- Business Insider UK spoke to Hector Macdonald, a business storytelling expert.
- Macdonald talked about how businesses shape their narratives, and the techniques involved.
- He believes ‘artful versions of the truth’ in business are not necessarily a bad thing.
Read the full transcript below:
Hector Macdonald: Hello I’m Hector Macdonald, I’m a business storytelling expert and a strategic communications consultant, and I’m the author of Truth, How The Many Sides of Every Story Shape Our Reality.
So when a company is trying to shape its narrative, one of the first things it has to ask itself is which of the many things it could say should it say.
There’s a thousand different things any company can put into a story about its past, its present, its future, but really the skill of the storyteller in business is to hone down from all those multiple different truths to the key things that you think will achieve the purpose, achieve the agenda you’re trying to work towards in that business.
We have all kind of tricks up our sleeve as professional communicators and some of them are honest, some of them are a little bit less honest in their application. The simplest methodology, of course, is just choosing what you include in your messaging.
So omission is a simple technique to make sure that you leave out the uncomfortable truths of things that will perhaps cause difficulties for some of your employees, cause embarrassment in the markets for your customers and so on. and that’s a very wise and sensible approach in a lot of cases where there are things that are best not said.
I think whatever the wider world may think, most businesses and most other organisations are genuinely trying to do useful work, create value for society create value for their shareholders of course and this is a tough world we’re working in. All kinds of industries are struggling to make it through, the competition, the rapidly changing technological environment, regulatory changes if it’s banking and so on.
So there’s a huge amount of very difficult work that has to be done and using clever forms of communication artful versions of the truth in order to advance those goals, there’s nothing wrong with that and that’s very positive procedure. It’s a very constructive thing to do if it means that you’re increasing the value of that organisation, you’re saving jobs, you’re creating jobs. So there’s a very utilitarian argument for a lot of this.
Moving away from business for a moment, every country plays this game. I mean every country invents its own history, shapes it to forge a national identity that we can be proud of and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that.
Countries have done tremendous things by building mythological identities around battles 500 years ago or what we perceive as some great empire across the sea that our forefathers built. And we carefully erase certain elements of that, we talk so much about the good stuff that the bad stuff is sort of lost in the corners.
I think we do need to be honest about our history but at the same time I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging people to take pride in the good aspects of national heritage, national history and for that matter corporate history.”