The Power of Storytelling - Toby And The Red Kite

The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come. - Steve Jobs.

A number of years ago, I had the great privilege of working with a wonderful colleague who was highly accomplished in managing transformational change in corporate culture(s). Working with him, we created a course for transition years students. Teaching them skills and techniques to support them, as they embraced their own personal development journey, at a very pressured time in their lives.

One section of the course and a full day of activities, centered around the power of story. We used role play and group work sessions to help the class understand how important storytelling is, especially when forming a connection with an individual, when engaging with a new group and when driving a connection with a specific audience. As part of the day's activities, we also led a group discussion on the power of storytelling when helping us as individuals deal with personal challenges, including grief and loss.

This course re-awakened my appreciation of the power of story and the art of storytelling. Within months of the course finishing, I also benefited from the art of storytelling myself, in the form of creative writing. As I had to deal with my own personal grief when my Dad passed away - when he was diagnosed and gone in the space of two months. 

Writing can help us process and understand grief and creative writing can help us unlock grief. 

Crafting the story below, Toby & The Red Kite. I combined my love for my favorite teddy bear Toby, who is now 50 years old, with a special memory of kite flying with my dad and brother, on a Sunday morning when we were young. This helped me deal with my grief, and at the same time capture a very special memory forever. This story also helped me reconnect with my childhood toy, which then led to my co-founding a wonderful little Christmas pack centered around imagination and play, with a great friend of mine - but that's a different story!

Storytelling gives us the opportunity to learn from another persons experience. It can shape, change, alter and even strengthen our views and opinions. In marketing and communications, storytelling is used to connect with consumers. Creative writers tell stories based on what they know. It's the role of script and copywriters to tell stories based on what an audience desires. Really good script and copywriters possess the ability to tap into personal experience, memory and watching the world around them, to craft the marketing story that drives a powerful connection with consumers. Really good script and copywriters are great creative writers and storytellers. We all have personal examples of that wonderful ad campaign that reached out to us, tugged at our heart strings, lingered with us and ultimately made us want to react, engage or purchase. It's a very special skill, a wonderful talent and a powerful tool.

As marketing professionals, we have a responsibility to respect the power of storytelling and its ability to connect, influence teach and inspire and we should never take this responsibility for granted. It's a powerful gift. 


Toby & The Red Kite

It’s Sunday Shell, said Dad. Grab Toby and I’ll get the kites. Alan you ready to go! Yippee, we love Sunday mornings, don’t we Toby. Let’s go.

Every Sunday we fly our kites and they dance differently each week. Sometimes they swirl around and around, sometimes they circle and swirl and sometimes they dance. Making shapes like the waves of the ocean, dancing to the movement of the wind.

We all dived into the car. How do you think they will fly today Dad. Hmm, said Dad, looking out of the window. I think swirls today Shell, yep definitely swirls.

As we grabbed the kites out of the car and ran up to the top of the hill, I could feel the strong breeze on my face, so strong it pushed my hood down. While Dad set the kites up, and helped Alan fix the long wings on his. I looked down at Toby and he seemed sad.

Dad, do you think Toby likes just watching us or do you think he sometimes gets bored because he can’t fly the kites too and can only watch. I don’t know Shell, he can’t hold the string, so he can only watch you do it. Unless…..

Unless what Dad, could we help him to fly my kite, you are always so clever at fixing things, can we help him? We do have some left over string in our kite box, said Dad. We could make wrist handles for him and make a special seat belt to strap around his body and he could fly with the kite. What do you think?

I love it Dad, and look Toby loves it too. He looks really happy with that idea. So we took out the string and fastened Toby up. When he was safely strapped on, I ran with the kite and then let it go. Up and up it went, with Dad cautiously unwinding the string. The kite glided up and up, sailing up and down like the waves of the ocean. Look Dad Toby can see right the way out to the ocean, it must be so cool up there. Look Alan, he is catching up with your kite too! and Alan smiled.

The kite went higher and higher, and then Dad stopped unwinding the string. We don’t want to go too high Shell, Toby might feel sick and this is his first flight on the Kite! Ha ha, very funny Dad. Then the wind changed, slowed down and just when Dad started to wind up the string, a huge gust of wind lifted the kite higher and then it looped in a big circle again and again.

That’s cool Dad, just like one of the adventure rides, Toby must be having so much fun. He loves having fun. Loop after loop we could see Toby in his blue suit go round and around. After a while the wind dropped again and this time Dad started to wind up the kite string. Dad looked down at me and smiled. Toby has been up there for a long time now Shell, he may be feeling a little cold and also a little tired. Lets take him down. Okay Dad, what an adventure. This was so much fun.

When the kite came back down Toby was still perfectly strapped to the kite and looked like he had the most fun in his life! You are so clever dad, Toby felt so safe in his strap and he loved today. Thanks Dad. 

We helped Alan carefully pack up his kite, we packed Toby into the car and we all went home for pancakes and lots of fun chatting and laughing about Toby's great adventure, with my red kite.