Recently I stumbled upon an opinion piece written by a self-identified music industry journalist. He expresses a serious gripe with marketing professionals, specifically those in the business of promoting artists and their music.
He hates when they call themselves “storytellers.”
Deeper into his essay you get the sense that his beef is not just with music industry marketing types but marketing people in general, as well as any random content creator trying to claim the storytelling title.
To him that designation should belong to more worthy souls – those dedicated to thoughtfully weaving eternal tales that articulate complex ideas, share values and transmit important themes across cultures, borders and centuries. He’s thinking of musicians, poets, authors.
He forcefully declares:
“One of the most pernicious lines/lies in marketing at the moment is the myth and the romanticization of “storytelling.” It is a term that has been used so frequently, so clumsily and so incorrectly as to be rendered utterly, even dangerously, meaningless.”
The author complains that content creators and marketers have “hijacked” an honorable and rich cultural tradition, crassly labeling themselves “storytellers” who act as if they’re crafting the next Great American Novel or classic folk tale. All they’ve managed to do, however, is to churn out a pile of rather ordinary and uninspired material. He resents that they assign their alleged “storytelling” some grandiose status it doesn’t deserve.
“There has been an insidious bastardization of what storytelling is and, more importantly, what automatically qualifies as storytelling…it appears almost like a default setting in the world of influencers – that large overlap in a Venn diagram of Weasel Words and Snake Oil – and has bled out from there, staining everything in its path. This is presented as being somehow superior, both artistically and intellectually, to plain old “content creation.”
Honestly, at best I’m only about 25% in agreement with him. My other 75% can’t resist thinking of a famous line uttered by the immortal Sgt. Hulka in the 1981 comedy movie Stripes:
Yeah, he’s laying it on a little thick, in my view. I’ll even go so far as to bastardize a quote from one of the most famous storytellers: methinks he dost protest too much.
As a voiceover talent I consider storytelling my job. I’m not just a reciter of words. I bring those words to life and infuse them with feeling, color and meaning. It’s all in the turn of a phrase, in shading and nuance, in emotional depth and authenticity. It’s about knowing my audience and their situation and connecting to them. It doesn’t matter if I’m delivering hard data and statistics, offering an entertaining diversion, explaining a complicated formula, or selling a product. For me all of it is storytelling.
And I think my clients who write those words and produce visual or audio media around them feel similarly about their creations, regardless of the subject matter or how it’s used. And that includes marketing content.
Yes, we are storytellers. That doesn’t require everything we do to rise to the level of an epic work like The Iliad or a Bob Dylan song or a blockbuster film like Gladiator. This journalist seems to treat “storytelling” as some sacred, profound responsibility reserved only to those charged with conveying ideas and events of deep cultural significance.
You know what else is storytelling?
“Two guys walk into a bar…”
“You’re not gonna believe what happened to me the other morning while I was driving to work…”
“Convenience store clerk subdues an armed robber – and it was all caught on tape! Film at 11.”
TV spots, corporate videos, e-learning – indeed, there are stories to be told there too. And there’s no shame and nothing wrong in that. In fact, to someone, somewhere, they’re the most important stories in the world.
So let’s pursue the art of storytelling, and let’s relish telling those stories…no matter what they are.
If you’d like to see the original article to which I’m referring, it’s here