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"Why Companies Need Novelists" -- be the Chief Storytelling Officer (article)

520 Views 1 Reply 2 Participants Last post by  Rayne Hall
Fast Company, May 1, 2015, "Why Companies Need Novelists," by Michael Grothaus

Good article that may be of interest to both fiction and non-fiction writers. I knew that corporations hired writers for various internal tasks, such as writing company newsletters, annual reports, press releases, etc., but didn't see the big picture until I read this article. I had no idea that there have been at least two dozen executives who have held the position of Chief Storytelling Officer (CSO). The idea of the CSO is believed to have started at Nike in the 1990s.

This article starts out featuring a novelist with top literary credentials, Pakistani novelist Moshin Hamid, best known for his second book, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist." He is described as "one of those rare, respected literary intelligentsia who can actually make a comfortable living from writing novels alone." (I think Michael Grothaus must never have heard of all the indie writers who are making a comfortable living!) Hamid is now the CSO for Wolff Olins, a global brand consultancy owned by Omnicon Group.

The job of the CSO, according to the article, is to craft an internal story for the company, rather than something outward-facing for customers and the public. It should be a "unifying narrative" that helps both executives and employees understand what the company is all about and where it is headed. The story can help with strategic planning too, according to Hamid: "The exercise of storytelling is a creative way to think about strategy... That whole process is like a drafting process. You might be called in to help someone craft a story about their organization and then you wind up entering into a strategic conversation. That may not be what you were initially asked to do, but very often that is what winds up happening. Creating the story is about reshaping a strategy."

There is much more to the article, but I'll skip to the thought-provoking conclusion. "Hamid points to the closing gap between artists and businesspeople. "There's almost a kind of iron curtain that had separated those people who pursue the arts and go into writing from those who pursue management or business or nonprofit, and I think that is an artificial distinction. There's no reason why different types of people can't bring together different types of skills to build better things together."

Writing for corporations may sound unappealing to many indie writers. In fact, Grothaus called it "corporate hackery" and said that "corporate storytelling... has lured other established writers and journalists" [besides Hamid]. However, I liked the article because my career so far has been business writing. I think it would be an interesting challenge to be a CSO for a corporation and write their story. It would go far beyond a case study. I love to get into a lot of details about companies, their history and their business environments; I'm a research wonk. Understanding the vision of the founders/current leaders of a company is interesting to me too.
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My thoughts on this issue: Writers are the the storytellers of their own company. Too many writers don't have a 'narrative' for their own brand, and neglect to use their storytelling skills in the social media.

Where many businesses these days hire writers to do their storytelling, authors don't need to hire anyone. But surprisingly many don't use their storytelling skills to enhance their business.
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