“I don’t want stories,” when it should be, “I don’t want excuses.” The receiver goes away only to return with “stories” to tell as “excuses.” If she does not have any “stories,” she manufactures one at least, because the instruction her boss gave made her believe that she can dress up excuses in the garb of stories. And when an occasion demands that she tells a story, she cannot. The damage had been done, by the belief that grew from an accumulation of misdirected messages delivered in the wrong style.
That is why in some corporate organizations, they have style codes for business communications that bans the use of clichés and colloquial expressions. The aim is to put the message across correctly in its proper context and avoid excuses. An excuse in the real sense is not a story. But it can be delivered as a story. And the way such messages are communicated now can make you derail and treat excuses as stories.
They are clearly different. You know it. And when we mix them up, and there is demand for us to tell stories, we hedge, thinking it means giving excuses. More damage is done and our business suffers. When it comes to delivering precise communications in content and structure, the military is the best. Soldiers are at their best in radio communications. They keep saying, “Over! Over! The Labour Congress rally did not hold at the stadium….I repeat, the rally did not hold at the stadium.” Why the repetition in military communications?
They want to get the message right. Excuses are not tolerated in the military and their communications make that clear. That is why most communications in the military are commands. And you must obey! No excuses.
What are the lessons for the corporate world and storytellers? Your business does not need “excuses,” but it definitely needs “stories.” Not promotional slogans, but real marketing stories to persuade the market. This is the latest mantra that is driving marketing communications.
Do not shut out your need for stories believing they are excuses. You are mistaken. Stories are real and effective communication tools, which you can use at minimal costs to drive your marketing. Storytelling in business sense goes beyond issuing press releases or addressing press conferences. Move ahead of your competitors by transforming your staff into corporate storytellers. They become executives who are trained in information management, and can use such information to sell your products and services in the mass media. That way, you make corporate and brand information flow to the marketplace easier, quicker and better.
In advanced economies, using stories to sell instead of advertising has been elevated to an art branded, corporate storytelling. And professional corporate storytellers are fully booked for jobs.
“I don’t want stories.” No arguments. But watch out and change your vocabulary to, “I don’t want excuses,” else the story of your business failure will be told. If you do not want stories, your audience, clients, customers, regulators, investors and other stakeholders want them. They want to know who you are, how you operate, what is happening, what your plans are, how you are managing their investments, and how you are complying with regulations.
They are the people who want stories, not you. You job is to give it to them. Now the last take: if you use stories to relate with the marketplace, you will be transformed. If you do not, you will be deformed. Happy storytelling.
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com