In the last couple of years, I doubt I’ve seen a posting for a marketing communications job or a profile of a marketing communications pro that didn’t include the word “storyteller”. To me, this phrase brings to mind my Celtic forebears sitting around a peat fire drinking some kind of grog and telling tall tales. 

That’s not all bad. I started my career as a speechwriter where clear, lyrical and even entertaining writing is important. But storytelling is just half the story (sorry about that). 

Marketing communications is not about entertainment; it’s about persuasion. After my stint as a speechwriter, I spent many years working in marketing at financial firms. I quickly learned how to take any dataset and use it to tell a story, cull out insights and make a decent argument. 

A lot of people think a person has to be zany to be creative or buttoned down to be analytical. 

One financial firm I worked for had a habit of hiring wildly creative people to head up marketing because they thought the firm as it was lacked a creative spark. It never worked. Then the firm would always retrench and put an accountant in charge of marketing. 

But the truth is creative people can be analytical.

It is possible to tell your story in a way, supported by research, that will be both engaging — maybe even entertaining — and persuasive. “Storytelling” is a buzzword, not a panacea.