Park Howell Q&A


My first encounter with Park Howell was through his blog posts about the work of Donald Miller. Since then, I’ve become fascinated with his work in “sustainable storytelling” and storytelling in green marketing. I’m so grateful to present his Q&A, in part because he responded so comprehensively to so many of my questions. (Also love the fact that he grew up and attended college in my adopted state of Washington.)

parkBw-cu.jpg Bio: [In his own words, from his Web site] I own (Well, it really owns me) a mid-sized ad agency in Phoenix, AZ, that doesn’t just produce award-winning ad campaigns. We create movements that ignite the growth of people, products, companies and causes that dare to make the world around us better.

We do this by crafting and telling compelling brand stories that turn heads and incite action.

[material snipped because Park mentions it in his response below]

Our work has been recognized in several publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Stanford University’s, Social Innovation Review, an award-winning magazine covering best strategies for nonprofits, foundations, and socially responsible businesses.

Other notable publications include, Philip Kotler’s college textbook, Corporate Social Responsibility, Doing the Most Good for Your Company and Your Cause. Craig Cortello’s “Everything We Needed to Know About Business We Learned Playing Music,” David Bach’s “Go Green, Live Rich,” in Fast Company magazine’s blog, and featured in EcoSeed’ s “Bridging Environment and Economy” magazine.

I graduated from Washington State University, and today I combine two degrees — Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Music — to turn ad campaigns into movements that matter.

Q&A with Park Howell:

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

A: “Stop telling stories.”
I heard that a lot growing up. Second only to my sister, Melody, I could spin a yarn as long as your arm to get what I needed. And believe me, it was essential to survival on the “Happy H,” the 12-acre ranch I grew up on just outside of Seattle.
I was one of seven kids, and we were all raised with hard work, honesty and self-reliance as our core principles. For instance, my depression-era Dad had but one rule at the dinner table: “Keep one foot on the floor.”
As the fifth child, I learned early that to thrive simply meant telling a better story than your siblings. Great stories helped me lobby for a new pair of shoes, or an extra slice of pizza. It was handy when explaining how the family jeep ended up under a bridge in a river. You can imagine how it helped in managing the bad press ignited by accidentally burning down an abandoned dilapidated old house during the best high school Halloween party ever.
I don’t know if it was my environment or my genes, but the art of getting people excited around story comes to me naturally. So naturally it is how we’ve built Park&Co, one of the nation’s up-and-coming advertising and creative firms.
I graduated from Washington State University with Bachelor’s of Art degrees in communications and music composition and theory. In 1985, I moved to Phoenix, where I met my wife, Michele. We have raised our own family of three creative kids: an interior designer, a motion graphic artist and film director, and a quixotic junior in high school.
Ten years later, Michele and I began Park&Co in a makeshift shed behind our three-bedroom cottage on Oak and 42nd Streets in Phoenix. As my father taught me, we managed our business conservatively on the premise of, “Make more than you spend.” We have always operated debt-free, bolstered by a healthy rainy day fund that has helped us navigate our current turbulent economy.
Park&Co grew quickly in its first two years and we had to rent a small office in the Summit Building on 44th Street and Indian School Rd. Our three-person agency seemingly grew to 18 people over night. The stars aligned in 2003 and we purchased our 10,700 square-foot building. We had a ball remodeling our courtyard complex to personify the talent, commerce and genuine fun that springs from our creative campus. Just drive by and you’ll see the personalities found inside captured by bright, white words stuck to our windows that read in part, “Poet, writer, composer, artist, nerd…”
Our brilliant team of communication professionals is guided by seven tenets, the first being: “Run a profitable, socially conscious company.” This is our moral compass that assures we will always use our advertising and marketing gifts for good and not evil. You can see this in our work for the international Water — Use It Wisely campaign, Coca-Cola’s Eco-driving campaign, Goodwill of Central Arizona, The Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation [pictured], Habitat for Humanity, Global Water, the Phoenix Girls Choir, Girl Scouts of America — Cactus Pine Council,, and Social Venture Partners of Arizona. These are but a few of the important clients and causes that are a direct reflection of why we’re here:
“We ignite the growth of people, products, companies, and causes that dare to make the world better.”
An important measure of our success is found in the strength and longevity of our business relationships. Forever Living Products (FLP), the world’s largest grower, manufacturer and distributor of aloe vera-based health and beauty products, was our first client 16 years ago. FLP remains an important part of our agency today. Our Water — Use It Wisely campaign is celebrating its 12th year, while Goodwill of Central Arizona and Global Water resources have been with Park&Co for nearly 10 years.
An even more important standard is found in the ROI generated by our marketing partnerships: the result of igniting movements on behalf of our clients.
  • FLP has grown from $1 billion to $2.5 billion in the past 16 years
  • Water — Use It Wisely, which began in Mesa, has become the largest conservation outreach effort of its kind in the world with more than 400 private and public partners using elements of the campaign.
  • Goodwill of Central Arizona has expanded from $17 million in revenue in 2003 to $70 million in 2010, making it the fastest growing Goodwill in the world.
Our unique approach to advertising and marketing has not only caught the attention of customers, but our industry as well. I was honored in 2010 as the “The Advertising Person of the Year” by the American Advertising Federation — Metro Phoenix.
Elicit a Pause, Solicit a Thought, Be Complicit in Action
We embrace our clients and their customers by touching their hearts through the powerful and proven use of story. Once we have their attention we engage their minds with thoughtful, and often disruptive, creative concepts that inspire action. Their action ignites commerce for the betterment of all; which is simply another virtue that was part of my upbringing. My dad, who was president of a heavy construction company, mentored us with the belief that, “A deal is only good if it’s good for both parties.”
We craft and tell compelling stories through a series of communication disciplines at Park&Co, including brand and positioning research, strategy and activation; award-winning creative services; media planning and buying; web and interactive strategy, design and development; script-to-screen film and video services produced in our own edit bays; and word-of-mouth marketing and social media.
Isn’t it ironic that, even though I was admonished as a youngster to “Stop telling stories,” it is the very act of storytelling that brings us to you today?
Without it, we would not have made an impact in this world worth mentioning.
Q: You use the term “sustainable storytelling.” How do you define the term, and what’s your favorite example of sustainable storytelling?
A: I started my blog with the title, “A Brighter Shade of Green Marketing.” However, about six months into writing it, I realized that green marketing was too limiting. Being planet-friendly has a lot more dimensions to it than just being green.
“Sustainable Storytelling” to me is about taking green business practices to a higher place beyond just the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. I prefer to add process and peril to those three “P’s,” which truly leads to sustainability. Most of this doctrine has come to me from Adam Werbach’s book, Strategy for Sustainability, and Derrick Main’s work with GreenNurture.
All of this is featured in an article I wrote for the February issue of O’Dwyer’s P.R. magazine about the state of green marketing from a communicator’s point-of-view:
Being “Green” is not a sustainable brand differentiator
Park Howell, President, Park&Co, a Phoenix-based sustainable marketing firm
It used to be cool to smoke. It was a personal statement: a brand differentiator.
People didn’t think twice about polluting their bodies by puffing on tumor-causing cigarettes. Still today, the stench permeates smoker’s clothes, cars and homes. Fingernails turn brown, lips crack, healthy skin becomes ashen, and lungs heave with the slightest exertion.
The act of smoking is so insidious, it even risks loved ones through disease caused by second hand smoke.
The filthy habit that once separated the elite from the middle class has become stigmatized in our society, primarily due to massive education about its harmful effects through campaigns like The Truth.
“Tobacco companies’ products kill nearly 37,000 people every month. That’s more lives thrown away than there are public garbage cans in New York city.”
Like nonsmokers, with the benefit of education, hindsight and self-preservation, more and more companies are making themselves and their communities healthier through green practices. They have realized that it’s not sustainable to keep polluting our waterways, ravaging natural resources, and producing products harmful to the world.
A perfect storm of external forces, including the global recession, an upswing in corporate social responsibility initiatives, supply chain process improvement, and a crescendo of voices in environmental education have helped satiate toxic business practices and promote more sustainable organizational behaviors. In fact, they have become key to survival.
Companies are now trumpeting their newfound green exploits like jittery chain smokers that are resolutely kicking the habit. The whole world seems to be in one big Kumbaya for green. Which is a good thing. It’s just no longer a differentiator.
One of the first areas marketing departments started jumping on the green bandwagon was by sprouting leaves on logos. Logo design is about capturing the iconic brand essence of a person, product, company or cause. This may be the first time in the history of advertising that marketers are singularly focused on a simple act of being responsible as a brand, and not the company’s collective character. “Green this” and “Eco that” have become the calling cards of corporations so numerous that they all sound the same. Just explore any blog about green logos, or how to create them, and ask yourself if green isn’t the new color for vanilla.
Communication professionals are missing the big picture. Being “green” is only one element of being sustainable. Even your customers know that. In the “State of Green Business 2010” report, Joel Makower of states:
“Consumers want products that aren’t just greener, but better — that offer some kind of personal benefit, whether they’re cheaper to buy or own, have enhanced features or higher performance, are more convenient, less wasteful, healthier for their families, or simply cool.”
Is your green marketing approachable, believable and doable?
A great measure of your approach to sustainability and how it is reflected in your green marketing is whether your mission and message are approachable, believable and doable. One of the world’s largest snack-food manufacturers, Frito-Lay, has done a remarkable job of marrying its SunChips brand to sustainability
SunChips is a whole-grain snack that was launched in 1991, and has experienced phenomenal growth (about 20% per year). Earlier this decade Frito-Lay recognized the growing intersection among its consumers’ concerns for their health and the health of the planet.
SunChips marketers know that consumers want a tangible, functional benefit (the healthy food snack) with a green benefit. So sustainability became core to their business strategy. Their efforts started in 2007 and they knew they couldn’t do it overnight. They managed expectations and curbed any whiff of greenwashing by branding this initiative, “One small step at a time.” Their efforts include:
  • Purchasing renewable energy credits to offset its energy needs
  • Using solar power at its Modesto plant
  • Reducing the environmental impact of its packaging by introducing a fully biodegradable chip bag in 2010
  • Supporting sustainability initiatives, such as helping to rebuild National Geographic, then invited customers to come up with the best Earth-saving idea. These ideas were collected on the website, The Green Effect, and each of the five winners received $20,000 to put their idea into action.
  • Noisy bag aside, SunChips is a remarkable example of all three legs of our green marketing stool. The “tangible” healthy qualities of its product are very approachable, and therefore make the larger brand approachable. Powering their plants with solar energy and creating biodegradable packaging make Frito-Lay’s green efforts with SunChips all the more “believable” with no fear of greenwashing. Engaging its customers in their “One small step at a time” initiative makes it all very “doable.”
    Here are seven other examples of organizations that have made their brand positioning much more sustainable by turning their green marketing into wholistic movements for the greater good.
    If you’re touting green, imagine yourself as a smoker who has recently quit. How are you enhancing your health? Have you become a jogger, an avid 10k competitor, marathoner, ironman? Just being a nonsmoker — or being green — for practical health reasons is admirable, but not that cool of a differentiator.
    Q: What people or entities have been most influential to you in your story work and why?
    A: Although I’ve been in the communications business since I was 18, I never realized how important story is to my craft until recently. Our son just graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and a minor in business. He and I would have long talks about the lectures in his classes and what makes a great film. I was so intrigued by the proven story format that screenwriters use, that I began studying it.
    Save the Cat is my favorite book on the subject of screenwriting. Blake Snyder outlines the 15 basic beats found in the three acts of most successful movies. The elements of setting, character arc, inciting incident, timing, etc., are not new. He points to the exact same structure found in the earliest Greek tales. He wrote a follow-up book called Save the Cat Goes to the Movies, which spells out the 15 beats in famous movies in 12 different genres. It’s fun to read his play-by-play as you watch the picture. You gain a terrific insight into the tricks of the trade of telling a great tale and how important timing and pace is to every story.
    I read Steven Pressfield’s and Donald Miller’s blogs for different insights into story. Pressfield approaches it from an author/journalist/screenwriter point of view, while Miller, an accomplished author, overlays story into real life. This is the theme of his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Story mirroring life was also the theme for Miller’s inaugural Storyline Conference that I attended last October in Portland, OR. The two-day event was a remarkable study in how story profoundly impacts our lives, and how we can choose to live a snoozer or an epic. My favorite sentiment from the conference is: “If you haven’t been through something tough, you don’t have what it takes to be a hero.”
    I’ve also studied playwrite David Mamet’s, Three Uses of a Knife, on the nature and purpose of drama, Seth Godin’s, All Marketers Tell Stories, and Robert McKee’s bible on screenwriting called, Story, substance, structure, style, and principles of screenwriting.
    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: Working in the framework of story is the most important foundation for everything we do in the advertising and marketing business. It starts with our mission: To ignite the growth of people, products, companies and causes that dare to make the world better.
    The heroes in every one of our endeavors are the people, or product, or company, or cause that hires us. Their quest is to make their customers’ lives better while positively impacting the world around them. The word “dare” reflects the antagonistic challenges our protagonists have chosen to battle to achieve something great. We are the sidekick, love story, or sage to the protagonist, and our singular mission is to ignite their growth, ensure survival and make them thrive by helping them overcome their obstacles
    That’s the story framework found in our business relationships. Now overlay that exact same framework involving our clients’ customers as the sidekick or love story, and craft and tell a compelling story from their worldview as to how together with our client their worlds are mutually better.
    What do people fear? Some of the most basic fears are those of physical survival, health and wellbeing, humiliation, and being disconnected from your community. If you can tell a compelling story as to how the person, product, company or cause can make a significant and very real impact in any one of these areas, and all it takes is for the customer to participate in the story by engaging in the offering, and then deliver on that promise, you can’t lose. That is the power of story and how it is the building block for the gestalt of a client’s brand.
    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? cavepainting.jpg
    A: When was the last time you heard a really funny joke? When was the last time you took the time to practice and tell a terrific yarn at a party? The Internet is full of them, but like the world economy, our storytelling talents have been in recession.
    As the noise of advertising, media, and politics has increased over the past 50 years, our attention spans, and therefore our message delivery, has grown dramatically shorter. We have become experts at “low-resolution” communications: The sound bite, 30-second commercial, PowerPoint slides, Twitter’s 140-character character, thumbs-up liking, speed dating, and texts that replace whole words with single letters. The pendulum has swung so far in the direction of burping information like bullets out of a Thompson machine gun, that people are beginning to realize something is missing.
    Storytelling is making a resurgence because the social animal in all humans craves context, depth and content in our interaction. A story that involves us as the protagonists, or at least presents a hero we can identify with, that has to overcome great odds to achieve their desires, absolutely parallels the quests in each of our lives. It is an elemental depiction of our most basic instincts and fight for survival.
    When you see a cave painting created by the ancients of a person on horseback following a large beast with a spear in its side, what story are they telling? Why would they take the time to build the fire, burn the charcoal, and memorialize their victory on a dark and damp cave wall? Because story, no matter how it is told, is essential to bringing meaning and expression to life.
    We have all been in such a hurry to be heard that the dots and dashes in our high tech telegraph communication are losing resonance. We communicate in binary form like the computers we type on. I believe the pendulum is swinging back to what people are starting to long for again: Slowing down and being part of a greater story.
    Q: The culture is abuzz about Web 2.0 and social media. To what extent do you participate in social media? To what extent and in what ways do you feel these venues are storytelling media? oneactplays.jpg
    A: As a marketer, not embracing social media is akin to being an early newspaperman and discounting the advent of radio and TV. The only difference is that social media is being adopted fifty times faster than broadcast ever was. I write my Sustainable Storytelling blog focused on green marketing at You’ll find me @ParkHowell on Twitter, on Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and Vimeo. I’ve created a Ning network for the niche of water conservation professionals wanting to learn more about using social media for their causes. And I’ve been an active guest writer and interview subject on several blogs and online magazines. We also have a company blog, Facebook and Twitter account that I dabble in, as well as provide strategy and content for our Water — Use It Wisely social media network.
    Most social-media channels are like one-act plays; you get a whiff of something potentially interesting, and then it’s gone.
    The social media “experts” are all about starting the conversation, but in reality there is little conversation going on. There are quick check-ins, status updates, the aforementioned “like” button, and chatter, but there is not an overwhelming amount of substantial conversation taking place. Therefore, although these channels offer their own unique merits for storytelling, too few of us take the time to actually learn how to craft and tell compelling stories.
    The best use of Twitter for storytelling is the now famous and soon-to-be TV show, “Shit My Dad Says.” These 140-character quips are so beautifully crafted and insightful in an r-rated sort of way, that you can easily imagine the story behind every utterance. Other than that, Twitter is a “Hey you, what’s up, this is what I’m doing,” low-resolution channel.
    Blogs, of course, are the primary forum for storytelling. But even they have been dumbed-down by the “experts” coaching writers to keep it short, write in bullets, and give them lists. “No one wants to take the time to read your stuff,” they implore. These “social media best practices” are probably because we need to relearn our innate ability to tell a great story, then have the guts to be authentic and tell it like it is.
    Editor’s note: The presentation that I refer to in the first question below blew me away. It’s a fabulous story (embedded below), which you can find on SlideShare. The slideshow both illustrates how to create great slides and demonstrates the limitations of a superb slideshow without narration. The key in this case is to read the Speaker’s Notes as you go through the presentation, which you can actually do only by viewing it on SlideShare rather than the embedded version below.
    I also asked Park if the “single-page story platform” he handed out at the presentation was the same terrific worksheet I wrote about in December 2010. He confirmed that it was, noting: “The single-page storytelling worksheet is the same one we use with our clients. I have found that it can be universally applied to any topic, be it advertising, a job search, to help focus a book’s direction, personal goals, you name it.”

    Q: Last November, you delivered a rather remarkable presentation to the National Ad2 Mid-year Retreat in Phoenix that consisted mostly of a story. What kind of response did you get to the presentation?

    A: How did it go over? I’m not sure. I think the crowd was expecting a typical presentation on how to use social media in marketing from a so-called social media “expert.” I threw them a curve ball. “Before worrying about social media, get your story straight,” I implored. And then I tried to demonstrate the impact of great storytelling through the presentation you referenced above. I think a third of the crowd was really engaged, a third was wondering where I was going with this storytelling concept, and a third checked out wanting more typical advertising content. There is a lot of opportunity for storytelling growth in our industry.
    Q: You specialize in Green Marketing. To what extent does that niche particularly lend itself to storytelling?
    A: There are lots of accurate and inaccurate stories being told about green marketing. I think one of the biggest fallacies is that you have to be on the fringes, the Birckenstock generation, to make a difference. Story in green marketing is particularly helpful to engage the masses in sustainability issues. After all, it is within the greatest volume of the bell curve where incremental change has the most significant impact on sustaining our lives and this planet.
    This is the area where great storytelling really works well, as seen in my previous case study of SunChips [See also Part 2 of this Q&A]. Volkswagen’s “Fun Theory,” Patagonia’s “Shed,” and Goodwill’s “Donate Campaign,” are wonderful examples of how the format of story can frame operations, activation and communication; how it can be uniquely applied to igniting the growth of the people, products, companies and causes that dare to make the world better.

    Q: If you could identify a person (such as a celebrity) or organization who desperately needs to tell a better story, who or what would it be?

    A: British Petroleum. They are so backwards on their forthrightness, and so Luddite-like in their use of new media, that they have inadvertently encouraged the storytellers and civilian journalists to frame stories for and about them. Check out this Fast Company article for greater insight.

    politician.jpg Q: Are there any current uses of storytelling that repel you or that you feel are inappropriate?

    A: Just about any story coming out of the mouths of politicians and the slanted coverage found in the news media repels me every day. It is near impossible to decipher what’s accurate and what is not in most things you see and read. I’m hoping that the transparency inherent in social media, the authenticity it fosters, and the power it provides to the common citizen to rally people around the truth, is what will help bring civility and honesty back to our discourse.

    Q: What future aspirations do you personally have for your story work? What would you like to do in the story world that you haven’t yet done?

    A: I’ve only scratched the surface of storytelling. I was practicing the art without really knowing it, innately understanding its power without understanding why it worked. I first truly appreciated the structure of story when I studied music composition and theory. Each piece tells it’s own story and must ebb and flow to keep the listener engaged. For example, the Sonata-allegro form was created with the early classics. Scholars say it has stood the test of time because of its three-part, or three-act, structure. The theme is presented in the exposition, contrasted and elaborated upon in the development, and resolved in the recapitulation, with a series of scenes and interludes to create and embellish the characters within the composition.
    Story is found in all things of substance.
    Like the 15 beats of story in Save the Cat, we are creating a similar proven methodology that marketers can use for everything from developing better brand strategy, to creating more powerful print and broadcast advertising, to launching more ingenious user-centered websites, to making word-of-mouth marketing campaigns more viral.

    Q: Which story-rich project that your agency completed for a client are you most proud of and why?


    A: We have a number of story-rich projects that we’re proud of. One of the first, and most successful, is the campaign we created for Goodwill of Central Arizona. We addressed head on the embarrassment some women-of-means experience when they shop for treasures at Goodwill.
    Our first spot showed two lady friends running into each other at a local Goodwill. The one who had just finished shopping pretended that she was simply donating and placed her recently purchased treasures in the donations bin. The second lady, who was just entering the store, said she was just dropping off donations. When they parted ways, each secretly went back; the first to grab her purchases out of the donations bin, and the second to grab a shopping cart.
    The story, although feared by the client for making fun of its customers, actually touched-off a groundswell of conversation about Goodwill, and their sales nearly double from $17 million to $30 million that year. You can hear all about it from our client here.
    Other gripping stories include our branding of “Sustainable Healthcare” for a 30-year-old community health services provider, “Recycled Water” for Global Water Resources,” “The Sidewalk Fashion Show” we created for MadCap Theaters, and our “Buy Local” campaign we created for Arizona’s advertising community.

    Q: It was through you that I became familiar with the work of Donald Miller. You wrote more than one blog post about his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and also attended his workshop. How has your thinking about Miller’s work evolved since the workshop?

    A: I have tried to adopt every material aspect of storytelling I’ve learned through the books I’ve read and apply them to my life and those around me. It never occurred to me until I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that story can help us set personal goals while providing the structure to the operations of our businesses and causes.


    Story is not just about the metaphorical or metaphysical. It’s about striving to be part of something bigger than your self. That takes guts. Guts are a prerequisite to initiating an inciting incident. This catalyst launches the journeys that propel our lives forward. Every conceivable internal and external force is thrown into our path to thwart or growth and the conquest of our mission. It is not until we overcome these obstacles that we learn the new, stronger, and more accountable individual within us.
    What makes a great story also makes a great life. From my Storyline post:
    Six ways story parallels life:
    • If you haven’t experienced something hard, you don’t have what it takes to be a hero.
    • “Setting” is huge. Where you do what you do matters a lot. Make it meaningful and memorable.
    • In story, as in life, “conflict” gives value to ambition. It’s good. It’s essential. The beauty of the story is when it gets tough.
    • If you’re avoiding conflict, you’re avoiding creating a great story.
    • What is the single climactic scene you’re gunning for in your story?
    The impact and legacy of our story is completely up to the author: You and me
    . Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act? FLP_Logo.png
    A: For the past 15 years, our agency has worked with Forever Living Products, the world’s largest grower, manufacturer and distributor of aloe-vera-based health and beauty products. Every year we creative direct, write and produce the company’s international Super Rally, when more than 3,000 of their top distributors from 125+ countries gather in what is the United Nations of network marketing.
    As you might imagine, we try to reinvent the product launch portion of their event every year to present something unique, surprising, and motivating to their top sales people. This past year we essentially wrote a two-hour play that depicted the growth of a distributor as we launched several projects throughout the three acts of the production. In addition to launching new product, the client also wanted to provide snippets of business training and motivation, while also recognizing some of their top-performing distributors. To add to the challenge, we needed to keep our audience riveted to the action while having the dialogue simultaneously translated and broadcast to the crowd in 10 languages. Verbal jokes never work given the timing delay of the translators. So our story needed to be told with great attention to the visuals and physical action on stage, while also writing a compelling script.
    Our heroine was a mother of three stuck in a dead-end job, who decided to venture out into network marketing. Her antagonists included a condescending boss, nay-saying husband, skeptical mother, slimy MLM huckster with a shady product, self-doubt, and a host of obstacles that she, like every real-life distributor, must overcome to be successful. We applied the 15 beats to great storytelling and paid close attention to the setting and timing of each act. We took her to artificial highs found in her early success, only to lead her into a great low when her distributorship began to deteriorate for her false sense of achievement.
    We tested her morals and work ethic as she rebuilt her company, all the while inserting training and motivational side stories into the play to amplify her success and pains, while demonstrating to the crowd ways to avoid these pitfalls and grow a successful business.
    The production ended with our protagonist overcoming all odds and reaching the highest sales level and being pinned on stage by FLP’s CEO, just as she would at the Super Rally. For the first time in 15 years, distributors who had traveled for days to get to the Denver convention, stayed riveted in their seats. The outcome of the story was obvious. Everyone knew what was going to happen. And when we delivered her to the exalted “Diamond” level of the FLP marketing plan, and she was recognized on stage, the crowd went wild. We heard time and again that it was the best product launch we had ever produced. I give all of the credit to the transformative power of story, coupled with a great understanding of the crowd’s worldview of the subject matter, and our intense focus on delivering a story with universal themes that would resonate internationally.

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

    A: Every great story begins with you, the writer. If you don’t take risks, go “All in,” meet new people, explore your uncomfortable zones often, and have the courage to create lots of inciting incidents in your life that propel you into action, then you don’t have what it takes to tell a great story. Live adventurously and colorfully, and your words will leap off the page and make a difference on your readers’ lives. Make your life an epic.

A Storied Career

A Storied Career explores intersections/synthesis among various forms of
Applied Storytelling:
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  • storytelling for identity construction
  • storytelling in social media
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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:

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