Friday, May 3, 2019

On Being a Storyteller (and why I always stay for the credits)

A pile of research books with notes hangin out of them, pencils used as bookmarks.
photo from pixabay

I am a storyteller — admittedly, not in the best-selling novelist or award-winning investigative journalist realm, but a storyteller just the same. Perhaps thousands of years ago, I would have been the person charged with retaining and passing on oral history. As I aged into the “wise crone” part of life, maybe I would have been sought out for healing, peacemaking and problem solving. But in today’s world of Public Relations, Public Information and Strategic Communications I’ve mostly been telling the stories of the entities I worked for. Some of those stories can still bring a smile to my face or a tear to my eye. But, even if you are convincing customers that they need your company’s newly-design gizmo, you too, are a storyteller.

Being a storyteller requires research skills, and the ability to phrase what you find in a way that others can understand. You have the power to educate, inform, and touch emotions. It is a powerful responsibility and an often-rewarding profession. Sometimes the stories are bad news or controversial. Research may reveal scientific and social disagreements. You, your client or employer may have a specific point of view to present. But perhaps the worst thing you can do is present opinion as fact without identifying it as such. Again, research becomes the key.

It is not my intent to discuss what constitutes good or bad research sources. I will advise that it can be problematic to rely on a single point of research in some cases. Most often, I research myself into a pile of other people’s work. Scientists, doctors, lawyers, economists, teachers, humorists – and a whole host of those I will call well-being experts and practitioners. I’ve gone on web-based scavenger hunts tracking down an original research paper that was mentioned in a news story. Because I am a storyteller, looking to educate and inform, not the person or group actually hitting the ground to produce the supporting work pertaining to the subject I am writing about.

I am the person who just read all the credits at the back of the presentation materials at a recent conference. I am the person who may post a reaction to a social media post and include a link to a source I respect. I am also that person, still sitting in the theater as the cleaning crew comes in, watching the movie credits that are too tiny and pass by too fast to actually read.

Researchers, I salute you, and thank you. I am about to join your ranks, in a fashion, for a project about the weaponization of laughter. My intention is to speak directly with people who have been the victim or the user of weaponized laughter, to highlight how powerful laughter is, why it is a survival tool that has the power to both heal and harm. And, to follow the advice of my friend Carol, who I hope is looking down at me and smiling, "It's time to stop making everyone else look good." So, as the Daughter of Laughter and Chaos, I will be telling my own story too.

If you have a story, I’d love to hear from you.

(and yes, with the abundant use of "I" here, this IS an Opinion Piece, the sole source of research being me. 😁)

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