A professor of history at Augustana College has, for the last twenty years, asked students on the first day of class to write a history of the United States in 600 words or less without looking anything up. What he has learned illustrates the decline in our collective ability to write a narrative.
In 1994, most of the submissions were in “The Glory Story” bucket. There was also “The Gory Story,” and the “High Ideals/Mixed Results” compromise. Others simply listed historical events in roughly chronological order. Thinking the students had misunderstood the assignment, he called these the “Chaos Story.” Over the past 15 years of formally tracking the results, the “Chaos Story” form has ascended from very few to 75% of the submissions. No wonder that “synthesis” and “storytelling” are the top skills sought in new hires by The Coca-Cola Company. (The company’s Director of Digital Shopper Marketing, Laura Houghton, and Comcast Spotlight Vice President, Michael Hills, talked about this at a Pittsburgh AdFed panel, "Tune In To The Big Picture: Let’s Talk About Emerging Media Trends.")
Of course, storytelling is everywhere, from The Moth, to pricey seminars, to eight-week Coursera classwork, but let’s not get too elaborate. Let’s start with the simple need employers have for structured and unstructured data of all types–including “the plausible and the wacky,” as the professor notes–to be integrated, analyzed, and shaped into a well-sourced and considered narrative.
In a previously-held position, I would receive “competitive intelligence” reports in the form of one piece of information after another, rather than a story of the market told in a way that enabled me to act. With this perspective, and with a past grounded in the storytelling of journalism, I am thrilled to be leading Campos’s secondary research team of synthesizers and storytellers.
Our CamposCONTEXT360° narratives, which integrate consumer behavior insights and trends analysis, social listening, communications audits, and other secondary research methods, ensure that clients see the stories of their brand and marketplace so they can make informed decisions or design smarter surveys. They gain a comprehensive view of their organization or product in context; an invaluable asset to have.
Because, as the wise professor states, “The stories we live in give us courage for action; also, the humility to know we might be wrong.”