How to Become a Legendary Chief Storytelling Officer

Leadership

For thousands of years, people have gathered to tell, and hear, stories.

They learn about heroes and villains. To connect and feel the struggles as they’ve overcome. Learn lessons from the wise guide. To be a part of something more.

It’s a timeless tradition wired into our very DNA.

So often, the importance of storytelling is lost in today’s business world.  In an article from HBR, they found that leaders miss the mark on communicating by a factor of 10.  

What a lost opportunity.  

It’s time to resurrect the art of storytelling and the deep feelings of connection it creates by transforming leaders into storytellers, led by a new role – the Chief Storytelling Officer.  

 

Why is Storytelling important in Business

Think back to that feeling when you were young, sitting around the campfire, listening to a storyteller.  How you were wrapped into the story, connected to it.  Waiting breathlessly for the next part.  

No campfire?  Huh. Think of watching your favorite movie.  For me, when I introduced my daughter to Star Wars the first time.  Her big eyes.  Her fear when she saw Darth Vader for the first time.  Her excitement when the Death Star blew up.  

She connected with the heroes.  Learned from Obi-wan and Yoda.  She desperately wanted to be part of that story.  That story imprinted on her in so many ways that still echo today. 

Imagine getting that kind of connection in your business.  

Storytelling is a strategy we don’t pay enough attention to in business.  It’s an incredibly powerful toolset for connecting people to our organization, getting them to care and want to be part of the journey with us.  

It starts with someone who sits next to the fire and weaves a story.  

 

What is a Chief Storyteller?

A Chief Storyteller is the company’s narrative ambassador, the one who takes your company’s vision, experiences, and values and turns them into compelling stories. 

They’re the ones who make sure your brand’s voice isn’t just heard; it’s listened to, felt, and remembered. They’re not just about content creation; they’re about creating connection and drawing you in through stories.

In his book, Made to Thrive, Brad Giles discusses the CEO role of Ambassador, who is focused on creating deep internal and external relationships.  The Chief Storytelling officer should be another role of that top level leader, closely related to the Ambassador role.  

 

Chief Storyteller Job Description

This is someone who’s adept at identifying and articulating the core narratives of your company. They’re responsible for crafting the story and making it stick across all forms of communication—be it a tweet, a shareholder update, or the story behind your latest product. Their aim? To ensure that when someone thinks of your brand, they’re recalling a narrative that’s engaging.

 

Internal Communication – Unite team around goals and vision that resonates

Internally, a Chief Storyteller isn’t just churning out memos; they’re the glue that binds the team’s purpose to the company’s vision. It’s one thing to tell your employees about company goals; it’s another to make them feel they’re part of a collective mission. 

Here, the Chief Storyteller is key in transforming boring corporate speak into something that every team member can rally behind, thereby forging a stronger, more cohesive company culture.

 

External Communication – With partners, Stakeholders

The chief storyteller is your brand ambassador. Externally, their role is to engage with partners, clients, media, etc. and tell the story of the company. The goal is to get each and every one of these people emotionally engaged in the business. This is what helps build strong business relationships.

The Chief Storytelling Officer may not be the one creating the content or managing the relationships, but they’re the one standing up and telling that compelling story.  

 

Benefits of Having a Chief Storyteller

Storytelling is arguably one of the most important traits of good leaders and is what builds companies that the top talent want to be part of. These are just some of the benefits you get from having a good storyteller at the helm. 

 

Creating alignment

It’s one thing to build a plan and expect people to be part of it.  It’s something completely different when you create a compelling, transformation journey and ask people to join you.  When you can paint a picture of the future that’s so clear that they can see their place in it and feel part of it, you’ve created both alignment and emotional connection.  

 

Getting The Team on Board and Engage

When your team is engaged, they’re not just working; they’re making a difference. A Chief Storyteller fosters this by showing each employee how their role is crucial to the company’s narrative. This is not only uplifting but also deeply motivating.

 

Clearly Connecting Daily Tasks to a Vision

The Chief Storyteller makes it clear how the daily tasks everyone dreads are, in fact, stepping stones to a greater vision. It’s about turning the ‘what’ of daily work into the ‘why,’ providing a powerful incentive to strive for excellence every day.

 

Getting External Partners to Be Emotionally Engaged in the Business

For partners and stakeholders, the Chief Storyteller ensures the company’s story is not a monologue but a dialogue. This is about emotional investment, making the company’s vision their vision, and its successes their successes.

 

Building a Pipeline of Great People to Join the Business

Great storytellers build an environment that people want to be a part of. Your goal as a leader is to build a superteam that lives and breathes your culture and values. These are the people building the cultural roots of your business.

So with every new employee that walks through your office doors, there is no question as to what the company’s all about. This is also a process that helps weed out potential hires that don’t believe in the same values.

 

Helping customer connect through impact

One of the best ways to integrate storytelling into your business is by making the customer the hero of their own story.  Telling the story from their point of view changes it from “what we did for them” to the impact they received.  Shifting the lens is transformational. 

It opens the door to other potential clients wanting that same hero’s journey.  

 

Where to start as Chief Storytelling Officer

Becoming a great storyteller for your business can seem daunting.  

Being the best Chief Storytelling Officer isn’t just about having a knack for narratives; it’s about knowing the pulse of your company and using that knowledge to tell stories that resonate. It’s about turning everyday corporate life into a series of compelling journeys that have the power to inspire and move people. Let’s walk through how you can achieve this.

 

Tell Stories about your culture

You want a great culture in your organization, right?  One where everyone is aligned around purpose and living your values and the associated behaviors?  The best way to nurture your values (and behaviors) is to tell stories about them. 

Work with your leadership team to gather stories about people modeling the right behaviours in your organization.  Tell those stories throughout your business, making THEM the heroes of the story.  

 

Paint a Vivid Vision of the Future

As a leader, if you aren’t constantly talking about where you’re going, it will be forgotten.  It’s not enough to talk for 30 seconds – you need to truly paint a picture that your team can SEE and connect with.  

Talk to the company as a whole. Show them how exciting the future will be.  Talk about the impact you’re going to make and some of the exciting stops along the way.  

Never stop telling the story.

 

Make People the Heroes, not Numbers

Picture this: it’s the end of the quarter, and profits are up. If you just throw numbers on a slide, they’ll fade by lunch. But, if you say, “Look, it’s because the procurement team fought tooth and nail to make sure we got the best deal possible, ensuring our margins look this good,” then you have magic. It’s people who move those numbers, and they’re the heroes worth talking about.

 

Tell Stories of Customer Impact

We all have those customer success stories that make our hearts swell. Don’t let them gather dust in a file somewhere. Shout them from the rooftops. 

“Remember the time our software saved that startup from going under?” Suddenly, it’s not just a product; it’s a lifeline. Those are the stories that make your team proud and your customers grateful.

 

Who are the Best Chief Storytelling Officers

 

Steve Jobs

One of the best to ever do it. It’s Steve Jobs’ storytelling that inspired the team early on to work those long hours. He didn’t just talk tech. He talked about how Apple will change the world. 

Remember when he introduced the iPod? He didn’t just say “look at this cool new mp3 player.” He said “this thing allows you to have 1,000 songs in your pocket.” It truly changed the way we all consume music today.

 

Satya Nadella – The Microsoft Chief Storyteller

And then you have Satya Nadella over at Microsoft, who transformed a company’s tale from sheer profit to people, purpose, and a passion for technology that empowers every person on the planet to achieve more. That’s the narrative that got everyone’s attention.

 

Tim Cook

Some would say Tim Cook was a significant shift and style from his predecessor. But his storytelling was still effective in its own way. Like it or not, he still talks about the vision of Apple’s technology, not just the latest features of the iPhone.

 

Conclusion

If you want a highly engaged team, your role as Chief Storytelling Officer is vital.  It’s about amplifying your vision until everyone is excited, aligned and ready to join you on the journey. 

That drives an emotional connection to the organization which directly translates into action. 

Mike Knapp

STRATEGIC PLANNING & EXECUTION

Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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