Branding and creativity expert, Ron Tite was named one of the Top 10 Creative Canadians by Marketing Magazine. An award-winning advertising Writer and Creative Director, Ron has worked for some of the world’s most respective brands including Evian, Hershey, Johnson and Johnson, Kraft, Microsoft, and Volvo to name just a few. He is founder and CEO of the Tite Group, Executive Producer and Host of the Canadian Comedy Award-winning show Monkey Toast, and the author of Everyone’s An Artist (Or At Least They Should Be). Emma Bullen picked his brains on why every organization needs storytellers and how brands can tell great stories.
Storytelling is a fundamental part of business. Research tells us that stories help us pay attention, teach us to be more empathetic, and allow us to remember concepts years after we’ve heard them. Within the workplace, narratives can help us make sense of an organization, and are an impactful way to communicate values. More than that, storytelling can turn something ordinary into something interesting.
As a brand storyteller and comedian, Ron Tite uses storytelling every day. He’s helped notable brands tell their story. He tells stories on blogs and podcasts and on stage at stand up gigs and at conferences. And he’s changed his personal narrative, the story of what he does, multiple times. In fact, storytelling is so much of a habit that he answers every interview question he’s asked with a narrative.
Everyone Can Tell A Story
Humans are hard-wired for stories, and we’ve been using them to communicate for centuries. Yet, when you ask someone to tell a story, you may initially be met with friction.
“Often people say, “I’m not a very good storyteller,” and I’ll say — tell me about how you met your wife,” says Tite. “They’ll start saying, “Oh it was a Tuesday, it was rainy…” and before you know it, they’re telling you this amazing in-depth story. Good storytelling is about connecting with something on a personal level. You’re passionate about the story, and you’ve told it before. We have to take that passion and apply it to business.”
Storytelling Helps us Achieve Things We Don’t Think Are Possible
Storytelling is a crucial way for leaders to communicate with the people they’re leading. It can establish a vision for the future, allowing us to imagine what seems impossible.
“A great example of this is the film the Usual Suspects,” says Tite. “The entire inspiration for the script was based on the image in the writer’s brain of the five guilty criminals in the same lineup. That doesn’t happen in real life, you usually get one criminal and four guilty SOBs, not five criminals in the same lineup. What McQuarrie did was work out where he wanted to get to— that image — and worked out how to get there. Storytelling can help us achieve things that we don’t think are possible, all we have to do is focus on the story.”
Good storytelling is about connecting with something on a personal level. You’re passionate about the story, and you’ve told it before. We have to take that passion and apply it to business.”
Stories Spread Messages
As humans, we tell stories over and over again so that people remember them. Great storytellers know that repetition can increase the impact of their message.
“People don’t go to church to be converted; they need to be reminded. They’ve heard those stories a million times before,” says Tite. “People need a good way to tell brand stories. They need to tell them over and over again. You could walk into Dell computers and ask how the business started and every one of their employees could tell you about Michael Dell starting the corporation in his dorm room. By retelling a story, people become more confident in sharing it.”
Stories Allow Us to Reinvent Ourselves
What do Lady Gaga, David Bowie, and Steve Martin have in common? They weren’t afraid to reinvent themselves. As storytellers, we choose the narrative that we tell about ourselves.
“Great artists constantly reinvent themselves. Steve Martin is listed as one of the top six comedians of all time. Yet, up until February of last year, Steve Martin hadn’t done standup in the last 35 years. We equate him with being successful with standup but he’s written screenplays, novels, he’s directed, and more recently he’s curated an art show. He’s reinvented himself. There are so many creative people who are great at what they do, but they never make the leap from one thing to the next. Reinventing yourself is an important and a humbling experience.”
“Story development within an organization is crucial. Once you’ve got one, you need to work out what to do with it.”
Any Medium Can Tell a Story
We think in narratives all day long. And we see them everywhere — whether it’s an advert on TV, an article we’re reading, or a picture we see on the news. When it comes to telling your business’s story, there’s no one fits all solution for telling your story.
“Story development within an organization is crucial. Once you’ve got one, you need to work out what you’re doing with it,” says Tite. “You might tell that story as a series or photos, or a blog post. You can tell an event from a single picture — it’s compelling, and it tells a narrative. Look at the image of Barrack Obama hugging Michelle on the night of the second victory. That image tells a great story. Whatever you decide, it should be whatever medium is better at helping you tell that narrative.”
Everyone Reacts to a Story
Narrative is as interested in the known as it is the unknown. Once you tell a story, be prepared for how other people will react to it. As a standup comic, Tite is no stranger to dealing with hecklers.
“Dealing with trolls in person and online is very different,” says Tite, “If it’s online and someone disagrees with you, get a backbone and stand up for what you believe in. If it happens three or more times, then move on.”
“In person, you’ll find there are two different types of heckler — the active heckler and the passive heckler. The active heckler voices their displeasure and their opinion. The passive heckler is far more dangerous; the passive heckler doesn’t know you’re on stage. The first thing you need to do is engage them — and there are a million different ways you can do to do that. If you’re in a boardroom and you see that Todd hasn’t said anything. Todd may not say anything in that meeting, but he’ll kill your idea in the hallway. He’s a passive heckler. If you see he’s saying nothing, go to Todd, call him out and get him to commit to an opinion publicly.”
For a deeper insight into marketing, creativity, and storytelling, visit rontite.com. For a good laugh, listen to the insightful and hilarious Monkey Toast. To hear Ron Tite talk at The Art Of Marketing, Canada’s #1 marketing conference April 3, 2017, in Toronto. Register here to get $50 off tickets.