A Storyteller’s Seven Hard Truths to Manipulation in a Networked World

This is a major (40+-page) update to Storyteller Uprising. It’s a reflection on the transformative developments that have occurred since I last revised the book in December 2011, including the largest Consumer Electronics Show in that event’s history, the ill-fated Kony 2012 campaign (a 30-minute online ad that over 100 million people watched), and the ongoing mobile technology revolution:

In Storyteller Uprising: Trust and Persuasion in the Digital Age, I make the case for storytelling’s deep relevance in our 21st century communication ecosystem, through my own work as a filmmaker, educator and media strategist.  However, I must also admit that truth is inherently relative within any story.  Isn’t a good story merely the sequential reorganization of information (in other words, “editing”) so as to make it compelling and efficient to the recipient?  At worst, it is a lie – a fiction – because unless it’s a sporting competition, uncut, raw reality just isn’t interesting enough to attract someone’s attention (ask anyone who has participated in a “reality” TV show how facial expressions and words are chopped up and placed out-of-order to manufacture drama).  Technology giant Apple named a special editing transition in its software “The Ken Burns Effect” in recognition of the filmmaker’s ability to create a magical, dynamic aura around a static visual.  So it’s not too surprising to hear Burns say in On Story, “All story is manipulation.  Is there acceptable manipulation?  You bet.  Truth is, we hope a byproduct of the best of our stories.”

“A Storyteller’s Seven Hard Truths to Manipulation in a Networked World,” takes a clear-eyed approach to challenges and opportunities in storytelling, social media and leadership. Those seven “Truths” are:

Hard Truth #1: We’re drowning in data. Stories help make sense of it all.

Hard Truth #2: Stories necessarily manipulate by bringing order to chaos. The best ones are epic, actionable, personable, tense and empathetic.

Hard Truth #3: Storytellers may avail themselves of an audience’s goodwill – but only for a limited time.

Hard Truth #4: Attention-grabbing lies that devalue the audience payoff will push them away. Be genuine.

Hard Truth #5: A good story is just the beginning. You’ve got to network that narrative.

Hard Truth #6: Own your story before the platform owns you (if you value independence and the relationships that you inspire).

Hard Truth #7: Inspirational storytelling can lead to powerful collaboration, and still leave you in command.

You can download this new work as a standalone e-book manifesto from Amazon’s Kindle store; it’s also integrated as the final chapter into Storyteller Uprising.  For 48 hours, August 1-2 2012, both are available as free downloads as part of the Kindle Select program — no strings attached to anyone who wants to read either of them on their smartphone, tablet, or computer browser.  This is similar to a strategy adopted in May, that “bought” me some nice attention in the CNET article, How to profit from the social-media ‘Storyteller Uprising.’  I’m also using this occasion to experiment with Twitter for Small Business ad program.  Does paid media make a difference in the storytelling universe?