I’m lucky to be the grandson of a storyteller. My grandfather told me a ton of stories growing up; they were a combination of tall tales and family stories. Often the storytelling took place in usual environments – in his garden, or sitting on the hood of his car eating hot dogs on the edge of the Greenville Downtown Airport.
And so it goes… I seek out storytellers for our clients.
I’m captivated by how people use stories to connect, especially when un-prompted. As fate would have it Brains on Fire is now working with the granddaddy of storytelling… Colonial Williamsburg.
The stories my grandfather shared stick with me for many reasons: his colorful language, the use of imagination that brought them to life in my mind, and the unexpected. They literally came out of left field. I had no idea when or where he was going to share a tale.
John Moore and I had the opportunity to sit down with veteran Colonial Williamsburg costumed interpreter James Ingram (this is what the characters in the living museum are called). James plays the role of Gowan Pamphlet, an 18th century slave that also was a Baptist minister to a congregation of over 500 slaves.
James shared a story with us about a blond headed ten-year old boy from Alabama that came to Colonial Williamsburg with his parents… but he wanted to go to Bush Gardens. That day James was playing a man named Peter who was asking the Colonial Williamsburg guests if he should run for freedom? The young boy got caught up in the story and followed Peter around all day. At the end of the day Peter was caught on the Governor’s Palace grounds and taken to jail. The young boy came up to Peter before he was carried away and asked if he would be here tomorrow? Surprised Peter answered yes, I have no other place to go.
The next day the young boy informed his parents he didn’t want to go to Busch Gardens he wanted to go to Colonial Williamsburg. After visiting the colonial store he arrived at the jail in Colonial Williamsburg wearing a colonial outfit, holding a toy musket and a bag of candy and cookies. He asked the folks at the jail where is Peter? They asked him if they could help him, why did he want to see Peter. He replied I want to take him to freedom.
James sees it everyday… it’s the stories that hook ya. They made history come alive and connect the dots to a ten year old boy from Alabama. We all tell stories about our lives… and on that rare occasion we even tell a story about a product or an organization we’re a part of. These stories connect us to people, place, and product. Yet storytelling escapes so many brands, their stories become old to them, or worse yet they’re afraid their customers might not care. Too often conversation creation about a brand is the focus instead of enabling your employees and your fans to simply share their stories.