Nontraditional storytellers have become commonplace.
It used to be easier to tell the storytellers from the rest of the workaday world.
There were the doers and those who chronicled the doing. The doers did whatever it was that they were in business to do. The storytellers were called journalists, reporters, anchors and even editors.
The lines started blurring with desktop publishing, digital communications and the advent of bloggers. Now, even the doers look to storytelling to enhance their doing. Today's new storytellers in the Columbus business community are as varied as whiskey makers, sushi purveyors and executive search consultants.
Columbus-based Watershed Distillery is engaged in a year-long campaign that it calls “I'll Have What I'm Having.” It's explained as “a conversation series highlighting the grit and determination of Columbus small business owners and the challenges and failures of forging one's own path.” A “Stories” tab on Watershed's website links to eight videos and Q&As telling the tales of fellow entrepreneurs as collected over cocktails in the distillery's new onsite Watershed Kitchen & Bar.
Dave Rigo, distillery co-owner, says Watershed's storytelling stems from internal conversations about marketing possibilities, “just trying to figure out something that fits our brand and is not all about us.” Rigo and co-owner Greg Lehman turned to Chris Manis and Joshua Gandee, operators of The HR Department, a Columbus marketing firm, to bring the concept to life.
FUSIAN, with four Columbus fast-casual sushi restaurants, also has a stories tab on its website, serving up a series of Bowl'd Conversations. With three installments completed to date, FUSIAN promises “We'll be sharing aFUSIANInspired Bowl with a few inspiring friends and they'll be sharing how food, nutrition and wellness make a positive impact on their lives.”
Produced in-house, the conversations followed the launch of new sushi bowls in February, says Zach Weprin, FUSIAN co-founder and CEO. “Everything ultimately comes back to our mission to connect people through collaboration, culture and cuisine,” he says. The conversations highlight community influencers with shared values. Episodes produced so far feature those who follow vegan, paleo and gluten-free diets.
“Because our product is still so easily misunderstood and not everybody fully understands exactly what sushi is, storytelling allows us to break down those barriers,” Weprin explains.
Even consultant Chris Cochran has turned to storytelling to build his business, Cochran Executive Search.
Cochran candidly concedes that his monthly e-newsletters won't reach a receptive audience if he focuses entirely on himself and what he does. But storytelling, he says, allows him to demonstrate that he knows people, that he knows them well and he may “know people who you don't know.”
He also sees another benefit in good storytelling: Sometimes it's the difference between the candidate who lands the job and one who doesn't. Cochran says he's learned in 20 years of recruiting, “Through storytelling you can build trust. Those who can tell stories, they attract others to them. It's human nature.”
Storytelling is not a sideline or value added for Columbus CEO; it's what we do. Because it's our core business, we aim to do it better than anyone else, and we appreciate it when others recognize the ability of a story well told to break through the constant chatter that is our present-day environment.
Everyone's a storyteller these days, and that's not a bad thing, unless it's done badly.