As professional communicators, we all know ‘the story is the thing.’ A story breaks down barriers. It builds understanding. It fosters trust and camaraderie. It’s how we share experiences and pass down history from one generation to the next.
The untold story is even more powerful. It challenges our belief system and forces us to think differently. It inspires us to change our behavior and share that inspiration with others.
So, what makes a great story? This question was explored earlier this year at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and The Atlantic captured perspectives from some of the best storytellers out there. In a nutshell, a great story moves us, it is real and authentic, it has conflict and it has a character to which we can relate.
I am reminded of great stories on each and every anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. A day marred by great tragedy and sadness, it is storytelling that helps us cope and honor the memory of the many lives lost. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t recall intimate details from that Tuesday morning in 2001: where we were, who we were with and how we felt. Yet, despite the day’s horrible events, the stories I continually hear are of hope and inspiration. In the days, months and years following the attacks, many previously untold stories emerge that show us no amount of evil can overcome the human spirit.
Of the many stories of heroism that day, one stands out for me: The man in the red bandanna. A dozen people, maybe more, were able to make their way to safety from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center South Tower with help from a young man. It took many months to identify this man, piecing together the accounts of the people whose lives he saved who knew him only by the red bandanna he used to cover his mouth and nose. Fortunately, more than a decade after the tragedy, his story is untold no more.
Inspiring? Check. Authentic? It doesn’t get more real. A captivating character? Got it. This story stirs a strong emotional response every time I read/watch/hear it. This story ensures that I will never forget the horrible events of that day and reminds me how inherently good people are. This story compels me to reflect and think about how I can be better. And most importantly, this story inspires me to put on my red bandanna and write my own untold story that will impact positive change at work and at home.
How are you inspiring and engaging others? What is your untold story?
TogoRun (www.togorun.com) is an award-winning, full-service global health and well-being communications and public affairs agency with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and London. The agency specializes in integrated marketing and communications, branding and positioning, advocacy and government affairs, issues and crisis management, and corporate communications and social responsibility.