No Story, No Fans – a review

No Story, No Fans is available on Amazon as an e-book

If I don’t have a story, I won’t have fans. I believe Raf Stevens when he delivers this message in dozens of ways, through dozens of captivating stories and through concrete steps to find and deliver that story. I believe him because I know what he says is true. I know it in the only way one can truly know anything, through direct experience.

I wish I had had a copy of No Story, No Fans when I was floundering to reinvent myself as an organizational narrative consultant (aka community developer, though that’s not how I thought of myself). Annette Simmons held my hand, with her Story Factor. David Armstrong led me too, with his Managing By Storying Around.

Mostly I felt like a lonely charlatan, waving the flag of storytelling without really knowing how to make the leap from performing storyteller to organizational narrative consultant. I managed, and even succeeded, but it was a scary journey.

Earning trust by demonstrating it

Things are different now. A lot of books and Web sites explore what storytelling means within the context of defining a vision, conveying it, and trying to turn it into sales. And sales are obviously important. A company with fabulous stories that operates in the red is going to sink.

Raf talks a lot about trust. That’s what his subtitle refers to: “Build Your Business through Stories that Resonate. Using the power of corporate storytelling to create loyal customers, fans, and friends.”

He earned my trust right off the bat. In an era of smartphones, I don’t even carry a cell phone. When I’m away from my right arm, er, computer, I don’t want a leash. So when I clicked on the PDF of Raf’s book and saw all the QR codes, I bristled. “Oh, yeah. He’s going to make me feel like an outsider.”

I was wrong. If I’d had a smartphone, I could have pointed it at those squiggly squares and called up fascinating Web sites. Instead, I accidentally moved the cursor over the first one and was startled by a dialog box asking me if I trusted the link or wanted to block it.

That Raf Stevens! So smart. He wanted even semi-Luddites like me to enter the realm of wonder. I ended up clicking on every link. Darn you, Raf Stevens! I’m busy. I don’t have time for all this Web wandering, but your links were so good I was afraid I’d regret not clicking on any one of them.

So here I am, weeks after accepting Raf’s invitation to download his book in exchange for a review, just starting to formulate a response to a book that makes me want to rewind the clock and re-start my consulting career with No Story, No Fans in hand.

A generous book

One thing that leaps out for me, in reading the book, is generosity. Raf gives a lot away. Stories, links, ideas, tips, resources. He just keeps dishing them out, some within the text itself and others a click away. By the time I start Part I: Trading Stories, I’m already feeling as if I’ve stumbled onto a gift exchange. He has already demonstrated his advice to first give something away, to engage emotionally, and to promote trust by promoting other people’s stories.

Partway through Chapter 2, “Flipping Your Script!”, two sentences stop me in my tracks:

Most communication nowadays fails to connect and is not trustworthy because it is too descriptive of situations and facts instead of sharing actual stories about what occurred. That is the script that needs flipping.

I think maybe Raf got hold of the first reports I did for clients when I started my community development career. I was so afraid they would find out I was really a storyteller in consultant’s clothing they wouldn’t trust my work. I overwhelmed them with numbers and facts and insider language so they could see I knew what I was doing.

Only thing was, it was never the heavyweight data that worked. It was always the stories. I could have spared a lot of trees if I’d had Raf’s book to hold my hand while I was learning the ropes.

So I feel like cheering when he writes:

It is tempting to continue to use terms like internal branding, positioning, brand voice, brand identity and so on, while explaining the power of story and storytelling in relation to brand and organizations. Many business leaders are more familiar with these terms than they are with storytelling. Storytelling is for wimps, right? But I am not giving in. We need to flip the script!

Make room for this book

Raf doesn’t try to impose one good model of storytelling. Instead, through dozens of examples, some solid advice, and some well-formulated tips, he encourages readers to find their own storytelling voices. That makes the book useful to a wide range of audiences in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. The book will hold an important place alongside books by Annette Simmons, Stephen Denning, Peter Guber, and Lori Silverman, but it will occupy its own niche.

The field of storytelling books has a lot of entries these days, but No Story, No Fans proves not only was there room for one more. There was a need for this book.

[Note: You can read the first part free on the Web site.]

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