Our Observations

Tell Me A Story

In this country, we tend to reward those who talk. The ones who get attention are those particularly with strong opinions. And our news media feeds that appetite, consistently being more interested in covering ill-informed opinions than providing thoughtful analysis.

A vicious cycle ensues with an increasing number of people, businesses, nonprofits and politicians clamoring to fill up a room where there is limited space. It is rare, but refreshing, when journalists, pundits, executives and leaders take a step back, survey the landscape and take the time to express astute appraisals that are actually worth our time.

I follow the creed of legendary “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt. At a conference, he said the success of his program boiled down to four simple words: “Tell me a story.”

“60 Minutes” does a masterful job of telling stories. In all honesty, what they do is structurally simple. Like strategic communications, it takes a lot of hard work to take something complex and make it simple. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t take that time to simplify their messages and from an outside perspective, they look complex.

Storytelling is the key to effective communications. Whether the format is social media, an advertisement, an op-ed or the much-maligned news release, the ones that stick are the ones that have a good storyline. It’s easy to talk and pontificate. It’s harder, but more effective, to devise a well-structured story, supported by solid research and critical analysis.

As your business, association or team considers its communications strategies over the next five years, ask yourself, “What story are we trying to tell?” and “is it a story that people will be receptive to?”

Or, to make the advice more plain, recall the old saying, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.”

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