Storytelling Training: Learning a Craft of the Ancients

Storytelling tactics new and old.

By Aaron Kreuscher
The Hoffman Agency

Throughout history, several universal themes emerge across all cultures and ages: among them deities, art and storytelling. From cave drawings and hieroglyphics, to Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and The Matrix, storytelling has been omnipresent for many millennia.

There is a reason for its pervasive resilience. Science has shown there to be a change in a person’s blood chemistry before and after hearing a story — powerful stuff.

As public relations professionals, storytelling is our forte — we live and breathe it. But here at Hoffman, we also train in it. I had the pleasure to recently experience in a storytelling train-the-trainer series led by Hoffman CEO and founder Lou Hoffman.

The core of this session broke down our existing notions of storytelling, perpetuated by an industry obsessed with the term, and supplanting our understanding with one constructed by models and applications. Needless to say, there were a lot of ooh’s and aah’s as we had our PR world turned upside down.

Here are a couple key takeaways from the training that I would like to share:

  • The elements of storytelling — Effective storytelling consists of many different elements and layers, not just the framing or structure of a story.
  • Be human — Often in our writing, we try to keep a corporate tone to convey a business-like voice. Unfortunately, this can be a good way to turn off readers and come across as another indifferent company. Rather, take a conversational tone, and relate to readers with a much more compelling (and fun) tactic.
  • Never fear failure — Contrary to one’s intuition, using failure as an anecdote to an achievement creates powerful contrast.
  • Contrast is king — Speaking of contrast, an anecdote ain’t an anecdote without a good dose of contrast.

I have developed a refreshed look at my work in this post-red pill world… One where failure is encouraged and corporate speak is not. I now hope to awaken others as a certified storyteller.

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