STORYTELLING is a have to have a PASSION for capturing, telling, and sharing stories. This blog is dedicated to that craft. What is your story? We are listening.

Archive for 'Storytelling'


There is something awesome about these pictures…something so normal. This is my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their children. They just had their third child. These pictures showcase their most recent appointment with the physician that delivered their third child, baby Miles.

Here we have one doctor’s visit with lots of smiles.

What makes these pictures so awesome, everyone in these images seem so comfortable, happy, and willing to have their pictures taken together. From the physician, the staff, the kids, everyone seems like family.

The role of the primary care physician, especially the physician that delivers a family’s child, is crucial to building a formative role in the health of a family. This is the entry gate for most hospitals. There is one thing that is hard to capture…images like these. Feeling completely unguarded, not worried about the technology, and willingness to share a moment in time…especially knowing these moments will be uploaded for all to see.

Before the days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and all the other social media outlets emerged…sharing moments like these could only be described in-person. Why am I sharing these moments…because we preach to our healthcare clients…if you create a positive culture of sharing…moments like these will naturally emerge.

Let’s unpack this moment!
How can we create a positive culture of sharing? How can we engage healthcare groups, hospitals, physician offices to engage in a positive culture of sharing? What does this mean?

I just finished training another department within one of our healthcare clients, and the one thing I stressed…create a positive culture of sharing. But before you can create this culture, you have to understand the rules, how the technology works, how images like these impact HIPAA, how to manage commenting, etc. This requires complete communication and transparency across the healthcare organization.

Not only do you have to engage, train, and have consistent conversations with all involved…but you have to listen to those who want to be a part of this social sharing opportunity. From physicians, residents, nurses, food workers, technicians, leadership, marketing, information technology, and so on; you have to talk about policy, procedure, technology, brand…but you also have to discuss the community and what a positive culture of sharing looks like.

Healthcare organizations have the greatest opportunity to engage happy faces like these.


I just love these pictures!

I was sitting and meeting with a dear friend…and a great client. We were chatting about an upcoming group of projects, talking about the creative approach, budgets, logistics, etc. The more we talked, the more we began critically thinking about the visual message, the scripting, and the overall impact.

She looked at me and said, “I am just so thankful to work with you. You just get it…you are more than a video production crew, you truly are a storyteller. We know when we work with you…we know we get someone who truly helps us shape the story through out the whole production process.”

I was speechless and re-affirmed. She articulated what I have been preaching for so long.

Just the other day…I was meeting with another client and she was sharing the news they were hiring a senior level person for their business.

Their business is technical in nature, yet they value the idea behind creating a wonderful online experience. They hired someone who will focus on content…specifically a strong writer, a strong storyteller. There is a shift in culture that is happening. Groups we (here at Gray and SHI) are working along side are investing in stories, content curation initiatives, and taking ownership of their brand message. We are all storytellers…but we have to find the space, the platforms, and the willingness to unlock that capability.

We are all storytellers…but are we willing to allow those stories to come to the surface?

I have you noticed video auto-playing in Facebook when using your laptop, desktop computer, or even your mobile device like a tablet or smartphone. I have noticed the these auto-play videos on my iPad, iPhone, and my desktop using my MacBookPro.

The videos that are auto-playing are those uploaded directly to Facebook. This auto-play initiative is also a part of Facebook’s Premium Video Ads offering set to release to brands this fall, possibly October.

Video auto-plays were released in September 2013 with the goal to mirror, or closely resemble, the Instagram video and Vine experience. So this leads me to what type of video content might actually work using this new Facebook offering.

When you scroll through the news feed and a video auto-plays, the audio does not play…just the video. The only way to hear the audio of a video is to stop scrolling and click the video. The audio then starts playing.

So this is an indicator of visual cues…how can you stop someone from scrolling and intrigue them enough to click to play a video without sound?

Take a look at this video created by This video auto-played when I was scrolling through my newsfeed, catching my attention. Why…the motion graphics and animation caught my attention.

I am a big fan of motion graphics and videos that utilize motion graphics to engage the audience. One of the reasons, you can tell a story visually if the person cannot hear the audio. I like to encourage video producers to not only create visually compelling messages but also videos that can stand alone if you could not hear the audio.

I have been recommending our clients create short videos for Facebook that include motion graphics. Why? When someone scrolls though their newsfeed, the motion graphics will catch their attention. This will stop them to want to click and explore. Then, include a link in the status update so the audience can watch the whole video or read more.

Short pieces of video content on Facebook I think can be a big win, if executed properly. Specifically, creating attention grabbing visual content that catches peoples’ attention then driving them to an action. If you read the release from Facebook surrounding their Premium Video Ads…you will see they are limiting the length to 15 seconds. I think this is smart. I think they have to include some visual cue, using motion to stop people and force them to explore.

Did you watch the keynote address from Apple’s #WWDC14 opening day? Did you happen to see the first video before anyone walked onto the stage? I did and I was inspired.

How many story-lines can you list while watching this video? Here is what I came up with…I was typing in real time as watched and listened this video.


  1. apps
  2. developers
  3. creativity
  4. drawing
  5. communication
  6. apps we cannot live without
  7. social media
  8. photography
  9. technology
  10. healthcare
  11. marine biology
  12. sailing
  13. databases
  14. global connectivity
  15. gaming
  16. baseball
  17. hope
  18. education/training
  19. dreaming for a better tomorrow
  20. music
  21. performing
  22. art of being a musician
  23. connecting apps to health
  24. bionic arms
  25. prosthetics
  26. intersection of technology and art
  27. inspiration

It is amazing how the use of storytelling and streams of themes come together in one piece…yet never really mention Apple. This is the power of connected content pulled together in one video, to tell little micro-stories that raise awareness for an over arching brand…one that we all can relate.

Powerful storytelling allows those who have language and passion to share their experience. Who are your storytellers?

So I found this on a pr/marketing firm’s website…and I think they raise an interesting question. Let’s look at this statement:

“Successful companies tell their stories well. Multiple channels today allow for storytelling on many levels. Our team helps clients tell those stories in the traditional way as well as through the digital and social media channels. It’s one thing to get good publicity and another to leverage it. We also help clients navigate the choppy waters of storytelling in less than ideal situations. Our advice to clients is simple: Tell your own story (good, bad or ugly) and tell it fast or someone else will.”

Yes…so who is telling your story? You? Your organization? The people in the organization? What is a good story?

Here is the biggest question of all…why do people really care about your story…your organization’s story. Why will they listen…or better yet…do *you* even know who the heck is supposed to hear your story.

Let’s go back to the above statement a few lines into this little statement:

“Our team helps clients tell those stories in the traditional way as well as through the digital and social media channels.”

What does that mean? What does it mean to tell a story in a traditional way? Does that mean we will be sitting down and listening from a book two weeks after it was published? And I noticed the dichotomy placed between traditional and social/digital channels. There is a huge fallacy in this statement…one that assumes social and digital are only channels for just sharing and not platforms for storytelling along with the multiple layers of curation opportunities.

Let’s move on to the next part of this statement:

“We also help clients navigate the choppy waters of storytelling in less than ideal situations.”

What does this mean? I am confused…what are the choppy waters of storytelling? Oh…you mean crisis communication…yeah…that’s it. So, it sounds like “we” are inferring that storytelling creates a crisis that needs immediate attention…oh…yeah.

What are we sharing about storytelling and the methods behind the craft. This makes it seem like that trials and tribulations arise from “bad” storytelling? Really!? What happens after a bad movie after you leave the theater? It is not a bad story…you just forget about it faster. But, you don’t create a crisis situation from your reaction…maybe if you cuss about the bad movie and offend someone around you.

HEADLINE…there is no such thing as bad storytelling. We are human and we are all attracted to different types of prose, visual communication, word-of-mouth stories…but who am I to say that your story is a bad story.

It is time to move away from this mainstream use of this metaphor that is turning into a buzz word…one that is as hollow as those who are selling these services. It is time to call a spade a spade.

Crisis Communication = Crisis Communication

So let’s wrap this dialogue up with the last line of this statement above:

“Our advice to clients is simple: Tell your own story (good, bad or ugly) and tell it fast or someone else will.”

My favorite part: “…tell it fast or someone else will.”

LIGHT BULB…there is no such thing as “else” in this or any situation. Everyone is telling a story, some are more well developed, some are in their infancy stages, and some have complex marketing initiatives behind them followed by tremendous organic/paid strategies.

So back to what this statement is really saying…PAY US and we will dump tons of money, time, and resources to make your story rise to the top beyond other well developed stories with limited paid efforts.

stories are still stories…
content marketing is still content marketing…
facebook/twitter/social ads are just like billboard/print/other ads…
organic search is just another form of digital word-of-mouth…
but…storytellers are still storytellers..some are just better than others!

So I leave you with this…from the American Storyteller Bob Dotson..

“Bob Dotson’s Storytelling tip: Tell me a story. Don’t give a speech. Don’t talk at me. Talk with me. Tell me something I’ve never heard before or tell it so well, I will want to hear it again, the way only you can tell it” 

We are all storytellers…not just highly paid, highly strategic pr/marketing firms!


I often wonder…how we truly understand Memorial Day. It is a day off for many…a day to cook-out, have family over to spend time, go to the lake, or just work in the yard.

What is Memorial Day? For years I used to mix up this national holiday with Veterans Day…until I became a journalist.

I remember the first time I was sent to capture a story of a family that just lost a loved one while serving. Serving in the Armed Forces was something I want to do…really bad. I was one of the first in my family not to serve. I wanted to fly planes in the Navy…but one little thing held me back. I have asthma and this 5’10” with a mathematics degree could not even get past the recruiter, even though majority of my family had served in each of the armed forces.

I remember that first time…that first visit. I remember knocking on the door, hoping that they would not be overly upset that a group of journalist wanted to interview them just hours after they learned they lost a loved one.

We knew…never go to the door with a camera. Always knock on the door with lots of compassion and earn trust. We always shared “our little pitch”…our goal is to help memorialize his memory.

Were we memorializing or just leveraging that moment in time to use as content to gain an audience. At the time…I did not have language for the ethical dilemma faced. But as time grew…stories were produced…I began to realize the distance between my ethical dilemma and the stories I was producing for digital equity was getting ready to crash.

What is Memorial Day? Is it a day to honor those who have fallen in order to provide the very blanket of freedom we enjoy everyday? Including that same freedom we call freedom of the press?

I remember this one story…always remember. His name was Staff Seargent Jason Ramseyer and his family will be forever changed. His family allowed a team from WCNC-TV to come spend the afternoon with them…to share a small piece of his story.

The photojournalist working on the story was only given a few hours to help produce this story for a same day turn around. This story needed a little more attention…a little more commitment than just an afternoon to produce this story.

Memorial Day has always stuck with me…and this story has always helped me distinguish the importance of this day from all other days in the year. I never met his family. But I knew on that day when it was decided to give this story a little extra something…I knew I had to help memorialize this one story. As my ethical dilemma wavered, I have always thought about this story, and that it would bring some resolve for all the other times I knocked on those doors asking a family to allow us to tell their story. I am glad I helped re-produce this story back in 2006.

Today is not like any other day…it is Memorial Day. I just hope we Memorialize those who lost their lives while serving this very nation we call home. No more…no less.

***This story was originally produced for WCNC-TV by a team including Anna Crowley, Kevin Ridley, Allison Andrews, and Bobby Rettew.  

So my good friend Olivier Blanchard shared a post I wrote on Facebook (seen above) and this generated a pretty interesting discussion. So I thought I would share a few of the comments and my responses.

Cémanthe – you know…I 100% agree…I am tired of the industry using this buzzword –> “Storytelling”…it actually pisses me off…thus the point of this article. I have been actually writing about this buzzword for a while…watching organizations claim it yet not deliver other than putting investment in technology. I honestly think it comes down to defining what is a “Good Story.” My definition differs from most everyone else.

I honestly have never worked for an “agency” until now and actually resist the natural offering and push of an agency. I was journalist for years before transitioning to the business world and teaching world. Why? Because I honestly believe there are organizations out there that truly love the power of rich stories in their content strategies. I define rich stories as stories with layers, elements, pieces that are delivered a little at a time to hook people into no longer realizing they have peripheral vision…that moment in time you are totally embedded into the storyline.

I have friends that are former journalists that work all over the world for large organizations because they have a talent…to listen and capture stories as they emerge…allowing that storyline to allow the audience to see that brand’s message through another person’s viewpoint. If there is one thing I know…if you can capture rich stories about brands through third party anecdotes…then the audience begins to see life through a new lens.

So to Olivier’s point…he is right on…IMHO. Here is why. I help one of the largest endowments in the country tell rich stories. Why…because they do not like to talk about their brand…NOT AT ALL. They like to allow the people that benefit from their grants share their story, their path, and how this investment has changed the way communities are impacted. This initiative has opened so many new doors for grant making in this region. Now, new groups have emerged that now qualify for this generosity because of this public awareness campaign via YouTube. But the public was not the initial target audience, the Board of Trustees who decide the grant making was the target audience. We wanted to bring voice to the grant making…so they could see the human impact of those dollars being extended.

So….everyone in hear probably already has a predisposition about “storytelling” and whether it brings an ROI or value. Here is what I know…I love helping people turn 180 degrees away from a brand message and capture the stories of the people that bring texture. Great writers can craft beautiful copy about a brand…create a truth. Great storytellers find the nuggets that touch people’s souls…then capture and share them in a way that brings a new dimension to the conversation.

Alan – I see your point. Yes…you can go out there and create initiatives that ultimately create positive stories…you will just need people like me to come in right behind you to capture those stories and tell them in real time…capture, tell, and share them in a way that makes sense in people’s lives.



Love this…

“A storyteller is spinner of yarns, a teller of tales, a bard, minstrel, rhymer or raconteur who delights in audiences and attentive faces that ask, “what’s next?” Storytellers play their part in delivering lessons to society, they create communities by bringing people together in a shared experience. Storybook reading has a focus on the book and the pictures. Storytelling eliminates that object that comes between the teller and the audience.”

Image from
Quote is from

More and more digital agencies are seeing the need for an added value proposition…digital storytellers. These are people that understand visual storytelling, video production, and content development and marketing.

They are selling these services as tactics. Yes…we are finding they are selling services in addition to their web strategies…they can create video, they can create a Facebook page, they can write copy. Pat them on the back and buy ‘em a drink.

They have hired a video editor, a videographer, a social media consultant and sell it as an added offering. Yep…but execution is lack luster. They are selling tactics without meat to the strategy.

So why did I merge my book of business with a group like Gray? Why are we building the Social Health Institute? We understand the need to become leaders in more than just selling tactics…we understand the need to offer practitioner level consulting beyond just simple tactics. We are helping people build their stories.

We see the need to truly understand storytelling, practitioner level storytelling strategies that look deeper than just a video, just a Facebook status update, more than reading those google analytics…we are practitioners and we are in it for the long haul.

We want to help people tell rich stories, connect them with data driven tactics and initiatives, and integrate them these initiatives where audiences want to interact in a way that make sense in this multi-facetted social/digital landscape.

It is more than just clicking the button to record and interview…it is seeing the big picture…understanding how stories move people and create actions that drive business and large scale pr initiatives.

I think this quote from the Harvard Business Review blog says it best…they understand the power of storytelling and integrating the power of data driven results…

“We have an extra obligation to try and earn that trust. People are naturally skeptical of what they read in the newspaper or on the internet, and they should be.”

So…do you want to hire a group that just creates a video, builds a website, makes a Facebook post…or do you want to work with a group or practitioners who understand the power of content…the power of unique storytelling.

I leave you with this quote from another Harvard Business Review blog post

“Stories have been implanted in you thousands of times since your mother took you on her knee. You’ve read good books, seen movies, attended plays. What’s more, human beings naturally want to work through stories. Cognitive psychologists describe how the human mind, in its attempt to understand and remember, assembles the bits and pieces of experience into a story, beginning with a personal desire, a life objective, and then portraying the struggle against the forces that block that desire. Stories are how we remember; we tend to forget lists and bullet points.

Businesspeople not only have to understand their companies’ past, but then they must project the future. And how do you imagine the future? As a story. You create scenarios in your head of possible future events to try to anticipate the life of your company or your own personal life. So, if a businessperson understands that his or her own mind naturally wants to frame experience in a story, the key to moving an audience”

There are two videos that have truly impact me the last few weeks…so I really wanted to share. These are for the mothers in my life and to the many mothers out there.

For you single moms…for those Linda’s of the world…the Mom of my world!
This is for those single moms, that have sacrificed, have done it all of their children…when the odds were stacked up…you were more entrepreneurial than any high net-worth millionaire. You innovated, you scaled, you found ways to make it all happen…against all odds. You did not do it for the money…you did if for love.

For you strong moms…for those Sarah’s and Jennifer’s of the world…the Sarah of my world!
This is for the moms, everyday, every minute, every second…your every breath is for your children. We business men get up and fight the stresses of the day to provide. You get up and embrace the stresses of life so that your family, your children, you world feels like the most important. You are love….

Google Analytics Alternative