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The rise of the Chief Storytelling Officer

By Alex Sheehan

In case you haven’t realised it, we are living in a new era of PR and marketing. Brands are no longer pleading with publishers. They’re taking back the power by building narratives and crafting stories of their own.

Enter the Chief Storyteller.

OK, so this job title may or may not make this writer cringe a little, but the idea behind it is actually inspiring and brings creativity to the fore.

Although it is a new era of PR, creative brands have had these roles for quite some time. Nike employed a Chief Storytelling Officer back in the 1999 BT  (that’s Before Twitter, incase you’re wondering).

“Our stories are not about extraordinary business plans or financial manipulations . . . they’re about people getting things done,” Nike’s then Chief Storytelling Officer Nelson Farris told Fast Company in 1999.

Over 50 people on LinkedIn are under the title of Chief Storytelling Officer  from all around the world.

We’ve seen the trend of journalists writing for brands, see our post on Van Winkles here. However, the need for endless imagination and creativity has seen novelists being the most sought-after job description.

Mohsin Hamid, whose second novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist was shortlisted for a Man Booker Prize, is one of the most recent Chief Storyteller recruits.

He joined image consultancy Wolff Olins. It’s imperative to add that the company also have a Head of Thinking.

Hiring novelists makes sense. A good novel whisks you away from the mundane, making you feel emotionally connected and attached to a story. This is what brands crave; the one-to-one, more human approach.

Mohsin Hamid accepted the job offer as he believed that storytelling wasn’t purely for novelists, it’s also for CEOs and leaders.

Storytelling is a powerful thing, and influences how we see the world.

“Nelson Mandela told a story about what post-apartheid Africa could look like. That story was persuasive enough to promote change, and it became reality. JFK told a story about putting man on the Moon, and it inspired people and came to pass. These types of huge events were built on stories,” Hamid told Fast Company. 

What’s your view on the role of Chief Storytelling Officer? Is it a welcome development, or a just another term for the buzz-word brigade?

Let us know @mediahqnews 

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Alex Sheehan

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