November 2008 Archives

Here are two activities I’ve come across focusing on visual storytelling:

  1. Photobooth Stories: This activity was an assignment for a class called Intermedia I in the Communication Studies Department at Concordia University. photo_booth2.jpg I’m guessing that the assignment was to tell a story using the 4 shots takes in a photo booth (as in the sample shown here). That’s one way to get story value from photobooth pix. I can imagine some expanded possibilities:
    1. Tell a story of your own using photobooth pictures.
    2. Guess the artist’s intention in the deliberate photobooth stories of others, such as those on the class’s Web site.
    3. Make up a story about old sets of photobooth pix that were not necessarily intended to tell a story.

  2. Cameramail: Modeled a project undertaken between Daniel Farrell and Richard Kegler and described on the Web site P22, Cameramail involves gluing a one-use camera onto a postcard. cameramailcamera5.jpg

    Current project overseer, Kyle Van Horn suggests that in the past, the cameras were rewrapped, thus “creating a suspicious looking item” (you can see some of the re-wrapped specimens on Van Horn’s site.) Van Horn “cut a hole through the cardboard to allow the shooter to access the thumb-advance and use the viewfinder.” Trial and error apparently taught him that handwritten notes to postal workers are more effective than computer-printed, and red tape also is helpful. The idea behind the project becomes apparent when you read this note to postal workers: Photos should be taken of everyone the camera encounters. Postal workers are asked to take a photo before passing it along. (You can quite a few post-office photos in this iteration of the project results.) Van Horn says he “usually either take[s] a picture of the person at the desk, or have them take one of me as the first shot on the roll.” “Bryan” of the blog Infocult calls Cameramail a “new distributed storytelling technique.”

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Two portrayals of life stories that may seem unremarkable … but the charm and pull of these stories is truly in the eye of the beholder.

As a child of the 50s and 60s, I have long been fascinated by that era — from movies made during that time to what life was like for women of the period (a reason I adore the TV show “Mad Men.”) So, I was drawn to Carolyn’s Diary, being blogged by her son Bill. It’s debatable whether Carolyn’s Diary entries even tell a story, but through the cumulative journalings, the story of an American homemaker in the age of the Feminine Mystique emerges. Here’s how Bill describes the diary: carolyn's_diary.jpg

My mother kept diaries from January 6 1962 until the morning she died in October 1998. Her diaries were written for practical purposes, and provide a chronicle of the events of her days. Few feelings are expressed, if any, and you have to read between the lines to discern her emotions. She would often refer back to her diaries to confirm that the roof was replaced on this date, the taxes were paid on that date, the weather was sunny and warm or snowy and windy. My mother stopped working when I was born in 1959, and my father was a US Navy diver. My mother’s first diary was presented to her on January 6, 1962, when her parents arrived from Iowa for an extended stay as my dad prepared to leave the country with the Navy. … It is simply a record of the day-to-day life of an average American housewife.

The Most Mediocre Story Never Told is a one-man show that has been running recently in LA. A blog entry by Steven Leigh Morris explains the premise:

Jay Sefton wrote and performed in his one-man autobiographical show, “The Most Mediocre Story Never Told” … It’s the remarkable tale of an unremarkable young guy struggling to tell his life story in a one-man-show for reasons that he doesn’t fully understand. But perhaps by telling of his youth in Philadelphia, and his humiliating performance as Christ in a Catholic school production of the Passion Play, he will discover the reason that he’s on the stage recounting his adventures as a child actor, stooping in a ‘fairy robe’ to wash the feet of Christ’s disciples. Mediocre_Poster.jpg … Sefton cuts to the heart of his tantalizing concept: ‘I looked up ‘story’ in the thesaurus, just to see if I had one, and most of the words had something to do with not telling the truth. Fable, yarn, gossip, rumor, legend. There are other words there too. Anecdote, chronicle, but there is a whole subsection called lie. As an actor we hear, ‘Just tell the story. What’s the story? I am just listening for the story. You are a storyteller. … Where are these stories? Where do they really exist? And who am I without them?’ Sefton asks in his show. … The broader question that Sefton doesn’t ask is, Who are we without stories?

Indeed. No matter how dull, mundane, trivial, and inconsequential our stories may seem, they make us who we are. They make us fascinating.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


I recently came across The Imperfect Board Member, another in the growing collection of business books that are told in story or fable form.

imperfect_board_member.jpg Here’s how the publisher describes the book:

Using a fictional story followed by thorough analysis of the seven keys to great board governance and effectiveness, The Imperfect Board Member helps board members and CEOs work more effectively and avoid the problems that have plagued companies like Enron and WorldCom. The principal characters in the book represent three main categories of organizations — for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, and faith-based religious organizations. An entertaining page-turner that informs, educates, and motivates while conveying principles that will enable effective governance, the book reveals the Governance Effectiveness Model, describing seven easily understood keys that will help every CEO and board member unlock the door to effective boardroom leadership.

You can download the first chapter here.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Thank You, Readers

On Thanksgiving, I thank you, readers of A Storied Career. One of my goals this year was to revive this blog, blog every day, and build the audience. cancan.gif An average of about 100 readers a day visits A Storied Career, and I am so grateful for your support. Thanks also to all who have commented this year. This blog and its subject matter are among the aspects of my work that most stoke my passions and give me the greatest joy. Thank you for sharing with me.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


I have determined that I have spent an hour a week — so 52 hours over the last year — doing something that has not been at all effective.

Today is the one-year anniversary of this activity, and I have decided to stop. catalog_Choice.jpg It started a year ago when a colleague passed on information about a new Web site, Catalog Choice, where you could supposedly enter information about the catalogs you were receiving and Catalog Choice would take care of opting you out of them.

After a year, I have seen no appreciable drop in the number of catalogs my household receives. Catalog Choice has not delivered for a number of reasons (and probably many more that I’m not aware of). First, as one of Catalog Choice’s staff members (Chuck, I believe) noted in the site’s blog, “changing the practices of a $68 billion dollar industry takes time” (that industry being direct-marketing). Second, not all catalog mailers are participating in Catalog Choice. Of the 435 (!) catalogs I’ve attempted to opt-out of 173 vendors have confirmed their participation in Catalog Choice; 222 have neither confirmed nor said they weren’t participating; and 40 have said they are not participating.

Even among those that have said they are participating, I still get catalogs, even when I’ve reported multiple “violations.” One trick some vendors seem to engage in is changing customer numbers. Say I opt out of a catalog for which a certain customer number is assigned to my name. Many vendors theoretically stop sending catalogs to me at that customer number but simply assign me a new customer number and keep sending catalogs. Some vendors who say they participate in Catalog Choice don’t switch customer numbers but nevertheless keep sending catalogs when they’ve pledged not to.

I recently contacted the Sundance catalog people directly. I probably receive a Sundance catalog almost weekly and have faithfully entered the catalog info into catalog Choice each time. Catalog Choice has somewhat recently begun to provide direct links to vendors’ Web sites so one can contact these catalog purveyors directly to request not to receive catalogs. When I wrote to the Sundance folks, they claimed they had never received any requests from Catalog Choice to end my catalog mailings! Sundance might have been covering its posterior, but that claim certainly added to my sense of futility and the 52 hours I’ve wasted on Catalog Choice.

I will say that I have a greater sense of success since I have started to contact catalog mailers directly. I have had responses from most of them telling me they’re removing me from their catalog mailing lists. Whether the catalogs will really subside remains to be seen.

Some vendors have suggested I contact the Direct Marketing Association and have given me its Web and mailing addresses. But it’s unclear what I’m supposed to say to the DMA or what magic words might end my catalog mailings, and the DMA Web site is not remotely consumer-friendly.

Don’t get me wrong … I appreciate what Catalog Choice has been trying to do. I wonder if they knew how daunting it would be to get catalog mailers to cut back. And while I think the exercise of entering catalogs on Catalog Choice’s Web site is currently ineffective, it may not always be that way, and at least I have made some progress through the sites direct links to vendors.

So, on Thanksgiving, a day on which it’s not unusual to think of waste (all that potentially wasted food!), I have ceased to waste my time on Catalog Choice trying to reduce the waste of catalogs that make a short journey from our mailbox to the recycling bin.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


I feel as though I write about death a lot in this blog, and if that’s true, it’s partly because our stories are such an important part of the legacy we leave behind.

My virtual friend Jessica Lipnack introduced me to the Engage with Grace project. The idea of the project is to get folks talking about what they would like the end of their lives to be like. Bloggers have been asked to blog about the project today, Nov. 26, and to introduce a plea (below) from project founder Alexandra Drane. This project is also a natural for A Storied Career because …

Engage with Grace begins with a story — a story about an extraordinary young woman named Rosaria Vandenberg who was 32 when she was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma … Read the full story.
The site also notes:
Who was it who said, “The death of a million is a statistic — the death of one is a story.”?

When your loved ones tell the story of your death, how would you like that story to be told? TELL THEM how by answering the five questions in Engage with Grace’s One Slide:

This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team:

We make choices throughout our lives — where we want to live, what types of activities will fill our days, with whom we spend our time. These choices are often a balance between our desires and our means, but at the end of the day, they are decisions made with intent. But when it comes to how we want to be treated at the end our lives, often we don’t express our intent or tell our loved ones about it. engagewithgrace.jpg

This has real consequences. 73 percent of Americans would prefer to die at home, but up to 50 percent die in hospital. More than 80 percent of Californians say their loved ones “know exactly” or have a “good idea” of what their wishes would be if they were in a persistent coma, but only 50 percent say they’ve talked to them about their preferences.

But our end-of-life experiences are about a lot more than statistics. They’re about all of us. So the first thing we need to do is start talking. Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project was designed with one simple goal: to help get the conversation about end-of-life experience started.

The idea is simple: Create a tool to help get people talking. One Slide, with just five questions on it. Five questions designed to help get us talking with each other, with our loved ones, about our preferences. And we’re asking people to share this One Slide — wherever and whenever they can—at a presentation, at dinner, at their book club. Just One Slide, just five questions.

Let’s start a global discussion that, until now, most of us haven’t had.

Here is what we are asking you: Download The One Slide and share it at any opportunity — with colleagues, family, friends. Think of the slide as currency and donate just two minutes whenever you can. Commit to being able to answer these five questions about the end of life experience for yourself and for your loved ones. Then commit to helping others do the same. Get this conversation started.

Let’s start a viral movement driven by the change we as individuals can effect…and the incredibly positive impact we could have collectively. Help ensure that all of us — and the people we care for — can end our lives in the same purposeful way we live them.

Just One Slide, just one goal. Think of the enormous difference we can make together.

To learn more please click here.

The project was featured in today’s Boston Globe.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Opportunities for folks to tell their stories on the Internet appear endless. I discover new ones at least weekly. Here are a few recent finds, most of which also appear on my sidebar (descriptions are in the words of the originators):

VUVOX is an easy to use production and instant sharing service that allows you to mix, create and blend your personal media — video, photos and music into rich personal expressions. VUVOX reflects your life. … We want to help you amplify your own visual voice. … VUVOX gives you the power to create one-of-a-kind stories in an instant. All you need to do is provide whatever cool content that you have. Vuvox.jpg Take pictures, video, audio and text. Mix it up. Choose backgrounds, colors, textures that create your vibe and then you are ready to share your piece with the world. … We are passionate people who crave creative expression and value storytelling as an essential part of every day life. We are committed to making the whole world a better place by enabling you to tell the stories that need to be told… just because they are yours to tell. … VUVOX founders have created this foundation with your story in mind.
MemoryMiner is a new application developed by GroupSmarts… MemoryMiner.jpg MemoryMiner represents the first step toward a long-term goal: the creation of the world’s most extensive network of first-person accounts of modern society and culture. … Everyone has a story. We at GroupSmarts are committed to bringing those unheard, and unseen, stories to life with MemoryMiner. Many of the most interesting records of modern society and culture exist in analog form, “trapped” in boxes of old photos, letters and the like. … we hope that MemoryMiner will be widely used to bring these materials, and more importantly, the stories that can be told from them, into the networked, digital world. Similarly, just as old photographs and documents contain the seeds of fascinating untold stories, so too do many of the millions of digital photographs that are taken every day. So many people are experiencing and doing interesting and even amazing things with their lives, yet their stories remain untold … While there are plenty of tools for “managing” digital media, there is a real need to link media in meaningful ways, using an easy to grasp “People, Places and Times” structure. We hope that MemoryMiner will expedite that process and contribute to bringing the experience of digital storytelling and publishing to all.
Storychasers is a multi-state (and potentially multi-national) educational collaborative empowering students and teachers to responsibly record and share stories of local, regional and global interest as citizen journalists. storychasers.png Where STN (Student Television Network) participants may focus more narrowly on student broadcast news productions, Storychasers has a broader focus on not only student-created news broadcasts, but also student-created documentary films and live event coverage (webcasting). Storychaser media productions can be shared as live broadcast events or recorded, asynchronously shared audio and video files.

OK, the origins of this next one fascinated me. The founders of the storytlr initiative say they were inspired by a video from Loic Lemeur who asked about a way to help him build “the centralized me.” storytlr.jpg As he explains in the video below (and also in this blog entry, which also shows a picture of Lemeur’s social map), he drew considerable attention by creating a social map of his online existence — all the venues he visits in the course of a typical day online to get his news, see what his friends are up to, and share his own life. But Lemeur longs for a centralized place where he can get all his social media at once (and he mentions services, such as FriendFeed, that are getting close to what he desires). The venue Lemeur craves reminds me a bit of my Social Media Resume, which does not yet really function the way Lemeur imagines, but has the potential (in my opinion). The folks at storytlr believe they’ve created such a venue. “Storytlr brings you just that, a platform to build the centralized you…,” they write. Then, they noticed the narrative quality of their platform:

Finally we realized that our flow of [social media self-expression was] in fact telling a story, the story of our daily lives, and that sometimes we wanted to repackage this story in a nice format (beyond a photo album) to share it with friends. So we decided to make it really easy to mashup all these activities into a compelling story that is easy to share.

I think storytlr is a fairly cool tool, as illustrated by the featured story on the site (and I created a kind of storyboarded timeline of my Twitter tweets using storytlr — but I’m not sure the platform does what Lemeur hopes for.

Fittingly, the founders of my next find, Great Life Stories, explain their existence with a story: GreatLifeStories.jpg

Each of our founders had close relatives have near-death experiences or pass away in a … 2-3 month window of time. As a consequence of these events, occurring so close together…, we realized that time was short and that our parents and grandparents were transitioning into the last phase of their lives. … It was imperative that we begin the process of saving our parent’s accomplishments, our childhoods, and our family histories. We all agreed that there was much that we could do to capture our parents’ stories and experience so we could share them with our children, grandchildren, and future generations. … we expected that many of our ancestors shared common experiences around major worldwide events: The Great Depression, WW II, the Korean and Vietnam wars. What we discovered was that not only did people go through similar experiences around wars or economic events, they also shared common family experiences: a first date, a first job, a first child. … These common themes gave us an opportunity to share these similarities [among] different story tellers. One person’s life was linked to others through their experience in unexpected ways. Once these common experiences were connected, storytellers could enjoy reading each other’s stories and the community was born.

Finally, Winamop, the lowest tech of these discoveries. Winamop’s focus seems to be largely on writing, and it covers Poetry, Comedy, News, Art, Shakespeare, Music, and of course, Stories. I glanced at a few of the stories in the Stories section, and I can’t quite tell if these are fiction/creative-writing type stories or people’s real stories, or a combination. No matter to a story fan. Winamop’s founder writes: winamop.jpg

Winamop was conceived on a whim, is run on a shoestring, ignored by the many, loved by the few and has continued unabashed since 2003.

What I really want to know is where the heck the name Winamop came from. Here’s the explanation:

I was going to Winamp’s web-site and my fat finger must have caught the “O” key as I went for the “P”. I got, or rather I didn’t, because it didn’t exist! It made me laugh to see the pathetic lament from IE that it “couldn’t find” and I went and registered it.

I like the home page’s tagline: Read Baby Read.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



It’s a great privilege to present the 16th in my series of Q&A interviews with story practitioners. I first met Sharon Benjamin in … ahem … the ladies room of the S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian in 2005. I was eager to meet her because she and I both earned our PhDs from Union Institute & University. It was through Sharon’s contribution to a Union online discussion group that I first learned of the Smithsonian Storytelling Weekend and the wonderful Washington, DC, Golden Fleece group that has done so much to nurture my storytelling passion. I owe her a lot. See Sharon’s bio below next to her photo.

From the Web site of her consulting firm, Alchemy:
Alchemy principal Sharon Benjamin has built her consulting practice on the foundation of her deep experience leading and working for nonprofits as both a staff person and sharonbenjamin.jpg volunteer. Benjamin has raised more than $75 million for nonprofits since 1980.

Between 1985 and 1989, she was the Vice President for Development and Finance at the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI). When she arrived, this $1 million organization had a bank loan of $450,000 to cover operating losses, and was holding another $500,000 in soft debt (monies owed to staff and creditors). When she left at the end of 1989, EPI had an operating budget of $3.8 million, no debts and a reserve fund of $500,000.

In January 1990, she joined the staff of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Her task was to create a foundation giving program. Within 16 months foundation support for UCS had increased from $250,000 to $1.4 million.

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), Benjamin oversaw a 10-person Marketing Department. During her 3.5-year tenure at RTC, organizational revenues increased by an average of 18 percent per year, to a record budget of $5.2 million. Membership increased by a yearly average of 15 percent, to an all-time high of 71,000 individuals. During this time RTC sold over 50,000 copies of organizational publications.

She has organized 35 major special events including the participation of Friends of the Earth in the Paul McCartney Concert Tour of 1989-90; film premieres; major donor trips and receptions; foundation and corporate briefings; and a bluegrass concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Read more here.

Q&A with Sharon Benjamin:

Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act?

A: One of my favorite transformative moments — when story was key to transforming a group — came in a group of storytellers.
Golden Fleece, a DC-based group of people interested in narrative in organizational settings, used to meet once a month, for an in-person conversation about uses and applications of narrative - it was an interesting, interested group, and extremely diverse - held together almost solely by a topical interest in story. Many people in the group didn’t know (m)any others - there were times when it was clear that the group was having trouble navigating between its many roles — was it an “Association of Organizational Storytellers” a ‘community of storytellers” or all of these things at different times for different reasons……these were rich questions that many of us discussed, contemplated, and navigated………
Anyway, one night, Kelly Cresap, was facilitating and asked the group to think about a time when “they got unstuck” then tell that story (in triads) to one another. After a couple rounds of sharing, it was clear that something big was shifting in the group - Kelly closed the evening by having 3 or 4 people - chosen by the group (re)tell their story to the full group - and in the hush of the circle - looking around at the expectant, rapt faces of both the listeners and tellers, it became so clear that the shift in the group was enormous - from the professional body armor many of us came in wearing, to the emergence of wonder and heart. 
The whole session didn’t last more than three hours, and yet, hearing tales of derring do (of the heart, mind and body) in how people got themselves unstuck created a lovely spirit of recognition and learning and authentic camaraderie in that space. 

Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/narrative with readers, what would it be?

A: We have to do our own inner work with sufficient aerobic exertion that our own hearts are growing and deepening…because the danger in working with narrative is that we run the risk of, as David Whyte says “reenacting ourselves.” Telling stories in organizational settings (for transformation, change, learning, etc) requires some structure and has does have an inner logic — maybe I should say there are “liberating structures” to using narrative……….and knowing those requires practice and mindfulness - and in developing this mastery the risk is that we can become glib or rote - and the power of story - especially in organizational settings, is directly correlated with our ability to be vulnerable. 
So, doing our own inner work is a prerequisite - just as is practice in using of story forms and structure.

Q: Your web site states that the true mark of distinction of your consultancy is “its ability to understand and broker changes at multiple levels, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral in organizations.” To what extent and in what ways do you use storytelling in that process?

A: Stories end up connecting our external experience to our inner sense-making - so, during times of organizational change - which are usually high stress and full of ambiguity with diverse interpretations of what’s happening - stories can provide both opportunities for “norming” the group’s story and, at the same time, expanding the diversity of interpretation of external events - all at the same time.

A: Most of your experience is in nonprofits. What differences do you see in the ways nonprofits and for-profit organizations are or can be using storytelling?

A: Well, in the case of nonprofit organizations that have to raise money, I think there are fierce market forces that require [them] to be pretty good at telling stories that create a compelling vision of a better future……..if the organization can’t tell these kinds of compelling stories it eventually runs into problems raising money, so, I’d say that narrative competence is a basic prerequisite for organizational survival…….
On the other hand, in nonprofit organizations I’ve worked with, seem to have more trouble remembering to use story in-house with boards and staff. Maybe our mindfulness isn’t there, or maybe it’s not as comfortable - story does require a level of vulnerability that may feel riskier with close-in colleagues, rather than telling stories about our work and organizations to funders, donors and the public. 
Or maybe we just don’t spend as much time working on our internal use of story as we do telling stories outside the organization. 
Generally, compared to corporate or governmental organizations, I’d say many NPOs are advantaged when it comes to external storytelling but maybe a little behind in using story internally.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Heather Summerhayes Cariou made a promise to her sister, Pam, that she would tell Pam’s story after she died.


The result was the book, Sixtyfive Roses. The accompanying Web site tells more:

    Heather’s sister Pam was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of four and given only a short time to live. Heather promised to die with her sister, but as Pam fought the limits of her prognosis, she instead taught Heather how to live. “Sixtyfive Roses” is the way Pam pronounced the disease that altered the lives of her siblings and parents, who in turn helped alter the community’s response to the disease by founding the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

How many causes have been advanced, how many diseases have been researched, how many cures are closer to being found, because victims and survivors have told their stories?

A sisterly storytelling similar to Sixtyfive Roses is Nancy G. Brinker’s telling of her sister Susan G. Komen’s story of living and dying with breast cancer, which resulted in more than a billion dollars raised for breast cancer through Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

I think of the famous — Christopher Reeve telling his quadriplegia story to promote spinal-injury research, Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease story raising millions to research that illness — and the less famous like Pam and Susan.

Once again, the power of story generates progress, compassion, and involvement in attacking society’s ills.


Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


I cannot think of Nov. 22 without remembering JFK’s assassination. Nov. 22 means nothing to my husband because he was born in 1960 and has no memory of JFK’s death in 1963 (I imagine President-elect Obama, born in 1961, also has no memory of this day).

But history is full of days like this. Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked (before my time)? Where were you when the Challenger space shuttle blew up? Where were you on 9-11-2001?

And we all have events that might not seem as momentous in the panorama of history but are personally meaningful or shattering. Where were you when John Lennon was murdered? What were you doing when Princess Diana was killed?

Our stories of these events bind us together as a people as we recall the common experience of national and human tragedy. Interestingly, it’s harder to recall stories of events that reflect national joy. Perhaps great Olympic victories that stoke national pride, such as Michael Phelps’ record-breaking 8 gold medals this year? For me, Nov. 4, 2008, provides joyful stories that I will recall for the rest of my life.

What stories do you recall that are prompted by the historical experiences you lived through?

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Wordle to End the Workweek

This week’s word cloug/tag cloud from based on A Storied Career.


Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Ardath’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Q&A with Ardath Albee (Question 7):

Q: Can you talk a bit about how story generates active relationships with customers?

A: People want to have relationships with people “like” them. To generate active relationships, stories must be told from an almost peer-to-peer perspective. That said, the other ingredient is value. Stories must first be relatable and then add value that’s relevant to the person you’re telling the story to.
This is the biggest argument for segmentation and getting to know your customers. People are interested in different aspects of the story based on their relationship to the subject matter. For example, a CIO will have different interests than a VP of Sales. Telling the same story to both of them is not likely to have the impact you want. You’ll either make your story so general it doesn’t interest either of them, or it will focus more heavily on the interests of one or the other.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that to remain relevant your stories must evolve over time. Just as versions of fairytales have been updated to resonate in today’s world, your stories must do so. Changes happen fast, priorities are shuffled with the latest quarterly results, so you must pay attention and continuously adjust and tune your stories to build engagement with existing and potential customers.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Ardath’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, and Part 3.

Q&A with Ardath Albee (Question 6):

Q: How did you discover that story-based marketing tools, such as B2B Website Stories and Email Story Campaigns were effective?

A: Trial and error. What I learned was that the better I knew my audience, the more relevant my stories were for them. I started seeing response rates climb and stay high. And I started seeing more people “raise their hands” to learn more. The best way to monitor online stories is with analytics and watching the ways your stories influence the behavior of your audience in relation to the outcome you wanted.
When I first started using stories for websites and emails, it was like pulling teeth to get companies to give up their staunch focus on products and “feeds and speeds.” (I do a lot of work with technology companies.) Then commoditization happened on a larger scale and companies started learning that their customers could buy a similar product from a number of vendors. They also found that exposing how they add value to their products became an important differentiator. That shift requires an entirely different story.
Companies will adopt stories a bit at a time. The best way I’ve found is to get them to try one campaign, prove the concept and then expand. “Story” is hard to sell because it conjures up memories of the Three Little Bears, Wuthering Heights or a personal anecdote. The fiction writer in me can relate, but essentially story is really about engaging your audience, regardless of format.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Ardath’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A and Part 2.

Q&A with Ardath Albee (Questions 4 and 5):

Q: The culture is abuzz about Web 2.0 and social media. To what extent do you participate in social media (such as through LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Second Life, blogs, etc.)?

A: I participate in LinkedIn, Twitter and write a blog. I also spend time reading other blogs and comment when I can. I’ve met some great people and spent time doing some great brainstorming via email from people I’ve met through my blog and by commenting on others. I answer questions on LinkedIn when I can and browse answers to questions that interest me.

Q: To what extent and in what ways do you feel these venues are storytelling media?

A: I think a lot of blogs are storytelling venues. I also think a lot of them are thinly veiled sales/marketing content vehicles. The difference is in the personal tone and style of the author(s) and their intent/focus for the blog.
When a blog post is written in a way that gives you a glimpse of the person behind it, someone whom you can relate to, the engagement is higher. Whether it’s because they agree or disagree doesn’t matter. Although lots of people try to avoid controversy. I know I’ve written some posts where I took a stand I knew would be in conflict, hit publish, and then worried that I’d upset someone. Turns out that those posts are the most fun and the ones people respond to and talk about on their own blogs.
Best of all, blogs allow people to voice opinions, extend other ideas and express themselves. And, in a world that’s increasingly putting distance between people by becoming more virtual, it’s important to build a new social structure to maintain a level of involvement that helps you feel a part of it.
There are a lot of different ways to tell stories. Every impression you make online tells a story. Whether it’s a picture, an article, a video or the comments made linking to someone else’s “story.” All those interactions become a cumulative representation of your (or your company’s) story.
LinkedIn is a bit harder to define. You can have a profile and never do another thing. Or you can answer questions and search for and add connections at dizzying speeds. The question I have about those who add anyone and everyone to their contact lists is — what’s the value? Is it like being the most popular kid in school, or do you really know and maintain relationships with all those people?
That said, I’ve also met and done business with connections made on LinkedIn. As in all things, I think it’s in how you use them. How you choose to present your profile is currently the biggest story you tell on LinkedIn. How you answer questions is giving that a run for its money, in my opinion. For example - Your profile may look great, but if your extended story is displayed through argumentative answers to questions, without substantiation for your opinions, I’m going to think twice about wanting to do business with you.
Twitter is still up in the air for me. I love the shortness of 140 characters, but I haven’t quite figured out the value of knowing what people are doing all the time.
I also think there’s a lot of storytelling going on in the ways customers review and rate products, like electronics or books. From a B2B perspective, think user/customer forums. You can learn a lot about what resonates and what doesn’t. And, if you look closely, you can learn a lot about the people posting the comments. It’s a great view into how well the story of a company plays with its customers.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Ardath’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A.

Q&A with Ardath Albee (Question 3):

Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?

A: Well, that’s a great question. I think there are a number of influences, but mostly I think the reason is the control people are exercising over selecting what information they spend their time with. There are more choices than ever before, people are busier with limited time, so why would they choose to spend that time on things that don’t meet their needs?
The more personalized and relevant information is to the person presented with it, the more engagement is possible. Storytelling is in our genes. We tell ourselves stories every day to explain the world around us. We like to think we have control over our lives, our circumstances and our choices. The beauty of storytelling is that it allows us to put ourselves into the action. The more we can relate to a situation or character role, the more “real” that situation is to us, and so are the possibilities it offers.
Dry statistics, facts, product features, technical details, etc. don’t mean anything without context. Relevance directly correlates to the background information a person has available as recall. This is why change is so hard. If your audience can’t “picture” the new way, then it’s very hard to embrace. Businesses that can help people visualize the differences their products and solutions will make have a better chance at success.
To my way of thinking, visualization is storytelling.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



What a thrill to present the 15th in my Q&A series with story practitioners, this one with Ardath Albee. I came across Ardath as part of my great interest in using storytelling in marketing (in part because any marketing use of storytelling also relates to marketing oneself in job searches and career.) I found Ardath especially warm and receptive to my blogging about her, her business, Marketing Interactions, and the wonderful ebook, Why Marketing Stories Have Catch, she offers for free download. See her bio below.

Bio of Ardath Albee from her blog: Ardath Albee spent over 15 years servicing the most demanding customers in the world - acting as a turn around specialist in hospitality service businesses, specifically within the resort industry. Ardath knowns that every day and every interaction is all about the customer. All the time. Making sure people are satisfied and happy isn’t always easy. But it’s extremely worthwhile. 6a00d8341c406353ef00e54ff3b75d8833-150wi.jpeg

When she transitioned into the technology industry in 2000, she was fascinated with the disconnects she noticed in B2B companies; specifically how their intentions didn’t always translate well within their marketing actions.

There is a huge disconnect between what companies intend and in their ability to translate those ideas into effective, ongoing, consistent marketing and sales initiatives.

As president of Einsof for more than seven years, she helped companies implement marketing and sales performance software, only to see them under-utilize the tools. Worse yet, companies were often unable to leverage the full capabilities of Einsof’s software because they either didn’t understand how to implement the changes in the status quo required and/or they didn’t devote resources to the content requirements that would best leverage the opportunities the software afforded.

She saw the need for marketing to be implemented as a strategy that reaches across the enterprise. She couldn’t justify the disconnect between marketing and sales. She saw opportunities for tools and approaches that, if used to their full potential, could have a dramatic impact on streamlining sales efforts while capitalizing on business results.

Ardath began to successfully implement her ideas with Einsof customers. Writing the Marketing Interactions blog involved Ardath in substantial customer conversations, deepening her knowledge of what companies can achieve while verifying many of her principles. Read more here.

Q&A with Ardath Albee (Questions 1 and 2):

Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative?

A: I’ve always written stories — since 4th grade English class. I have a degree in English literature and use it every single day for business initiatives. I also write women’s fiction for fun, although I’ve come close to publication and pursue that possibility when time permits.
I initially became involved in verbal business storytelling when I was a turnaround specialist for the hospitality industry. Trust me, hotel guests and country club members could care one wit about your business. They only care about the quality of their experience with it.
When I transitioned to the technology industry in 2000, it was intuitive for me tap those insights to generate content marketing campaigns for software, as well as in building solid customer relationships.

Q: What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?

A: As president of Einsof, I saw our customers buying software to empower online marketing and then be frustrated because they were struggling to get results. It wasn’t the software, it was the content they were putting into it. I began helping them get results by showing them how to refine the way they told their stories and knew that I’d found my professional passion.
I’m absolutely intrigued with the process of involving people in visualizing possibilities. After all, that’s what every company is selling. The more realistically a prospect can engage with a story — envisioning themselves playing a pivotal role — the more likely they are to reach out to that company to get the outcome they can “see.”

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


I’m about to attend Kennedy Information’s Recruiting Conference and Expo, so it’s a good time to revisit my occasional series on employer recruiting and branding through storytelling, especially video storytelling.

Liz Claiborne Inc., is earning kudos for a relatively new new recruiting video, “Runway of Opportunity,” of which blogger Leslie Stevens recently wrote on, “The video features actual employees talking about their jobs and career paths at Liz, but the highlight is a 30-second clip of a mock fashion show where employees listen to a motivational speech by [Liz Claiborne’s chief creative officer and mentor from TV show ‘Project Runway,’ Tim] Gunn and then bound down the runway.”

In other words, employees tell their stories of what it is like to work at Liz Claiborne.

Stevens reportsm that “when Helene Richter, director of talent operations for Liz, set out to create a recruiting video that matched the energy of the company and the fashion creativity pitched to consumers in the company’s clothing ads, she watched a lot of recruiting videos. Her conclusion: ‘They were sometimes humorous, always educational, but mostly boring, and certainly not artful,’ said Richter.”

And, it’s working, according to Stevens: “So far, the video is delivering the goods. … besides energizing applicants, the video has also motivated the company’s employees.”

Hiring is taking a real hit in the current economical crisis, but recruiting is still critical — hence the 400 or so corporate recruiters that will be gathering at the Kennedy Conference tomorrow.

Just as job-seekers need to tell their stories to employers, so, too, do employers need to entice the candidates they want to recruit — by telling the story of what it’s like to work for that organization.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


This week, I blogged about President-elect Obama’s solicitation of stories on his site, and later about Larry Smith’s Top 10 List of User-Generated Storytelling Blogs. six_words_nation.jpg

The next day, I learned of somewhat of a convergence between these two:

SMITH Magazine and the National Constitution Center ask you to help President-elect Obama inspire America.
In six words, give him guidance. Or offer ideas for his inaugural address. Or share six memorable words for January 20th and beyond.
In six words, a President can say a lot: “Malice toward none, charity for all,” “Nothing to fear but fear itself,” “Like a thousand points of light.”
So give your speechwriting a try
Authors of our judges’ six favorite submissions will [word missing here — probably “receive”] a six-word memoir book from SMITH Magazine and a year’s membership to the National Constitution Center.

I’m guessing most of the 6-word submissions won’t be stories (not that it’s impossible to tell a story in six words), but the concept still appeals to me, especially since I was once a speechwriter.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Sharon’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Q&A with Sharon Lippincott (Question 5):

Q: Among storytellers I’m doing Q&As with, you place a much higher importance on writing than most. What aspects of the writing process for telling your life story are most significant and satisfying for you?

A: I love reading eloquent narrative. Occasionally I find a phrase so stunningly vivid that I have to stop and linger over it, feeling the words run through my mind with the fluid grace of warm summer rivulets. I can’t do that when I’m listening to an oral narrative. I’m drawn to the printed page, and though I know eBooks will play an increasingly large role in the future, they will never replace the sensuous feel of paper between my fingers.
But it’s more than that. Writing endures and remains stable. Oral stories are soon forgotten, and even the fragments that persist are morphed over time and countless tellings. I find it richly satisfying to know that I’ve told my story, my way, and nobody can mess with it. In that same vein, I can write a whole story without interruption. When I tell a story, I may be interrupted and sidetracked with questions or comments. Then others are sure to tell one after mine, overwriting listeners’ memory space with new material. Story telling often evolves into a game of one-upsmanship. This is less likely to happen with written stories.
In the final analysis, people must follow their own gifts and inclinations. My father is a master story-teller, and nobody tries to follow his stories. I do better in writing. That’s what I’m called to do, and where my passion lies.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Friday Wordle

This week’s word cloud/tag cloud, created on, from this week’s entries on A Storied Career.


Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


On, Larry Smith of SMITH Magazine published a Guest Top Ten List —Top 10 User-Generated Storytelling Blogs.

In an entry the other day, I ruminated on the question of “What is the Holy Grail of Online Content?” I posited a few ideas suggested by a group of bloggers writing about similar topics around the same time.

Certainly one possibility is “Transmedia Storytelling” (stories being told across platforms) of which an “old” blog friend, Christy Dena said in her comment on the entry: “It is just in the last couple of years that more people have discovered this practice, and to all the newcomers it is now known as ‘transmedia storytelling.” Dena is rightly amused because she has been writing about “Polymorphic Narrative” and “Cross Media Storytelling” since at least 2005.

I’m asserting that user-generated storytelling blogs comprise another nominee for the Holy Grail of online content. What amazes me the most about Smith’s list is that I had not previously heard of any of these storytelling blogs, though I know of many other user-generated storytelling blogs and sites.

Here’s the list — with “About” descriptions of each blog:

  1. Cassette From My Ex: They were into you, so they made you a tape. Today you don’t have a cassette player, but you still can’t toss that mix. We share the stories and the soundtrack to your earliest loves.
  2. FOUND Magazine: We collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles - anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life. Anything goes…
  3. Found.jpg
  4. For Those Who Tried To Rock: For Those Who Tried To Rock… We Salute You … A Where Are They Now? for those who never were, then. This is a sonic history of the American pop band. Our goal is to capture data about every band to have been formed by teens with that perfect mixture of big dreams and questionable talent in suburban garages, high school music rooms, and college dorms across America. And to preserve them cryogenically with the very dry ice they once merited, for future generations. … Send us your story…
  5. Mortified: Hailed a “cultural phenomenon” by Newsweek and celebrated for years by the likes of This American Life, The Today Show, Esquire, The Onion AV Club, Daily Candy, Entertainment Weekly, and E!, Mortified is a comic excavation of the strange and extraordinary things we created as kids. Mortified.jpg Witness adults sharing their own adolescent journals, letters, poems, lyrics, home movies, stories and more. After all, where else can you hear grown men and women confront their past with firsthand tales of their… first kiss, first puff, worst prom, fights with mom, life at bible camp, worst hand job, best mall job, and reasons they deserved to marry Jon Bon Jovi?
  6. Own Your Failure: Barack Obama is right: the Republicans should own the failure of the last 8 years… but we all know the chances of that happening are slim! That leaves a lot of failure left to be claimed. Who wants it?
  7. post_secret_bride.jpg
  8. PostSecret: an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.
  9. postsecret.jpg

  10. The Postcard Project: … the online extension of the forthcoming, limited-edition, letterpress release, Correspondences. postcardproject.jpg The featured story of The Postcard Project, … “What He’s Poised to Do” … requires your participation to be brought fully to life.

  11. To-Do List: TO-DO LIST has been a magazine and a blog. to-dolist.jpg Now it’s a book, To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soulmate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us, a collection of 100 lists and the stories behind them.
  12. True Office Confessions: No “About” section, but pretty self-explanatory.
  13. TrueofficeConfessions
  14. Urbis: … a community of creative people that offers sophisticated tools to help advance creativity and expose it to an audience.

Just for the record, if I were making such a list of user-generated storytelling sites, I would include SMITH Magazine, which list-maker Larry Smith co-founded with Tim Barkow. The magazine is described as a home for storytelling of all forms, with a focus on personal narrative. Smith is also the co-editor of SMITH Mag’s New York Times bestseller, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.

I find The Postcard Project (special props for production values) and Urbis fantastic but probably would not include them because they veer more toward fiction and creative writing (peripheral interests but not the real purview of A Storied Career).

Finally, I’d like to think our president-elect’s Web people would heed the way user-generated storytelling sites/blogs are supposed to work. Contrary to what I reported in yesterday’s entry about the way works, the blogs listed above work the way they are supposed to — users generate their stories, then see them published, and see the stories of others.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Sharon's bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, and Part 3.

Q&A with Sharon Lippincott (Question 4):

Q: What inspired you to want to guide other people in crafting lifewriting and generously offering so many tips to lifewriters (and co-founding the Life Writers Forum Yahoo group) -- "helping others discover how to find and express their unique stories?" Did you have someone who similarly mentored you?

A: My professional career was in training and staff development coaching. During that time I wrote a book about how to conduct more effective meetings, and had dozens of articles published. Writing was my favorite part of my career. When I retired, I began writing about my early life for my grandchildren and fell in love with lifestory writing. I began teaching workshops on the topic as a way to keep my own writing flowing and my skills growing.
I've learned most of what I know, whether it's about writing, using computers, or anything else, from reading, trying things out and hanging out with other people doing those things. In my mind, knowledge is like air, and should be as freely available as air. I teach because I love to teach, but also because I always learn more than my students each time I go to class.
Jerry Waxler and I founded the Life Writers Forum because we love the energy of group interaction and the only firmly established national organization for life writers adamantly refuses to admit male members. I find that the constant influx of new ideas and questions keeps me on my toes, continually advancing the boundaries of my own thinking, and pushing me to take further steps in developing my skills and broadening my interests.
One of my mentors in my graduate course in counseling psychology constantly urged me to focus on writing, claiming I had a gift for it. He's the one who kindled my interest and and got me started, though I suspected that part of the reason he encouraged my writing was his recognition that I was ill-suited for a career in the field I was training for. (That turned out to be true.) Since then, my writing mentors have resided between the covers of their books.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Sharon’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A and Part 2.

Q&A with Sharon Lippincott (Question 3):

Q: What future trends or directions do you foresee for story/storytelling/narrative? What’s next for the discipline?What future aspirations do you personally have for your own story work? What would you like to do in the story world that you haven’t yet done?

A: Until recently, most of the impetus I’m aware of was focused on writing. But the desire to leave a legacy of life stories is often most urgent in people who are unable for one reason or another to write. The growing availability of digital recording equipment and camcorders is opening the option of audio/visual legacies, instead of writing, or as a supplement to writing. This form of “story catching” is becoming especially prevalent in nursing homes, hospices, and other late-life facilities. I am eager to continue exploring these multi-media avenues as an adjunct to writing.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


I’m impressed that president-elect Obama has created, a site that seems to invite participation in Obama’s transition and presidency. ObamaStories.jpg

Even more impressive is that the site seeks stories (and even photos and videos!) from the electorate “about what this campaign and this election means to you.” This is not your father’s presidency.

I uploaded my story — with a photo.

But with most sites that feature user-generated content, you would instantly see your story among everyone else’s. Where did my story go? It just seemed to disappear into the ether, and who knows if I’ll ever see it again or get to read the stories of others.

Great idea, Mr. President-Elect. But please take it to the next level.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Sharon’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A.

Q&A with Sharon Lippincott (Question 2):

Q: How important is it to you and your work to function within the framework of a particular definition of “story?” (i.e., What is a story?) What definition do you espouse?

A: Beyond reminding people that stories have a beginning, middle and end, and that they will be easier for strangers to understand if they answer the “Five F questions: who, what, why, when and where,” I don’t espouse any particular definition of story or story form. I encourage people to write in any way that feels natural and spontaneous to them. There is no wrong way to write, and prescribing forms and styles will stifle more people than it will help. Some few will aspire to more polish. That’s great too. There are many fine books, my own included, to help those who want guidance.
I often use the example of one of my grandmothers who wrote her autobiography when she was about seventy. It is short, and consists of disjointed paragraphs that often raise more questions than they answer. She commits nearly every blunder a lifestory writer could imagine. She comes across as a nut case. But … she took the time to do this, and I treasure every word.
My mother began writing her lifestory, but was unable to finish before the end of her life. She didn’t tell anyone about this, and we only found her drafts after her death. What a treasure! I compiled what she had written, editing only to fix typos and correct documented factual errors. The story of her girlhood will live on for generations.
Thus my constant admonition, “Any lifestory you write, no matter how crude and unfinished, is better than writing nothing.”
To date, my personal preference has been for writing short vignettes about specific memories. I now have over five hundred of these vignettes and am feeling the urge to begin compiling selected ones into more coherent memoir format.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Not too long ago (although I have been percolating this posting for longer than I care to admit), Reuben Steiger wrote a blog entry asking, Has the Internet Failed as a Storytelling Medium?

Steiger was trying to hire a creative director, but found that many of his candidates had “gaping holes when it comes to creating compelling narratives as opposed to beautiful websites or effective campaigns.”

Steiger then ruminated a bit on the definition of “story” and asserted that the Internet has failed to create them. He went on:

… until the net proves itself able to attract a large audience to great content built expressly for the web, advertisers will continue to be difficult to bring aboard to underwrite that content.
So where are we now? We’re at a fascinating point in history where a bold group of content creators, advertisers and digital artists are seeking the Holy Grail of online content: the ability to fund and create large-scale stories that attract and engage large audiences.

Thus, Steiger’s definition of the Holy Grail of online content. But he and others writing around the same time have different ideas on exactly what form that Holy Grail should take. Some questions arise:

  • Does the Holy Grail of online content need to be some entirely new form, as yet unimagined — or at least a form that isn’t simply a case of taking some other kind of content and putting it online?
  • Is the Holy Grail “transmedia” (see more below)?
  • Is it distributive storytelling/narrative, distributed conversation/discussion?
  • Is it “narrative as experience,” as in branding?

Steiger and others think “Transmedia Content” may be one road to the Holy Grail. He defines transmedia storytelling as “stories that are told across a broad array of media.” He offers as an example the TV show Heroes, “which in addition to its TV broadcast,” Steiger writes, “has created as many as 200 websites, most of which allow heavy fan participation and collectively reveal and advance storylines that may not appear in broadcast.

Susan Bonds, president and CEO of 42 Entertainment, and Alex Lieu, the firm’s chief creative officer of the Pasadena, CA-based marketing and entertainment firm, also talked about Transmedia Storytelling in an interview on

Citing examples of Transmedia Storytelling in 42 Entertainment’s campaigns for Nine Inch Nails, Toyota, Microsoft, and the Batman film The Dark Knight, asked Bonds and Liu about their work. A sample: How is your creative process different than the traditional advertising approach?
Alex Lieu: We always start by observing what people are doing new on the web and then we take that and think of how to build a compelling connection through stories.

Bonds says they call their form “distributive storytelling or narrative.”

Lieu notes that when users “piece a story together the depth of engagement is phenomenal. We build the audience into the content. They own it.”

Simon Kelly, writing in ADWEEK, talks about the Holy Grail in terms of branding, but seems to agree with Steiger that content is not living up to its potential. In (Author)ity: The Importance of Storytelling, he writes:

I may not be introducing a new idea here, but in today’s post-advertising world, where interruption is dead, the only way brands can connect with consumers is through useful, relevant and entertaining content — in other words, storytelling. Marketers and advertisers are beginning to get this; the problem is they’re not practicing what they preach.

Kelly cites AVENUE A | RAZORFISH’s Digital Outlook Report:

Narrative is the experience. As the Web becomes the preferred destination for brand exploration, digital experiences must become richer, deeper, and more able to tell compelling stories. If your brand experience depends entirely on pages and clicks, it’s time to wonder, ‘What is my story?’

Kelly asserts that most brands haven’t reached that Holy Grail in which narrative is the experience, but he mentions a few he feels are close: petcharts.jpg

  •, which Kelly describes as “Purina’s brilliant new content play,” in which “Purina hits the ground running with a great story platform — connecting pets and their owners.”
  •, which Kelly says “has brilliantly used erotic narratives to establish its brand from inception, and it clearly has an authority to publish steamy stories.”
  • Toyota, “with its new serial based on a fictional assistant fashion designer, Bianca Turner.”

I didn’t look too closely, but for storytelling I don’t think holds a candle to or the Toyota one.

Writing in Post Advertising, “Gigi” agrees that brands and marketers aren’t there yet. In The Difference Between ‘Storytelling’ and ‘Telling Stories’, she says:

Agency-types carelessly throwing around the buzzword “storytelling” and pretend that what they’re doing for their clients’ brands. But, rather than storytelling, they’re simply “telling stories.” There’s a big difference…The way I see it, storytelling involves the actual telling of a brand or product’s story; offering a legitimate storyline that falls in line with topics the brand can discuss with authority. By doing this, consumers are given the opportunity to find out more about the brand’s, well, story.

Perhaps marketers have not achieved the Holy Grail of online content. But I think perhaps we actually are there. I think Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine believe we have. If you follow storytelling or even social media, you know what I’m talking about. To be continued in a few days …

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



I’m proud to present the 14th Q&A in my series of interviews with storytelling practitioners. I came across Sharon Lippincott’s blog and her book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, as a result of my interest in the connection between storytelling and journaling/lifestory writing. I’ve gotten to know her just a bit better since she founded (with Jerry Waxler) and I joined a Yahoo discussion group, Lifewriters Forum. I’m presenting her Q&A over five days.

Sharon 9-12-03  450x630.jpg In her blog, also called The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, Sharon says of herself: “I’m an observer and interpreter of the life experience and author of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing and The Albuquerque Years. My passion is writing lifestories and memoir and helping others discover how to find and express their unique stories.” Learn more about her on her Web site.

Q&A with Sharon Lippincott (Question 1):

Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?

A: Several years ago I heard someone on NPR describe “The Confetti Generation.” He explained with increasing diversity in our culture, over one hundred television stations to choose from, the Internet to take you anywhere in the world, and similar factors, society was becoming fragmented, without much cultural cohesion. Connections between people were breaking down and their souls were suffering. I think people are hungry to rebuild this sense of connection, and we are doing this through the medium of stories, whether oral or written.
My specialty is written stories. Computer technology seems to be the primary force in this current explosion of life writing. Few people would bother writing more than a few pages if they didn’t have computers on their desks to make it easy to edit, compile, print, and share with an unlimited audience. Print-on-demand publishing has made it feasible to create bound books for about the same cost as photocopies. Technology is empowering people to realize dreams they wouldn’t have had in the past.
Coupled with that, interest in genealogy has skyrocketed as people are now able to sit at their desk and search archives the world over, connecting with other researchers, sharing scans, and making contact with relatives they never knew they had. The realization that most ancestors have been reduced to nothing more than names on sketchy public records is sobering, and motivates many to take steps to ensure their descendants will know something about the person who bore that name.
Some are writing about the past in the hopes that a way of life will be encased in a written time capsule of sorts, In little more than one hundred years, our nation has gone from horse-powered transportation to space probes. I want my descendants to know what life was like in the mid-twentieth century, and about changes that have occurred over the course of my life. I suspect that some drastic changes lie ahead rather soon, and I want them to know how those changes impacted me and people I know.
Finally, many are discovering that writing about their past brings richer meaning to it. They savor the good times and in retrospect, often find hidden blessings in the darker moments.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Over the last five days, corporate-video storyteller Tom Clifford has shared himself through a Q&A interview.

Now he’s offering an awesome no-cost, three-piece Corporate Video Storytelling Toolkit:


It is about discovering the power of story. It’s a series of three eBooks (yes, they’re free) that will inspire you to think differently about telling your story through video. By raising your awareness of what’s possible, you can make the right choices to the heart of your story.

The three pieces (in the form of eBooks):

  • Guide #1. ContentWise: Corporate Video 101
  • Guide #2. Ask(?)Way: Take Your Brand from Commodity to Community
  • Guide #3. ChangeThis Manifesto: Bring Your Brand to Life! Harnessing the Power of Remarkable Corporate Video Stories

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Tom’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Q&A with Tom Clifford (Question 5):

Q: Many practitioners agree with the idea that corporations need to tell their stories, but not that many of them are doing it with video. In your view, why is video important to the equation? Are you seeing other uses of storytelling in video that excite you?

A: Here are five reasons why it’s important an organization tell their story in video. Video stories can:

  1. Strengthen your brand. “Who are you?”
  2. Create emotional connections. “Why should I care about your company?”
  3. Share culture and values. “Is what’s important to me important to you?”
  4. Change perceptions. “Really? I didn’t know that.”
  5. Inspire change. “You mean I can make a difference?”

What other uses of video storytelling excite me? I honestly haven’t seen much because I don’t have the time to surf around and see who is doing what with video.

I do enjoy the Hitachi True Stories that came out recently. The stories are captured really interesting ways without being overtly commercial.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Tom’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, and Part 3

Q&A with Tom Clifford (Question 4):

Q: You’ve written recently about “responsible corporate video storytelling.” Why is that important, and how does storytelling fit in?

A: It’s important simply because we have limited resources.
Wasting limiting resources like time and money on video stories that don’t enlighten, inspire or simply help someone on their journey is not acting responsibly.
Storytelling fits into this framework because we have a choice when it comes time to produce a video.
We can choose to produce a story that enlightens, uplifts, educates, inspires and points to a deeper truth within each of us.
Or we can choose the opposite.
I believe a company’s story is simply a reflection of each person’s story. It’s a collective story of individual stories. As such, these stories need to be handled with care, respect and integrity.
Irresponsible video storytelling is a disservice to everyone.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Election Week Wordle

This week’s word cloud/tag cloud based on A Storied Career from

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


An enduring tradition in the job-seeker/employer world is the story of either the bizarre/bad interviewee or the bizarre/bad interviewer.

Here’s a close cousin — the bad/bizarre hire.

At (you may need to be a member to see this site), KeenHire is running a Hiring Horror Story Contest. Having collected stories at recent recruiting conferences and culled stories down to 5 finalists (two of which involve scatology/bathroom humor), KeenHire is asking visitors to vote for their favorites. I believe the one below is mine:

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Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Tom’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A and Part 2.

Q&A with Tom Clifford (Question 3):

Q: How important is it to you and your work to function within the framework of a particular definition of “story?” (i.e., What is a story?) What definition do you espouse?

A: As a filmmaker, my definition of story is different from many others.
I think story is a journey that takes a person from “here” to “there.”
My work involves capturing a “story” as authentically, emotionally and as honestly as possible.
I have several ways of looking at “story.”
First, “story,” as I see it, is a point of view; it is a particular way of looking at life.
Second, “story” can be seen as a person narrating a sequence of events; first this happened, then that happened, etc.
Lastly, I see “story” as emotional connections one may have with someone else, a group of people or even a company.
If were ultimately to define “story” as a formula it would be this…
Story = Brand.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See Tom’s bio, photo, and Part 1 of this Q&A.

Q: What people or entities have been most influential to you in your story work and why?

A: I have been blessed with so many remarkable people who have shaped my life.
Here’s a short list of the most influential people who helped me open my eyes and discover new dimensions in my mind, heart and soul. All these remarkable people have influenced my story work by the very nature of who they are.
How did they influence me? They taught me to question. Question reality, my purpose, my work, my legacy. They taught me to push and not settle for “good” or “average.” For that, I am thankful.
  • Ira Glass
  • Ira_Glass.jpg
    Ira is a magical storyteller. Pure genius. Ira hosts This American Life on NPR. In addition, This American Life on Showtime continues Ira’s storytelling format for television with short “slice of life” stories from around America. Believe me, the stories Ira discovers and captures are extraordinary.
    His ability to ask questions that few dare to ask is what inspires me most about his work. Sometimes I’ll watch his DVD before I film an upcoming interview to remind myself how powerful great questions can be in getting to the heart of a story.
  • Seth Godin
  • From the time I read Seth’s first book, All Marketers Are Liars, I was instantly hooked!
    I’ve read every single book from Seth because he’s like a modern day Columbus; he discovers AND creates new territory before almost anyone else. Seth’s marketing/business background often crosses over into the psychology of why we do what we do. Seth presents different angles into how life works so few others are capable of doing.
  • Errol Morris
  • Errol is my favorite filmmaker. Period.
    Errol Morris is the Oscar-winning director of “The Fog of War.”
    Like Ira Glass, his inquisitive nature is apparent when he interviews his people. Sometimes we hear his questions off-mic while the camera is rolling.
    The camera zooms in capturing a close-up of the person; sometimes thinking, sometimes laughing, sometimes confused.
    I enjoy Morris’s inquisitiveness into the nature of the people he films.
  • Michael Moore
  • Michael_Moore.jpg
    I love Michael’s ability to take a simple point, sometimes an abstract idea or concept, and capture it on film in a scene that allows us to “get it” immediately. I think he’s a master at metaphorical storytelling. To me, that’s his greatest gift as a director.
  • Ben Wren
  • My world totally flipped when I met Fr. Ben Wren at Loyola University in New Orleans, LA.
    A Zen Master? A Jesuit priest? At the same time? Is that even possible? Indeed, it is!
    Not only that, Ben taught several classes in Zen. Of course, I took every Zen class and from that time in 1977 till now, meditation has become my daily foundation.
    Ben quickly became a friend I could count on at any time of day for anything.
    While studying under Ben, Eastern philosophy and spirituality absorbed every spare minute I had.
    I practiced Zen meditation, kundalini and hatha yoga, tai chi. I read Alan Watts, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita. I couldn’t read enough of these ancient teachings.
    My soul was happy. I was being filled with experiences I always longed for but didn’t know where to look. These disciplines pointed to realities beyond our everyday senses. These teachings began answering the many questions I had about the deeper underlying truths about the nature of reality.
    Ben was the first person to open my eyes and mind and show me there’s more to life that what we see in front of us. He passed away in 2006 from lung cancer.
    While at Loyola, Ben pointed me to Bede Griffiths, the next most influential person in my life.
  • Swami Dayananda (Bede Griffiths)
  • I first met Bede in 1979 while in New Orleans. It was Bede’s first visit to America from India. This was my introduction to Hinduism, the Upanishads and the Vedas. I finally felt at home.
    Bede Griffiths was a Hindu-Christian sannyasi; a monk, a holy man.
    Bede left England while still young and spent most of his life in southern India. While there, he headed up an ashram; the East’s version of a monastery, welcoming everyone of all faiths. The ashram is still very popular to this day.
    I was immediately attracted to Bede. If you’ve never been in the presence of a saint, it’s extremely hard to put in words. It’s life changing.
    Since Bede’s first visit to America, I had the good fortune to see him many times after that when he returned to the States. My days were spent listening to his teachings, meditating with a community and exploring new ideas. I can’t imagine my life without having met Bede.
    Bede passed away in 1993 but his holistic teachings are close to my heart.
  • Deepak Chopra
  • If you want to see a current master storyteller, look no further. For me, it is Deepak Chopra. I can’t think of a contemporary teacher who pushes, challenges and integrates cutting-edge concepts for the lay person to easily access any more than Deepak.
    A great storyteller will grab your full attention without you even noticing it. Weaving poems from Rumi, quantum physics, science and breakthrough medical findings into his seminars, Deepak can hold your attention for hours at a time. And you never look at your watch.
    I have spent many days in Deepak’s presence and can tell you this with full certainty; every time I see him, I’m more impressed. He answers everybody’s questions. He spends time with those needing it.
    I start seeing the inter-connectedness of life when I read Deepak’s words and attend his seminars. I’m whole again. I’m reminded of my purpose in life.
  • My parents

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


It’s a great treat to present the 13th in my series of Q&A interviews with story practitioners. I came across Tom Clifford in the blogosphere, and we’ve become good social-media pals since. Tom’s Q&A will be in five parts, with one question and answer each day this week.

About Tom, from his Web site (where there are lots of links to more info about him, including his “One Sheet”): Tom is an award-winning filmmaker and he thinks “remarkable organizations deserve remarkable videos.”

For 23 years, Tom has been helping companies tell their story by producing award-winning remarkable documentary videos.

He finds out what matters most to organizations — what they want their market and the world to know about them. Tom headshot white bknd small.jpg

That’s why companies from Fortune 500’s to non-profits use his films for marketing, recruiting and retention, sharing corporate values and more.

From CEO’s to the front-line, Tom makes people feel comfortable being in front of the camera.

Q&A with Tom Clifford

Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?

A: I become involved in storytelling through rock n roll.
Ever since the British Invasion days of 1964, music captured my imagination like nothing else; the lyrics, the rhythm, the cadence all combined to create endless stories in my mind.
One day I found a guitar in the house when I was a kid. I picked it up and taught myself how to play. I eventually took lessons, then studied classical guitar; all while playing Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf and Grand Funk Railroad on weekends throughout much of junior high and high school and into college.
My grand plan? To become a famous rock n roller; the same as everyone else at that time! Those plans were short-lived as my band learned that our performance before a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert were cancelled at the last minute.
I graduated from high school. I came home one day in the summer and found a college brochure on the kitchen counter. It just happened to be open on the pages with photographs of a television studio. I instantly jumped! This was it!
What attracted me to the video/film world was the ability to capture and tell a story and have an audience go, “Wow!” I was hooked.
I loved combining sight and sound to emotionally move someone into action with an interesting story. In many ways, it reminded me of playing live on a Saturday night with my band. Watching your audience, through music or storytelling, is thrilling.
I’m fortunate. 25 years ago, I found my passion. I found my voice. It is to enable the voices of others through video stories. I found my calling early in life. I never had another job.
This is what I was born to do.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Today is Job Action Day, and the Quintessential Careers family of sites and blogs has united to encourage readers to take at least one proactive step to shore up their jobs or careers in the face of the current economic crisis. A Storied Career today brings you the story of Nikki Maxwell, who, though in a precarious economic position, is applying pluck, optimism, and creativity to her next steps:

Three years ago, I left my stable job to become a consultant (in the nonprofit sector), expand my earning potential and have a more flexible lifestyle conducive to being a Mama. My husband’s prospects as a freelance video game writer were bright, and it seemed like a good time to make a leap of faith.

Yeah. good times. JobActionDay1d.jpg The lanscape has been shifting over the last three years. Like a moving target. My husband’s prospects dried up, and I lost one of my two major contracts right away after I quit the j-o-b. Wah.

He is now employed through January, and that’s all we know. I was laid off my second contract this fall.

For the first time since I remember, I do not have a paycheck. My middle-class work hard and do-good ethics are not bearing fruit. Yikes.

Here’s the thing though — when times are tough, people get creative. There is no safe bet for me. I can’t go backwards to where I was before, and I’m not really sure what the future holds for me. It’s not a good time to try and be a freelance consultant in the nonprofit world. Nobody has money to pay me upfront, and I don’t want to work on commissions.

Right now, I am in the process of designing a plan as best I can to try and weather the current economic mess, find a way to stay in LA to keep the dream alive and to feed my family.

I’ve decided to try some other markets to find an anchor position I can do from home since that’s my main objective and I don’t want to lose ground on the progress I have made getting out of an office.

I like my lifestyle being flexible, but not laid-off flexible!

Part of what I am finding is the energy to dig deep and connect with who I am. I have always made safe, good choices with my career. Now, there really are not any of those around. That means I have to get creative and think out of the box. I am finding my voice and my passion again.

I am connecting with people and ideas with the intention that by reaching out I will find opportunity.

I have until January to get it worked out.

Good times.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Stories of Joyful Joblessness

Barbara Winter tells an envy-provoking story of becoming a “gypsy teacher and seminar leader.” She always wanted to travel, doubted her career choice, and was bored in her early jobs. So …. she became Joyfully Jobless: joyfullyjobless2.jpg

I was afraid something was terribly wrong with me, that I might be a perpetual malcontent. What I know now is that a bigger dream was trying to be born—a dream of a creative, passion-filled business.
What I didn’t anticipate was that becoming Joyfully Jobless was a passport to the adventurous life of my childhood dreams. As a gypsy teacher and seminar leader, I’ve acquired more than a million miles of travel on a single airline. My business has led me to wonderful cities and towns in the US, Canada and Europe where I’ve met fascinating people I never would have known had I stayed home. My world continues to get bigger every day.

To guide others to live the Joyfully Jobless life, Winter wrote a book, Making a Living Without a Job. Winter, who calls herself “a passionate storyteller her entire life,” says “she would rather read a great story than an instructional manual any day.” blogs stories of and thoughts about her Joyfully Jobless life at Buon Viaggio. joyfullyjobless.jpg

And one of the workshops she leads is called Compelling Storytelling!, about which she writes: “What if you could make your message so memorable that people would want to hear what you have to say? What if you learned to approach marketing from a storyteller’s perspective?”

At her main Joyfully Jobless site, she collects stories from others who are Joyfully Jobless.

I remain conflicted about whether I’m joyfully jobless (see my entry on my “retirement” story). I know I’m joyful and have great freedom to plan my time. I’m just not sure if I’m jobless or not. I work (hard) and get paid for it. I’m just not sure if it counts as a job.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


The Web's Secret Stories

I’ve been super-swamped this last week and feel like I haven’t given my best to my blog entries, but I have vowed to blog every day. I won’t say enough or as much as I want to about this one, but at least I am sharing.

This TED talk features the amazing Jonathan Harris, creator of the remarkable blend of storytelling and online technology, The Whale Hunt, talking about some of his other storytelling projects, which are equally technologically amazing.

But are they storytelling? Is technology changing our definitions of storytelling? Is it even important to define storytelling? All valid questions, as are some that commenters raise at the site of Harris’s talk.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


A Storied Career

A Storied Career explores intersections/synthesis among various forms of
Applied Storytelling:
  • journaling
  • blogging
  • organizational storytelling
  • storytelling for identity construction
  • storytelling in social media
  • storytelling for job search and career advancement.
  • ... and more.
A Storied Career's scope is intended to appeal to folks fascinated by all sorts of traditional and postmodern uses of storytelling. Read more ...
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Dr. Kathy Hansen

Kathy Hansen, PhD, is a leading proponent of deploying storytelling for career advancement. She is an author and instructor, in addition to being a career guru. More...


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The following are sections of A Storied Career where I maintain regularly updated running lists of various items of interest to followers of storytelling:


Links below are to Q&A interviews with story practitioners.

The pages below relate to learning from my PhD program focusing on a specific storytelling seminar in 2005. These are not updated but still may be of interest:

October 2012

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