Stop Misrepresenting Storytelling!

Stop Misrepresenting Storytelling! image Bad StorytellerStop Misrepresenting Storytelling!

Judging from the comment in my post, “Can Storytelling Differentiate a PR Agency,” and an email that arrived shortly after (more on this in a minute), I appear to have gotten the attention of the National Storytelling Network.

They’re not pleased with me.

In my defense, I have come clean on numerous occasions making the point that the type of storytelling applied to business communications differs from pure storytelling and what professional storytellers do. Our approach “borrows” the techniques of storytelling to benefit the communications of our clients.

Here’s the email that takes me to the proverbial woodshed (with my commentary naturally):

As a professional storyteller, I continue to be frustrated by the misrepresentation of a very specific, age-old art form.

We’ve got the makings of a classic story arc with frustration serving as the crisis.

Storytelling is telling a story. Simple. Yet not.

No argument on this point. BTW, punctuation adds a nice touch.

For those of us who have honed our crafts, learned stories, traced their origins, polished phrases, worked on gestures and facial expressions all meant to entertain and edify a listening audience, the use of the word “storytelling” to describe any other process or product is just plain wrong.

It seems reasonable to have different types of storytelling. I don’t think anyone confuses oral storytelling or professional storytelling with selling pancake syrup.

PR agents are no storyteller. Ad execs are not storytellers. Novelists and film makers are not storyteller. Yes, what they do is an art form. But so is storytelling.

Advertising is not storytelling? You may convey a min story compressed into 1-2 minutes in order to sell a product. A vignette, perhaps. But not a story.

And certainly not storytelling.

Good to know there’s a time requirement for a story. And really? You don’t think Spielberg is a storyteller?

Our very identity is being hijacked. Our art form is being diluted and misrepresented.

Please, please, find another word. Be specific. About what you do. About what we do.

No one dislikes a hyjacking more than me. Let’s find the middle ground. I suggest you make an effort to use the phrase “oral storytelling” or “professional storytelling,” and I will be conscious of applying phrases like “storytelling techniques” and “brand storytelling.”

It truly makes a difference.

Check out National Storytelling Network, would you please? You will be delighted, entertained, educated. perhaps you will understand why this is such an issue to so many of us!

You got it! I’ll check it out!

Kind thanks!

L. Schuyler Ford

At this point, I could say I’ll report back on how this story unfolds.

But according to L. Schuyler, that would be “plain wrong.”

So let’s go with — if this lively debate takes another twist, I’ll be happy to share it in a second post.

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