Effective Leaders Use Creative Stories

In today’s increasingly digital environment, a good story could be considered as valuable as currency.

For a public relations professional, an effective story means mentions, clicks, page views, shares, and publicity—all things that can boost a company’s reputation and standing within the community.

In a May 2012 blog post, PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, Sarah Skerik, identified storytelling as an emerging Web 2.0 skill set that public relations professionals must be able to utilize. Skerik wrote that “in order to develop a story that will gain traction with your audience, it’s necessary to spend a little time learning about their interests.”

The current challenge for writers is to stay relevant. Skerik urges companies to learn how to create stories that are “relatable and effective—that’s why stories are the cornerstone of content marketing strategies and social media programs.” This statement is supported by Peter Guber, a top executive in the entertainment industry. According to Guber, “the ability to articulate your story or that of your company is crucial in almost every phase of enterprise-management.”

So how does one develop a story that will connect with the masses and incite them to share your words with their loyalty circles? What innovative medium or strategy can be used to help today’s leaders share organizational missions and goals in a manner that won’t bore their audience, but create a burning desire to leap from their seats and get to work?

Robert McKee believes that executives can “engage listeners on a whole new level if they toss their PowerPoint slides and learn to tell good stories instead.” His article, Storytelling that Moves People, suggests that executives have become so reliant on PowerPoint presentations and statistics that “most executives struggle to communicate, let along inspire.”

McKee’s suggestion supports Guber’s recommendation that business leaders be “in touch with their listeners—not slavish or patronizing, but receptive in order to know how to read them.” He goes on to explain that an effective story will allow the storyteller’s passion to exude forward and reach their audience. A well-written story should “enter the hearts of listeners…even as the information he seeks to convey rents space in their brains.”

Taking all of this into consideration, it could be said that, to overcome the challenges of storytelling, leaders must learn how to be innovative, creative and effective storytellers so that they can mobilize people around them.

What suggestions would you make to leaders striving to communicate with employees, partners, investors, and consumers?

Suggested Reading

  • Effective Leaders are Effective Storytellers
  • Guber, P. (2007). “Four truths of the storyteller.” Harvard Business Review 85(12), 52-59.
  • McKee, R. (2003). “Storytelling that moves people.” Harvard Business Review 81(6), 51-55.

Yasheaka Oakley Owens

Yasheaka Oakley Owens is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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