What is a Corporate Storyteller and why should you care?

If you’re looking for a quick answer to the question, go to the bottom of this article and look at the slide presentation. If you’d like some background, read on.

In 2010, I took on the role of IBM’s 1st Chief Storyteller. It was at a time when there were only a couple of us. Since that time the official role and title of Storyteller has become much more common place. When I began, a search of LinkedIn would result in a couple of hits. Today the same search yields 82,000 hits. It seems Story has found its place.

But as I look through the descriptions and job roles associated with storytellers; I find a wide range of expectations. All of which have a respected place and established need in organizations needing to improve their message. There are storytellers who are focused on writing corporate narratives that others will deliver. Some are focused on developing digital assets that extend their voice and reach. Others are focused on product or service positioning. And some are assigned to go out, find and record customer stories and testimonials.

If you or your organization are looking for such positions, I’m glad you’ve recognized the need and are seeking to address it. But if these don’t seem to fit your need, you might be looking for a Corporate or Chief Storyteller.

It was often the case, that when I introduced myself as a Chief Storyteller, the immediate response was “What is a Chief Storyteller?” Which is a fair question. I can’t tell you how many doors that title opened and more importantly, how many minds it opened as well. If I had stated I was a Global Sales Executive, shields would immediately go up and their minds would take a defensive posture. But a Chief Storyteller, that sparked curiosity and sometimes skepticism, both of which are feelings I love to work with.

I once spoke at a dinner event with selected corporate prospects in Brussels. One woman in the audience seemed preoccupied with her Blackberry (this was some time ago). I thought I had lost her, but during the meal she approached me to inform me she was on her phone making arrangements for me to speak to their executive board the following day. I accepted her invitation and the next day I found myself waiting outside their board room for my time to share. The president came out and introduced himself and asked, “Do you know why you’re here?” I was representing IBM’s Watson Social Software at the time so I responded, “I assume you’re interested in exploring how to more effectively engage with people and ideas within your organization.” His response, “No. You’re here because I’d like to know why IBM has a Chief Storyteller.” That opened the door to an hour-long exploration of how companies like his, had great products and services, but lost opportunities because they had mediocre stories and a lot of that was because he wasn’t hearing from his people…back to the value of working out loud (social software).

A couple of years ago I prepared a job description/business case presentation on the role and value of a corporate storyteller. I wanted to share it with you for your search and journey.

I’m always learning and if you have any comments or suggestions, or if you find this resonates and you’d like to explore it further, let me know. I would be honored to invest some time in helping you in your journey to define your possible storyteller needs and expectations.