, especially that of Steve Jobs, embodies the hero’s journey and a story’s archetypes
Dan referenced The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, which I am very familiar with, having minored in English in college. He talked about life emulating a hero’s journey, and what the stages of a hero’s Story is about. He spoke of the Story of the late, great Steve Jobs, a hero to entrepreneurs and techies alike, who himself was part of The Great American Story, and “the best corporate storyteller of our time”. One who was the creator and purveyor of some brilliant Apple™ products which encompass someone’s told stories in themselves.
What was so great about the way Steve Jobs told a story?
• He used emotive words used to tell the tale
• He gave an exaggerated and hyperbolized accounting of what’s happening
• He was one of the first to practice psychological transparency (Lesson- Dare to be human: Speak to a larger truth by being yourself!)
• He used all the elemental archetypes of a story:
– Betrayal, Disillusionment, or Need, by a Protagonist, starts the personal quest
– Identification of the Underdog, so we know who to root for when the challenges start piling up
– Revenge Arc, the “hero” returns to turn the tables on the naysayers or enemies
– Turnaround, resolution of conflict
Everyone loves a good story. Stories are important because they provide patterns of a life lived, and patterns to embrace or reject, depending on the outcome. Stories give us concrete examples of a sequence of events, a way of problem solving, and a blueprint of a script, for others to follow or deviate from, when embarking on their own script. Whether on a quest for truth, justice, or The American Dream, chances are “there’s a story for that”, embedded in a book, movie, TV show, or video game App. I confess I’m not into sports or gaming, yet I love sports movies (Remember the Titans, The Rookie) and used to love Myst and The Sims. Why? Because the elemental archetypes of any story boil down to one theme: Causality. The seesaw upon which action/reaction and good/evil is hinged. A great story arc involves and depicts the hero’s struggle to orchestrate change, for himself/herself or for others, by finding new ways to work and invoke the Causality Loop that life is based on. How one uses what life has thrown him/her, to effect change, makes for a hero, and makes for riveting reading. Think of the worlds of Buffy and Angel, created by master storyteller Joss Whedon. Think of the TV show Heroes, created by master visual digitalization guru Tim Kring. The Causality Loop being reconfigured so that a linear trajectory is not always the outcome, let alone the desired path. That’s what the internal struggle between good vs. evil is all about. More on this in my next post……
This is what stories are really made of. This is why certain books sell and others disappear into the void, never to see the light of day, not even in the Pixel of Ink Emailed newsletter about discounted items in Amazon’s Kindle Store! At the end of the day, human beings are all struggling to harness time, make it work for us, and restructure The Causality Loop of our own choices/actions, and its impact on our Story. A great book i.e. story resonates with this struggle, and allows us to collectively tap into our memory banks, to recall similar events/feelings we may have experienced, and how the outcomes aligned or didn’t. Ironically, the best stories grab our attention and Theory of Mind (empathy, perspective) from the start, in essence freezing time and allowing us to really harness it (more on that in future posts) by truly living in the moment.
Think of the last hero from literary fiction you just read about. For me, it’s Harry Potter. Think of a hero from literary nonfiction, whose Story also really resonated with you. For me it’s Zell Miller, author of A National Party No More and A Senator Speaks Out on Patriotism, Values, and Character, both of which I highly recommend. If a perfect cake is the sum of its ingredients, then a perfect story is the sum of one’s ability to harness time and problem solve. A truly illuminating story is one where you feel you are right there, living the tale, and learning the lessons. There’s real power in the oral transmission of words, and visual digitalization of events, or implied events.
Isn’t that the actual essence of a story? Isn’t that why Steve Jobs was such a visionary, and such a compelling storyteller? I vividly remember the day he passed. I even create a tribute video to him, where I used Visual Digitalization to tell my Story, and how it intersected with his. You can view it here:
Why are stories so important? Because they connect us to our past, future, and to each other. They tap into our collective moral compasses, our quest to solve a problem, and our passion for life and living it. When wielded wisely, they can promote Thought Leadership to orchestrate change, even on a grand scale. If they don’t yet, they should. You can even do something about it to make it happen. Dan Lyons gave us a profound, simple piece of advice last week:
“Reverse engineer your Story and fit your facts to the architecture, so that it’s real, so that it fits your plan, so that it works”.
Let me end with this link, to an article from Forbes about actual quotes from Steve Jobs, and implications for leadership, featured in the recent movie where Ashton Kutcher plays him (I totally recommend this movie for a variety of reasons, this one included!):
I will accompany it with wise words I found on Pinterest, the Visual Digitalization/Storytelling tool du jour, that has the unfortunate reputation of being a female-centric mind-suck marketing ploy, which I disagree with. What’s your Story? Are you ready to share it with the world? Would you like to share it with me? I’m interested, and so are others. The world needs more people to craft and own their Story. You can still tweak it, using advice and tales from Dan Lyons, Steve Jobs, Arianna Huffington, and hopefully one day soon, me………