Bill Gibeault Q and A
When I came across Bill Gibeault, I was quite intrigued by his status as one of the first 10 people in the nation to be certified in the theories and models of The Experience Economy.
Bio: Bill Gibeault is a founding partner of Story Mavericks, a corporate communications firm specializing in customer experience design and video storytelling, located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Beginning in 2004, he led a major company initiative to transform the 20-year content-development enterprise into an experience design and consulting firm. The expanded offerings include guiding organizations in staging captivating experiences for customers and employees.
In October 2006, Bill became one of the first 10 people in the nation to be certified in the theories and models of The Experience Economy, through formal training, from the internationally recognized leaders in the field, Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore. Their best selling book, The Experience Economy — Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage is recognized as groundbreaking work on the important role customer experiences are playing in helping businesses develop sustainable differentiation.
Bill has taken his 20 years of media-production and business-management expertise and combined the latest thinking about experience staging to design an industry-first methodology, for creating business communications. The models and frameworks of experiences, authenticity, and storytelling are critical elements to this new storytelling process. Since founding his video production company in 1987, he has written and produced a variety of stories including biographies, documentaries, corporate training and marketing, websites, special events and meetings.
Bill also has 15 years of corporate sales management experience with National Food Manufacturer Hunt Wesson Foods and ConAgra Inc. He brings a real-world perspective of the business environment having been responsible for training, recruiting, marketing, and sales.
Bill resides in Saratoga Springs, New York, a community he supports both personally and professionally with volunteer efforts. He has been a member of The Saratoga Springs Lions Club for over 13 years and one of its board members for 12 years and is president elect for 2013. He is also a graduate of Leadership Saratoga, a nine-month leadership program to develop community leaders.
He holds a Bachelors of Science degree in history and Master of Science degree in guidance and counseling from Central Connecticut State University.
Bill’s thinking, observations, and learning articles on experiences and storytelling can be found on his two-year-old Rock Your Customers blog.
Q&A with Bill Gibeault:
Q: You are one of the first Experience Economy Certified professional in the country. To what extent would you agree that Experience = Story? Can you talk a bit about what this certification means ?
A: My role as a video producer/storyteller led me to a seven-year (and counting) journey on customer experiences. It began in 2004, when we (Story Mavericks) redefined the essence of our video storytelling work as, “Creating Experiences‚” that touch hearts and reach minds. An Internet search on experiences and business led me to a book called The Experience Economy. So began a really exciting journey attempting to connect the dots between the Storytelling discipline and customer experiences. So yes I do agree that Experience = Story.The more I studied experiences and experience design, the more I realized the intrinsic connection to stories and the art of storytelling. If as Pine and Gilmore, authors of The Experience Economy (1999)‚ say “The Experience is the Marketing,” then “The Story is The Experience.” The world-famous guru of storytelling, filmmaker, producer, writer, teacher and author, Robert McKee (pictured), states‚ “Stories are metaphors for life.” Life is a journey of experience-ING.Let’s examine a few key attributes of stories and experiences. You could easily substitute either in each sentence:If you hear, read or see a good story you are engaged. A great story captivates you. So does a great experience. Its key attribute is it engages you in a personal way. (It becomes your story deep within you). The key nature of an experience is that it is memorable. Both experiences and stories have a structure, beginning, middle, and end, include the element of surprise, and engage the senses.The Experience Economy Certification Program is an offering from Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore of Strategic Horizons. The course is based on content in their groundbreaking book. Pine and Gilmore are recognized as the two minds who identified and discovered, the progression from a service economy to The Experience Economy, one where experiences are a new form of economic value and business differentiation.The certification experience credentialized me as an officially endorsed expert in Pine and Gilmore’s portfolio of Experience Economy frameworks, ideation tools and methods. Detailed instruction provided in-depth coverage of Experience Economy principles and models, training, and practice in creative experience facilitation techniques, and approaches for effectively sharing these ideas with others. The focus of the program was developing knowledge and skills necessary for creating compelling experiences. In short it gave me a great foundation, creating a powerful “Trainer Toolbox,” to help clients understand the whys‚ whats, hows of staging compelling customer experiences.Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/ narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?A: My first involvement in storytelling, beyond some real amateur acting gigs in high school and college, was a corporate video I produced for a divisional sales meeting, during my tenure in The Food Industry. The meeting kicked off the company’s (Hunt-Wesson Foods) major annual sales contest and consumer promotion. The video was part of a group of presentations by all the sales districts, the presentations themselves being a highly competitive contest. It was a big hit with the audience as it included high-energy music videos, mixed with on-camera interviews of our sales team. The video presentation also starred a huge German shepherd police dog named King, and had a high-energy theme called “Keep Pushing.”I don’t want to date myself, but in 1986, video production was not the mainstream communication tool it is today. Back then PowerPoint software was still four years away! To witness the audience engagement and enthusiasm was personally satisfying and gratifying. It was really a rush emotionally. This first corporate video also planted the seeds for starting a video-production company one year later.As I look back on our 25 years of video storytelling, what I love most is the challenge to touch a heart and reach a mind with our work, and the privilege to explore our customer’s life experiences-both their trials and triumphs. I also love the opportunity to learn about many different people, places, and things that I might not have been exposed to, because of our profession. One day we might be on a bridge in Boston, video-taping the installation of a new engineering innovation, and the same week interviewing the mother of a young boy who’s sight was saved by The Lions Eye Institute. It keeps me fresh being exposed to a variety of people, industries and not for profits.We’ve been fortunate through the years to witness first hand the impact of our stories on audiences. It really is extremely satisfying to engage people, connect people and even inspire people with storytelling. Making a difference with my work, however small, matters to me.Q: What are some of the advantages of your storytelling medium — video?A: Video fits better with peoples’ demand for experiences.Video has been a favorite method to consume information for quite some time. Just think about the growth of broadcast TV and the amount of time people spend in front of the television. It is still Americans’ favorite pastime as we watch more than 4.5 hours per day according to Neilsen Inc. Broadcast television now has some company, or should I say some competition, namely online video, which has exploded during the last few years and continues to set new records of consumption each month. According to ComScore, during the month of April 2012, 84 percent of US. online audience watched an average of 21.8 hours of video. The consumption growth, while certainly impacted by improved video technology, was also driven by the fact that video is more engaging than words or simple photos.No doubt, we are entering a new age where learning and continued education is essential. Learning theory and studies continue to confirm that video is the most effective medium for education. The average person retains 10 percent of what he/she reads, 20 percent of what is heard, 30 percent of what he/she sees, and 50 percent of what he/she sees and hears.The most significant advantage for the use of video is that video storytelling, which includes sound, is the most emotionally engaging medium. From a business standpoint, continued research in the Neuroscience field, points very clearly to the fact that emotions account for more than 50 percent of all buying decisions and 50+ percent of the overall customer experience.
Q: How is your methodology for getting at a business backstory more powerful than other similar methodologies?
A: I think our methodology to really “get to the heart” of a company’s backstory, is unique, as we combine the latest thinking and frameworks of experience design, authenticity, and storytelling, as a foundation to take a deep dive into a company’s heritage.Our story-development methodology also reflects learning and thinking, from our own real world experiences, in the trenches of corporate sales, management and training, video storytelling, experience design and most recently social media.The goal is always to make the storytelling process an engaging experience for customers, by intentionally customizing the process for each customer, to make their time spent with us more personal and meaningful. The challenge with every project we engage in is to get our customers emotionally engaged. When we meet this challenge, the customer has a greater sense of ownership, which results in a more powerful authentic story.It is clear that authenticity has become a new consumer sensibility today. To be perceived as authentic (“Is What it Says” and “True to Self”) a company needs to understand its backstory — its heritage, including the WHY of how they got there.In simple terms, a backstory is how a company became what it is today. Your backstory is connected to your heritage, sense of purpose as a business, and your values — the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your business. We refer to it as your heart and soul. Our Story-ING process encourages and fosters, a courageous and honest journey of discovery and learning for our customers. It’s not about fancy words and mission statements or slickly edited videos, but finding REAL stories that demonstrate the true essence and identity of a business.
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 people right now?
A: Throughout history people have always loved telling stories. We are just wired that way. Maybe Steve Denning says it best, “We are like fish swimming in a sea of narratives.”Yet until recently, when we entered the business world, we discarded our storytelling hats, reached for our calculators, PowerPoint slides, and other left brain (rational) tools of persuasion.What has changed? Why now?In a word it’s called the Internet, many say, the greatest invention of mankind. It has resulted in the globalization of people, goods and ideas, and a virtually connected world population. It has changed how we view the world and ourselves. It has also made our lives much more complicated. While technology has enabled globalization and virtual connection, it has not necessarily brought with it a deeper emotional connection to other people, that we all desire and ultimately need to be truly happy. That emotional connection cannot be made by intelligence and data from a computer. After all you can’t hug a computer. Storytelling can help make technology more human.From a business perspective, the rules of the game have changed. I think Tom Peters in describing business today as “A brawl with no rules” hits the mark.The Web and the continued development of technology have commoditized most goods and services. Business leaders agree that the new business differentiator is the customer experience. The torrid never-ending development of technology, has led to a dramatically changed and empowered consumer, and yes, a revolution that encompasses our society-how we live and work, including how we communicate and share our life’s experiences. Information, like most products and services is also commoditized. You can find any information you want by doing a web search and in many cases it’s free and available 24-7. Most of us are overloaded with information and immune to marketing spin and hype.So what does this have to do with the explosion of storytelling?The explosive growth of the storytelling movement reflects the fact that people want more than just goods and services from businesses. They want experiences that engage them in a personal way, give their life more meaning, connect them on a deeper level with people and communities, and validate their sense of self-worth and identity. Ration and logic do not connect people emotionally or rock us viscerally. When is the last time a PowerPoint presentation or boring Website influenced a buying decision or inspired you to do something BIG? — inspired you to be GREAT?With the emergence of “The Experience Economy,” storytelling takes center stage in business. Storytelling is a powerful way to share our experiences, understand and connect with each other. “It’s the currency of human contact.” From a business standpoint, storytelling is a strategy that addresses revolutionary changes in how we communicate.
Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/ narrative with readers, what would it be?A: The absolute one piece of advice that I would share with all readers is to be honest and authentic in your storytelling/narrative initiatives. Our society today, is frustrated and angry at being lied to or misled by the leadership of our major social institutions (business/education/government/charity/church). The most obvious of these are the behavior of many business leaders and politicians. Trust and credibility in these institutions are at an all=time low. Overcoming the lack of trust and belief in businesses today is a major challenge. Your identity matters greatly. To be clear, your identity is about your values, character, sense of purpose, to name a few. People get much more excited being associated with, working for, or buying from, companies they feel good about. It’s impossible to feel good about a company whose stories do not really match its true identity. I like to say selling values with truthful real stories trumps selling value with advertising and spin.I truly believe that those of us who tell stories, be it as a professional storyteller, or as leader, have the power to make a difference in people’s lives. People more than ever are searching for meaningful experiences that can help them understand themselves and transform their lives.