Seven years ago, I typed two words into the google search box, ‘Narrative’ and ‘Strategist’. A small but mighty list of communication agencies and professionals who used narrative to create impact appeared.
It was an actual job title and occupation. This wasn’t something I had concocted out of thin air; it was a specialist communications niche. And it wasn’t just me; I wasn’t alone.
A montage of my professional activities since 2016 would go something like this. I run workshops and listen to people’s stories. I stand in a room of people listening intently and co-designing narrative statements on a wipe board. Teams of people create props for their end-of-workshop play in my storytelling board game. Or sessions where I listen one-on-one to people as they reveal pivotal moments in their childhood, and we uncover the intersectional stories that connect who they once were and the person they are today.
These are the images, but what is the structure? The following is what a narrative strategist does day to day. It is a variety of activities, but each involves stories.
A narrative strategist helps organisations, businesses, or individuals communicate their message, goals, and values through storytelling. They use storytelling to align and engage stakeholders, build brand awareness, and create a shared vision. A narrative strategist crafts and delivers compelling stories connecting with the desired audience to inspire action and achieve strategic outcomes.
A narrative strategist’s life involves developing and shaping organisations’ narratives to communicate their goals, values, and vision to their audience. This often requires research, creativity, and collaboration with various teams within the organisation. They may also oversee the story’s delivery and ensure that it reaches and resonates with the target audience. Their day-to-day work may involve meetings, story discovery sessions, writing, and presentations. The nimble mind of the narrative professional can quickly shift through complexity and distil it into a unifying narrative statement. Uncovering a story’s truth is rewarding, as it significantly affects how organisations perceive themselves and their success. It also helps individuals understand, quickly shift through complexity, and design a new future vision. One that creates meaning and momentum in projects, organisations, and communities.
It is a privilege to hear each story shared and witness every vulnerable emotion and desire laid bare. As a result of listening to hundreds of stories over the years, I have learned to set my assumptions aside. People always leave me with a sense of awe. Every person I work with has incredible stories and moments sitting within them. I am humbled and honoured to be the person who is trusted to hear and distil such beauty.
I often revisit the title Narrative Strategist and wonder if this is, in fact, the correct term. For the moment, I will keep it and all the fantastic opportunities and stories that come with the role.