Chief Storytellers and the Search for Relevance: What History Organizations Can Learn from This For-Profit Trend

By: Bethany Hawkins

This article orginially appeared on the AASLH's BROADSIDE blog. 

Over the weekend, I was having a conversation with my husband, who works for a regional financial institution. He told me that his company recently hired a Chief Storyteller. Their job is to travel throughout their region to gather stories from fellow employees and clients about how they used the bank to achieve financial confidence.  They have a specific website (separate from their official company website) that promotes the idea of financial confidence with tools to sell this part of the company’s mission; these inspirational stories are the main focus. (I can’t link to the website due to privacy regulations for employees of the financial institution where my husband works.) I was fascinated by the idea of a Chief Storyteller—someone whose job is to talk about mission impact—and the implications of this role for history organizations. I started doing some research (i.e. Google search) and learned that this is a current trend in marketing for many companies, although Nike has employed a Chief Storyteller since the late 1990s. These positions usually fall into the marketing department and help focus brands on their overall mission. They also help companies define their relevancy to the public by showing the impact they have on real people. So what do these companies mean by the term “storytelling?” The Chief Storyteller for Microsoft explained it this way: “Storytelling is not selling directly–it’s social selling, selling indirectly, selling using the power of content.” Microsoft uses storytelling to humanize their brand. CONTINUE READING