[Randy Olson] Business of Story Podcast

Randy Olson, Author & Filmmaker

#167: For Want of a Story, the Democrat’s Kingdom Will be Lost

#167: For Want of a Story, the Democrat’s Kingdom Will be Lost

As the Kavanaugh hearing underscored, the Democrats still lack a focused, cohesive narrative on which to build their platform. We bring back narrative consultant, and scientist-turned-filmmaker, Dr. Randy Olson, author of the landmark 2015 book, Houston, We Have A Narrative from University of Chicago Press.  He last visited us the morning after the election to explain how Donald Trump has what he terms “narrative intuition.”

His episode became our most popular.  Now he is putting together the pieces of the bigger picture for the Democratic party — spotting the trend starting with Obama in 2012 conceding his failure “to tell a story to the American people,” connecting to Hillary Clinton in 2016 failing to have a clear story for her presidential candidacy, and now the failure of the Democratic senators in the Kavanaugh hearing to tell a story to the American people.

Lack of a story is clearly a recurring theme with the Democrats, and our concern is (drawing on the legendary proverb “for want of a nail”) that they are running the risk of losing everything some day — all for want of a story.

For Want of a Story

For want of a story, the vision was lost.
For want of a vision, meaning was lost.
For want of meaning, emotion was lost.
For want of emotion, empathy was lost.
For want of empathy, connection was lost.
For want of connection, camaraderie was lost.
For want of camaraderie, the mission was lost.
For want of a mission, the election was lost.
All for the want of a simple story.

From Randy Olson’s post: “Rather than presenting a clear ABT structured narrative (Kavanaugh wants to be a Supreme Court judge AND a supreme court judge needs to have the right temperament, BUT he doesn’t. THEREFORE he needs to be rejected), they took a shotgun approach and ended up with a laundry list of complaints.”

A revelation hit me at the beginning of the show taken from one of my favorite poems, For Want of a Nail, that, at least to me, sums the problem with the Democratic Party’s approach to communications.

For want of a story doesn’t just happen to Democrats. It happens to all of us. If you’re uncertain where to start with your presentation, speech, whitepaper, website, or any communications really… use the And, But & Therefore narrative structure to find your focus. Land on your one-word theme (Like the Dems. should’ve focused on “temperament” in the Kavanaugh hearings), and captivate your audience.

On this week’s show, Dr. Randy Olson shares with you the wonderful journey of telling stories not OF science, but ABOUT science. He is a Harvard Ph. D. evolutionary biologist who gave up tenure at the University of New Hampshire to study filmmaking at the University of Southern California. He’s created three documentaries and written three books to help scientists become better communicators using the power of story.

Olson also consulted with the Hillary Clinton campaign and cautioned them that they’d lose to Trump if they didn’t get their story straight. The rest is history, and you can hear Olson here on this special episode of the Business of Story the day after Trump’s election to the White House where he reveals the secret behind Trump’s narrative intuition.

My goal with that particular episode was to help listeners understand the magic to combat the spell.

Today, let’s unravel the secrets of telling stories that do make a point, and understand the old and overused but often understated line, “less is more.”

In This Episode, You Will Learn

  • Why the Republicans continue to “out story” the Democrats
  • Explaining the And, But & Therefore (ABT) narrative framework
  • Five traits of a mighty slogan
  • The “and”, “and”, “and” elements of ABT and why they kill your communications
  • The archetypes “and”, “but”, and “therefore”

Key Quotes

“What comprises a great slogan is a statement of consequence.” –Randy Olson

“It was my failure to tell a story to the American people. It was the job of a president.” –Barack Obama

“You have to understand the magic if you are going to combat the spell.” –Park Howell

“The tragedy is that people live very complex lives. It’s hard to fight against this stuff and you end up wallowing and get comfortable with it.” –Randy Olson

“For lack of a story the world was lost.” –Park Howell

“The information society will favor those who are most skilled in manipulating the media.” –Michael Crichton

Mentioned In This Episode

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