Are the “stories” you’re telling really stories or are they whitewashed narratives? Here’s how to tell the difference — and why you need to get your story straight.
What is a story?
A story describes a core character’s struggle with a problem or dilemma that stands between them and what they really want. When the story is well told, we will identify with that person, empathize with them, and experience similar insights. For maximum impact, story master Robert McKee urges us to “Write the truth.”
By that definition, a description of a client engagement where everything went perfectly and all outcomes were super fantastic is not a story — it’s a narrative, typically, a white washed one, where obstacles, conflicts and difficulties faced during the project were left out, spun, or skimmed over for fear of making someone look bad.
The problem with white washed narratives is that they don’t have the same effect on us as stories do. Not even close.
White washed narratives and the illusion of safety
One reason white washed narratives are so popular is that both marketers and clients believe they are safe. The thinking is that as long as the “stories” are benign and inoffensive, no one will get hurt, meaning people get to keep their jobs, and management and clients don’t get upset.
I think it depends on what you mean by safety.
Competition for business is fierce. and there is a lot of redundancy in the market, particularly when it comes to professional services.
To stand out you need to find a way to grab and keep your buyer’s attention and convince them that there is no viable substitute for working with you. The best way to do that is through well-told business stories.
Many marketers already have accepted this call to action, and with the help of Mr. McKee, are quietly honing their storytelling chops, reframing their marketing approaches, and retraining their clients.
To join them, start here: Story in Business White Paper by Robert McKee.