After I called his Harvard Business Review blog post on “storydoing” brilliant and then asked if a common storytelling company could turn into an exceptional storydoing company, consultant Ty Montague tweeted: yes.
He pointed me to his website where I found a decision tree that shows how an organization can transform itself from an overgrown discount carwash and storm door company into to a meaningful, socially compelling brand.
And is where the cow pooh starts to ooze through. Let’s follow the steps for creating a “storydoing” company from scratch. First:
“Form a multi-department working team to lead the development of a story.” Let’s set aside the fact that no committee—pardon, “working team”—ever “developed” so much as a good knock-knock joke, let alone a great corporate story. Let’s say the committee pulls off the impossible. What next? Well, next you’ve gotta ask yourself if the story the committee ginned up defines “an ambition beyond commercial aspiration.” If not …
“Form a multi-department working team to evolve or redefine the story, broadening its relevance.” Yep, another committee—or maybe we send the same committee back to the drawing board—to make the story interesting to anybody besides the company’s shareholders.
“Start working regularly with individual functions to define and prioritize actions based on that story.” And if that doesn’t unify the story-glorification efforts of everyone from the CEO to the dope-fiend in the mailing room, then Montague recommends “an employee engagement and training program, directed by managers across departments.” And what if the company still isn’t doing its story every day in every way? “Create a governance structure to monitor and support aligned action.” Booya!
But wait, you say. After we created all these committees and action-alignment mechanisms and training programs and governance structure, we asked our customers what they think of our awesome new story, and they are evenly split between who knows, and who cares.
No worries, says Montague. You simply “define an en external participation program across social, PR and communications,” and “re-examine the story if engagement remains low.”
And then? “Congratulations!” says Montague. “You are a world class storydoer.”
Montague must have written this schematic in a moment of weakness. Surely the fellow who so articulately defines the difference between the facile telling and the rigorous living of compelling corporate stories doesn’t believe a company can reinvent its authentic identity out of whole cloth. Surely a guy who has studied relevant brands and cultures knows that almost all of them grew out of a brilliant invention, an iconoclastic (and often half-crazy) founder, or the happy historic confluence of a desperate social need and a service that answers it.
Communicator, if you’re not working for a company that fits Ty Montague’s useful definition of “storydoing,” do the best you can to organize and broaden the reach of the stories you do have.
But if you truly want to work for a “storydoing” company—and I think Mr. Montague knows this as well as the rest of us—you’re probably going to have go find one.
The bad news is, there aren’t too many of them. The good news is, they’re really easy to find.