Stories matter more than ever

Paul Nolan

I knew in my early teens that I wanted to write for newspapers. Initially, I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter. In college, my interests shifted to general features and becoming a columnist. I worked as a reporter for dailies in Washington state, Colorado and Massachusetts before moving to Minnesota and joining the world of trade publications.

What you learn when you hold down a police beat, cover a major research university or monitor local government is that everyone has a story. It’s pretty darn interesting to spend your days talking with professors, politicians, police officers and people from all walks of life, and put their stories into print for others to read. Some days you tell yourself you’d do it for free.

I usually knew the right questions to ask and could craft a good story in print, but I’ve never felt comfortable relaying stories verbally. I thought about that as I put together this issue’s cover feature on storytelling. Telling stories well is a unique and valuable skill.

I play a game with friends sometimes when we’re sitting around talking. I ask what unique, non-job related skill they would like to have if someone could snap their fingers and make it so. My own answer ranges from being a sharp-shooting billiards player to being a top-notch basketball referee, to playing an instrument well enough to be a professional without doing it for money in order to hold to the rules. There’s also
the desire to be multilingual.

Add to that a desire to be a great storyteller.

Like many of the skills on my wish list, storytelling can be turned into a lucrative profession, so I sort of break my own rules. In fact, the sources we reached for this cover story made it clear that being a great storyteller isn’t merely an advantage in sales and marketing, it’s an essential job requirement. Those who can weave compelling stories — not about themselves or their company, but rather about their prospects and the past clients they have helped — will almost surely and consistently lead the list of top performers within their organizations.

As author and consultant Joanne Black states, “If you want to connect with people — and isn’t that our goal in sales — a story is the way to do it.”

Go forth and weave wonderful stories.